Thank You, Nabeel Qureshi

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 5/27/2019

Dear Dr. Nabeel Qureshi,

Recently, the world has been at a loss for words on your tragic passing from this life into the better life to come for all who follow Christ. You had a long fight with stomach cancer and now you have entered into eternal rest with our Lord. Those that knew you mourn your loss, but we also know that you are in a far greater place than we could ever imagine.

With that said, your recent transition from this earthly life into eternal life has caused me to reflect on your impact on my life. How I was first introduced to you through Dr. David Wood and his ministry on YouTube that uses apologetics to reach the Muslim community. A ministry that might just have the greatest bromance in apologetic history as well. The friendship that you and David had in the Lord was unparalleled. You both displayed what it truly means to have a brother in Christ.

It was these moments and more that you showed all of us how to speak the truth in love in a practical way. Like when you had a formal debate with the famous Muslim apologist, Dr. Shabir Ally (2). A highly respectable figure within academia and a great debater, to say the least. Even then, you stayed civil and Christ-like in spite of the challenge of debating such an accomplished public speaker like Ally.

The greatest lesson you showed me was to always have compassion and love for those who do not know Christ. To build a bridge and reach people where they are at was so inspiring. To love people like Christ did was evidence enough of how much Jesus has changed you to be more and more conformed to His image. I have never met you on this side of eternity, but I can’t wait to meet you on the other side.

 Thank you for being a role model to apologists on how to intellectually engage others in love. Thank you for showing us believers what it truly means to live both a life of conviction concerning the Great Commission and joy in the grace of our Lord. Thank you for showing non-believers what it means to truly love your enemies as you loved those that hated you for leaving Islam. In short, thank you Nabeel Qureshi for showing everyone a better way forward. You may have lost the battle with cancer, but Christ has won your soul. Rest in peace, Dr. Qureshi. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

Footnotes

  1. https://www.facebook.com/NabeelQureshi.org/
  2. https://youtu.be/FWpqqqZn7Kg
  3. Disclaimer
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The Greater Than Argument

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 5/27/2019

A while back I wrote an argument for the doctrine of the Trinity called The Lovely Trinity Argument (2) and it was okay in retrospect. After further study and improvement in philosophical argumentation, I have a second argument for the doctrine of the Trinity. This new argument is called The Greater Than Argument. The argument goes as follows:

The Greater Than Argument

  1. Every human is a single person.
  2. God is greater than a human.
  3. Since God is greater than a human, He therefore must be multi-personal.
  4. The Christian Trinity is the best explanation of God’s multi-personal nature.
  5. Therefore, God is a tri-unity of persons, yet remains one nature.

Now this argument is meant to be presented after belief in God is philosophically proven. This can be done by showing the person that you are talking to any number of arguments for the existence of God. In the spirit of my argument, I think the Kalam-Cosmological Argument (3) makes the most sense as a foundation to then build off of and further understand who God logically must be if they exist. Although, one could just as easily use Norris Clarke’s World as an Interacting Whole Argument (4) or Peter Kreeft’s version of The Change Argument (5) first proposed by Thomas Aquinas in his famous Five Ways collection of philosophical arguments.

On the flip side, I also have an alternative version that is simply called The Alternate Greater Than Argument. This alternate version is more so meant to be used in broader contexts for those who don’t believe in God. The Alternate Greater Than Argument goes as follows:

The Alternate Greater Than Argument

  1. Every human is a single person.
  2. If God exists, then they would have to be greater than a human.
  3. If real, God would be multi-personal.
  4. The Christian Trinity is the best explanation of both God’s existence and His multi-personal nature.
  5. Therefore, God is a tri-unity of persons, yet remains one nature.

The basic concept for the Greater Than Argument was inspired by Alvin Plantinga’s philosophical work as a whole and a YouTube video from InspiringPhilosophy (6). I’d highly recommend those resources, along with James White’s book called The Forgotten Trinity. Both arguments have the exact same conclusion and start with the same first premise. Where they differ is in their next three premises, in order to get to the same conclusion.

It’s probably not going to become the most groundbreaking development in defense of the doctrine of the Trinity, but I would say it is a vast improvement over my first argument. Not only in its more focused nature, but also for the fact that it is a third of the length of that first argument (i.e. 15 point argument vs. 5 point argument). So the use of The Greater Than Argument or The Alternate Greater Than Argument in discussion will be far easier to defend in a dialogue, rather than The Lovely Trinity Argument because of said reasons mentioned above. Since the argument is shorter and more to the point, you can invest more time supporting the Christian worldview and get to a Gospel presentation sooner in conversation with others.

You may find it useful to use or might figure out a better way of defending the doctrine of the Trinity. Regardless, I hope it helps you out in some way. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

Footnotes

  1. Free stock photos · Pexels
  2. https://chriscribariblog.com/2016/01/
  3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6CulBuMCLg0
  4. http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/20_arguments-gods-existence.htm#8
  5. http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/20_arguments-gods-existence.htm#1
  6. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0G2S5ziDcO0

Christian Reconstructionism Examined

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 5/27/2019

As of late, I have noticed a strange phenomenon growing in the political climate. It’s one that concerns me because of its implications on American society and Christianity as a whole. That phenomenon is the Christian Right and its underlying belief by some within the movement in an ideology called Christian Reconstructionism. Before addressing the movement, let me properly define it and then get into why Christian Reconstructionism is a dangerous ideology that should not be upheld by Christians or those on any political platform.

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R. J. Rushdoony | 1916 – 2001

Christian Reconstructionism is a theonomic movement that really began in the early twentieth century by a man named R. J. Rushdoony and flourished during the 1980s in American politics as it seeped into the Republican Party as a major driving force (2). They are similar to a political action committee (i.e. a PAC or Super PAC), but instead of primarily using money to influence the political process they twist Scripture to push their ideology. Rushdoony’s philosophy of Christian Reconstructionism was largely influenced by the fact that his family were victims in the Armenian Genocide of 1915 and his strong resistance to the New Deal proposed by Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930’s, which led him to creating this new form of Christian political involvement.

The basic philosophy of Christian Reconstructionism is the idea that any given nation must be run as a theocracy by Christians and only for Christians. Just to be clear, let me define a few terms before moving forward. A theocracy is a form of government where a nation is ruled by the divine order of some type of deity. A theonomy is how a theocracy is run by any given governing institution in power. The difference between the two terms would be “what it is” versus “how it is” from what I could gather online. A couple examples of theocratic government include, the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages and Islam in the Middle East.

So, why is this scary? Why is this such a problem that people still have this mentality, albeit only a small minority? Well, let’s quickly look at those two examples for a refresher on the negative side effects to a theocratic government.

Church
Source: https://strangenotions.com/is-the-catholic-church-a-force-for-good/

When it came to the Catholic Church, they essentially ruled Europe during the Medieval Ages and had complete control up until both the Reformation and later the Enlightenment that flipped the world upside down. As PBS put it, “the church reinforced the political authority of the states, and the states reinforced the authority of the church (3).” What this meant was that they worked together to enforce law. The government enforced the law of the land, while the Catholic Church enforced the law of the LORD. If one broke either law, then they broke both forms of law. Thus, they would not only receive punishment in this life, but also in the life to come afterwards.

Because of this political snare, the common people were apart of the faith in fear of the tyranny that loomed above them. If they did not believe in the Catholic faith, then they were subjected to torture or even death like those that were implemented during the Spanish Inquisition. This fear drove the commoner to live in utter submission to whatever the government said. Likewise, the government lived in utter submission to whatever the Catholic Church said because in those days, spiritual concerns superseded material matters.

Regarding Islam in the Middle East, it is much more extreme when compared to the Catholic Church not only by the length of time, but also by the amount of torture inflicted onto non-believers throughout history. These modern methods include, but are not limited to forcing LGBT+ persons to jump off of buildings to their death, genital mutilation of women, stoning, and so on. The goal for both of these theocratic governments was to sustain control over the region by whatever means necessary. For the purposes of this blog-post, I’ll leave further information regarding these theocratic forms of government up to you to research on your own.

Going back to where we started, this is what a theocratic government would look like if the Christian Reconstructionist had their way and why it is a danger to the American way of life. Under theocratic rule, every American would have to be Christian or suffer the severe consequences for believing otherwise. Not only that, but a very specific type of Christian that upholds certain beliefs like rejecting antinomianism (opposite of legalism), upholding presuppositionalism (opposite of evidentialism), and affirming postmillennialism to name a few.

progressive-revelation
Source: https://www.gotquestions.org/progressive-revelation.html

The Torah, the first 5 books of the Bible, would become the new rule of law and it would be barbaric to say the least in its application to 21st century civilization. Things such as interracial marriage, individual autonomy, and even modern women’s rights would be abolished. In other words, the philosophy of Christian Reconstructionism reapplying the Old Testament Law as the new law in American society is the equivalent of reapplying the use of horses instead of modern-day subways for transportation. They had their use and importance in history, but their need in today’s society is no longer applicable as the world has advanced beyond that phase of human civilization (4).

At the time, the Old Testament Law was amazing when compared to the horrific cultures that surrounded the region. Other nearby nations like the Hittites and the Canaanites were absolutely wicked, so God commanded the Israelites to live differently in almost every way than these other cultures lived. This is why the Old Testament Law existed in the first place: to fulfill the Hebrew’s part of the Old Covenant. If the Israelites obeyed God, then they would be blessed beyond belief under this covenant. If they didn’t keep the covenant, then they would receive the repercussions of their actions in full (5).

Fast-forward to the times of Christ when the Old Covenant is turned obsolete as Jesus introduces the New Covenant not just with the Hebrews, but with all of mankind (6). Hence, the Christian Reconstructionist’s major selling points on their particular philosophy are in direct conflict with crucial biblical truths in Scripture. The Old Covenant is no longer necessary and yet the Christian Reconstructionist advocates the reintroduction of the old way of relating to God.

As history can attest, when the political and the spiritual are unnaturally bent into a particular agenda we all lose. When it comes to Christian Reconstructionism, this just happens to be one of many attempts to do just that. Forcing someone to live a certain way in spite of their convictions in order to show them what you believe is a better way is not loving, but tyranny. In the name of freedom, there must be flexibility. In the specific case of Americans, what could be better than each and every one of us freely doing as we will to do, without infringing on the dignity innate in others. Sharing ideas rather than controlling them to fit within certain boundaries that favor one sect, while simultaneously oppressing another.

So what is the solution to a theonomous culture? Well, there are only two other options: a heteronomous culture (totalitarianism) and an autonomous culture (libertarianism). For the sake of brevity, America began as a theonomous culture with the mutual belief in the natural law of God giving us unalienable human rights, but has overtime become an autonomous culture where the rights of the individual matter more than the rights of the collective group. Act, believe, and think how you want, but without stepping on the toes of another person’s freedom to do the same.

As I noted earlier, American politics and Christian Reconstructionism are simply not compatible. The movement would only cause more harm than help in the grand scheme of things. When choosing between compromise and extremism in the game of politics, compromise is always the better way out. Compromise is the reason that we as Americans can proudly say that we freely pursue life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

Footnotes

  1. Free stock photos · Pexels
  2. http://www.religioustolerance.org/reconstr3.htm
  3. http://www.pbs.org/godinamerica/people/catholic-church.html
  4. The idea that I am referring to in this section of my blog-post is called progressive revelation. It is a common concept in both Christianity and Islam. Read more about it here.
  5. Deuteronomy 30:15-20
  6. Luke 22:20

Who Is Chris Cribari?

Updated: 5/27/2019

For those of you that are new to this blog, I figured it might be time to reintroduce myself. I grew up in Southern California for the first ten years of my life and then my family moved to Colorado in July of 2007 for my Dad’s job where I have lived ever since. I was raised by my parents in the Calvary Chapel Movement, along with my four siblings (Rachel, John, Corban; Nathan). My parents grew up in very broken homes, which directly influenced their strong emphasis on a family established on Christ first and foremost.

I came to faith in Christ when I was nine in the summer of 2006 and have been a Christian since then. My parents strong belief in Christianity had a great impact on my path towards the Christian faith, but the decision was all my own. I privately accepted Christ walking home from my friend David’s house where we were watching Playboy DVD’s after school. I publicly came to Christ at Calvary Chapel Oxnard’s Summer VBS a few weeks later when my group leader explained the Gospel to me after I questioned him as to whether or not it was true.

I am and always have been an avid storyteller, along with an active listener to people’s stories. I started writing my first stories in either second or third grade and continue to write to this day. At home, I have stacks of partially-written novels, poems, sermon ideas, and short stories either on flash-drives or busting out of years-old binders. Writing allows my soul to speak truthfully, even when my high-spectrum autism disorder gets in the way.

Because I love stories, I also love watching movies! When Blockbuster was still a thing, my siblings and I would watch our VHS movie collection to death as we rewatched our favorites all the time growing up. This collection that we had as kids contained the original Star Wars trilogy, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Wallace & Gromit series, a pair of Jurassic Park movies, a few Val Kilmer movies from the 90s, and a few dozen other films.

When we got a little older, we boys got the privilege of watching my Dad’s infamous movie collection that holds some of the best films I’ve ever seen. This collection consisted of mostly war movies like Braveheart, Gladiator, Saving Private Ryan, The Patriot (2000), and We Were Soldiers. It also had other genre movies like A Beautiful Mind, Bandits, Equilibrium, Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy, The Matrix, The Passion of the Christ, and the Phantom of the Opera. It might just be a box of DVD’s, but it holds some of my favorite memories with my Dad.

When I have time to train, I occasionally compete in Strongman too. I was introduced to the sport by my mentor Andrew Morrison and still loved it! I have competed four times and I am preparing for future competitions as well. Through my time training, I’ve met some of the world’s strongest men like Brian Shaw, Mike Burke, Robert Oberst, and Stan Caradine. My favorite Strongman lifts are Atlas Stones, Deadlift, and Log Press.
My theological stance is Molinist, while my preference on church function leans heavily towards Anabaptist. I currently am a member and serve at LifeGate Denver as a youth pastor.

My favorite apologists are John Lennox, Ravi Zacharias, and William Lane Craig. Although some honorable influences also include Alvin Plantinga, C.S. Lewis, Hugh Ross, James White, Michael L. Brown, Nabeel Qureshi, Norman Geisler, Paul Copan, Peter Kreeft, R. C. Sproul, and Voddie Baucham. My parents taught me the basics of Christianity when I was young and from there I have continued to develop my own systematic theology as I mature in the faith.

I attended the Colorado Film School and have an education in screenwriting, along with directing for the screen. I’m in the process of writing two books. The first book is a fictional novel that focuses on a married couple grieving a stillborn birth and the problem of suffering. The other book is like Mere Christianity, but for the modern world. My goal is to publish the latter book by the end of 2020.

I started this blog because it gave me the opportunity to speak freely about whatever is on my mind. People have also asked and encouraged me to write, so that inspired me as well. Most importantly, I believe God put me on this planet to write for Him and I will continue that pursuit in showing people what it means to know God.

This blog started in June of 2015 and will continue to go on as long as God wills. I’m Chris Cribari and this is just a frame of my life. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

The Book That Made Your World: Review and Summary Part 1

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 5/27/2019

This blog-post was commissioned by Marjorie Wall-Hofer who is a member of my former church called Peace Mennonite Community Church (2). This will be different than other blog-posts in that I will be reviewing and summarizing a book called The Book That Made Your World by Vishal Mangalwadi (3). To be honest, I had never heard of him or his oddly titled book beforehand, 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. Then again, I guess there was no way around that problem either considering the subject matter 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 like the origins of science to the concept of compassion in the face of utter barbarism in the early first century. Its aim was to show how the Bible has shaped the West in some of the most profound ways imaginable, even in some ways unexpectedly. In that respect, the book succeeds. Although it does tend to lack the artistic appeal of more expressive writers.

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Chapter 1: The West Without Its Soul | Photo Cred: (4)

The book begins with how the Bible was crucial in the conceptual development of the human soul. Comparing both Johann Sebastian Bach and Kurt Cobain from Nirvana, 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 a life that left too soon.

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Chapter 2: Service | Photo Cred: (5)

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.

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Chapters 3 – 4: Quest and Self | Photo Cred: (6)

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.

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.

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Chapters 5 – 6: Humanity and Rationality | Photo Cred: (7)

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. This can be traced back to Augustine, Boethius, William Tyndale, and other brights that sought to bring the truths of Scripture to the commoners who lived in ignorance. It was people like these who brought about new generations of free thinkers that could now test the claims of the corrupt and powerful.

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Chapters 7: Technology | Photo Cred: (8)

When it came to the advancements of technology throughout the ages, 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 is summarized below by Mangalwadi:

“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.

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Chapter 8: Heroism | Photo Cred: (9)

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, fighting for the LORD would guarantee salvation, which was a lie. 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.

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Chapter 9: Revolution | Photo Cred: (10)

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 because 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. The reformers 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.

Well that’s just half of my review and summary of The Book That Made Your World! Stay tuned for Part 2 and the rest of my thoughts on this book. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

Footnotes

  1. https://www.facebook.com/VishaMangalwadi
  2. http://peace-mennonite.org/
  3. http://amzn.to/2wlAnCZ
  4. http://movies.ndtv.com/photos/forever-27-kurt-cobain-would-have-been-46-yesterday-10981
  5. http://www.nlb.gov.sg/sure/a-good-deed-goes-a-long-way/
  6. https://rgyan.com/blogs/omens-while-starting-for-a-destination/
  7. http://thelibertariancatholic.com/raising-your-child-with-the-bible-you-may-be-raising-an-atheist/
  8. https://hhswhi.wikispaces.com/Lateen+sail
  9. Captain America: Civil War (2016)
  10.  https://thecompassmagazine.com/adventism/reformation-and-the-remnant-a-review

Of Monsters and Men: Trollhunter (2010) | Film Analysis

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 4/29/2019

This was one of three film analysis papers I wrote in college at the Colorado Film School and because I enjoyed writing them so much, I decided to upload all three here on my blog.  The first one was The Dark Knight: A Scene Analysis, there is this one you’re reading now, and then the last one is called Causation, Karma, and Kung Fu: Dragon (2011) Film Analysis. I wrote this in one of my favorite classes, Contemporary Global Cinema, and this was a lecture style class on foreign cinema that was taught by the always down-to-earth Andrew Houston. It was originally published on October 5th of 2016, but this is an updated version of the original paper. With that said, here is my film analysis of Trollhunter (2010):

Although there are many films one could analyze concerning foreign cinema, I have chosen to critically analyze the cult-favorite Trollhunter, which became an international hit essentially overnight. But why did such an obscure, Norwegian film become the hit that it was and still is years after its initial release date? How has it managed to remain on Netflix since September 23rd, 2011 and has been available all these years (2)? Let’s figure it out by starting from the very beginning with the concept itself, namely trolls.

André Øvredal, who wrote and directed Trollhunter, is quoted saying that the idea came to him as far back as 1999 (3) when he conceptualized and came up with the idea of what he would want to make a feature film about: a guy that hunts trolls. Then in 2005, Øvredal revisited his idea and began to develop it into the film he always wanted to create as he wrote for several years before anything ever got off the ground. Once production was done and the film was made, it took the world by storm. Along with this craze came all sorts of critics giving Øvredal some well-earned praise on an international scale. From there, the concept became a cinematic hallmark of Norway and a call back to Norway’s heyday as the film is as popular as ever in its native land. Yet the question remains: why did Trollhunter do so well? How did it resonate globally with so many people that it grossed 1.5 times its budget in a country not known for large scale blockbusters (4)?

How Did Trollhunter Become A Hit?

Is it perhaps that a movie of this nature has never been made? Before assuming such a bold proposition, let’s look at the facts. The film is constructed in a found-footage, mockumentary style with a satirical edge that presents the film to Norwegians as comedic, while international audiences believing it to be an action thriller. A strange and perplexing effect as I, along with other American audiences, noted in first and second viewings. At first viewing, I thought it to be a well-crafted fantasy, action thriller that focused on the mythology of trolls. On second viewing and the viewings proceeding the second one, I found it to be extremely funny and brilliant, with a sense of wit to it.

It could be received so well due to its absolute originality, in that it hearkens back to the film language of The Blair Witch Project (1999). But instead of attempting realism, this film uses that method to mock its subject matter subtly and other shaky-cam made movies in the process. When The Blair Witch Project came out, audiences flocked to theaters to catch a glimpse of the once-in-a-lifetime experience that that film marketed itself to be. The public was on a buzz because for a small amount of time, people truly believed that The Blair Witch Project was actually a documentary and not a hoax. Did this same effect happen to viewers of Trollhunter?

Possibly, but not probably due to the vast suspension of belief one must take as the viewer to go along with the film’s preposterous plot of a conspiracy of troll sightings in Norway’s wastelands. When the film premiered at Sundance during one of the Park City midnight premieres, there was a veil of mystery as all attendees that saw this movie had no idea what was going to appear as it was a mystery screening. Not a soul knew what was coming or playing until the movie’s end credits rolled.

This may have affected the perception of the first initial audience at Sundance as there were a lot of glowing reviews right out the gate, especially in Norway. Even Øvredal had this thinking when he notes, “I think that the sense of humor wouldn’t come through if you shot it as a regular film.” Nevertheless, while this structure for the film and the hype surrounding it may be the reason, I would argue it is only part of this puzzle and was not the primary reason as to why it was internationally acclaimed.

Maybe it is the cast, which consists largely of comedians playing serious roles, including Otto Jespersen who is known as the biggest comedian in Norway and Hans Morten Hansen who holds the record for the “World’s Longest Stand-Up Performance” that clocks in at 38 hours, 14 minutes. If it is the cast, then they look miscast at first glance and yet the cast works perfectly in the final cut. How did Øvredal know this was going to work? Why comedians for a dramatic actors job?

Easy, comedians usually make great dramatic actors when given the right role. From Jim Carrey in The Truman Show (1998) and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) to Peter Sellers in Being There (1979), comedians can deliver powerfully resonating performances when the right film comes along. Øvredal is quoted saying that the actors were purposefully cast for their comedic abilities, especially Jespersen in multiple interviews for the press tour, in order to add a layer of humor to the final product.

The final result? A film that is littered with dichotomies that should not work, but do. As mentioned earlier, it is filmed as a documentary in the found-footage subgenre, yet mocks such methods and is therefore a found-footage mockumentary. It is jam-packed with comedians in very serious roles who add both wonder and wit, yet never break character during the movie. Adding to those factors, is how seriously the absolutely bonkers plot is treated, right down to the realistic production design and the overall visual aesthetic that screams realism. Yet the film also reveals an extremely mythological story at the forefront. Through the framework of nonfiction, Øvredal takes the audience through a whimsical journey into fairy tale fiction for the modern era.

Why Was This Movie Successful?

So back to square one: why was this movie so successful? We have briefly paid attention to certain variables that made this film pop out to the public eye such as its unique film language, the mysterious marketing campaign, the cast of comedians playing dramatic roles, and the various well thought out dichotomies that are fine-tuned to fit the narrative needs of the story unfolding before our eyes. I would argue that these are only effects of the true cause as to why this film was so successful. Trollhunter was and is so successful because it tells a universal, typical monsters-under-the-bed children’s story like every classic fairy tale.

From the ludicrous schemes of the higher powers that be the government holding back the truth to the fantastical creatures that lurk in the backyards of the locals in Norway, this film plays out like the imagination of a child through the perspective of adults. It represents high concept themes of corruption in government, belief in a higher power whether mythic or religious in nature, but with a humorous angle that an innocent child might have in a story like this one. Before understanding this first cause of sorts that sparked Trollhunter’s success, we must understand what exactly a children’s story is, specifically fairy tales of old.

A fairy tale is a short story told through either oral tradition or in writing of a fantastical fable that explains to children the moral truths of day-to-day life. For this film in particular, there are three main fairy tales that were strong influences for Trollhunter throughout the film: The Boy Who Had An Eating Match With A Troll, Three Billy Goats Gruff, and Soria Moria Castle. There are other references to fairy tales within the narrative of Trollhunter, but these are the main three. So if fairy tales are usually aimed at children and Trollhunter is a film that brings fairytales to light for a mostly adult audience, what is the moral truth that Øvredal is trying to show us?

After some reflection on the thematic threads of the storyline, the moral truth of Trollhunter is twofold: 1) to never stop pursuing the truth like a child never stops seeking answers from their innocent inquiries about life and 2) to not let faith fade into fiction. For now, we will look at the first moral truth before exploring the second one. How does Trollhunter present this theme of seeking to find the truth without hesitation in the movie?

The Pursuit of Truth

In actuality, that is the main plot of the film. Thomas played by Glenn Erland Tosterud, along with his friends Johanna (Johanna Mørck), Kalle (Tomas Alf Larsen), and somewhat Malica (Urmila Berg-Domaas) near the second half of the film are on a quest to find the truth about trolls. The movie begins with Thomas, Johanna, and Kalle searching across Norway for a lone-wolf type of bear poacher that has been illegally killing wild bears past the prescribed rate set by the government. So our three heroes embark on an unexpected journey to find this obscure poacher for a documentary they are making for a college assignment of theirs. Bottom line: they wanted to know the truth regarding the infamous bear poacher.

But once the bear poacher is found by the three students, he rejects being in their documentary and does all that he can to evade their pursuit of him. Despite the setback, they are unwilling to give up. Thomas and the three follow him to his next hunting expedition only to find out he is not a bear poacher, but a troll hunter. After this startling realization of the truth, Thomas becomes ever more adamant in understanding this newly revealed truth about the world. This pilgrimage for truth leads to Thomas and the rest of his crew in helping the troll hunter named Hans (Jespersen) expose the cover up of the troll epidemic growing insurmountably out of control in Norway’s wastelands.

Yet again, in the pursuit of truth there will always be outside forces pressuring the seeker to stop their search. Simply put, Kalle the camera operator is killed in action due to his Christian blood being detected by a pack of trolls in a cave that smell his God-filled scent. So Thomas and his crew of just Johanna and Hans hire a new Muslim camera operator named Malica, which is actually an indirect jab at Islam as they comically discuss whether trolls can smell Muslim blood.

For within this film’s mythology and Norwegian mythology all together, the reason trolls could smell the blood of Christians is because of a poor exegetical understanding of the Biblical letter of 2 Corinthians, specifically 2 Corinthians 2:14-17. This passage uses allegory for an aroma illustration to separate early Christians from the rest of the world by teaching that the blood of Christians is different than those who are not Christian. If it’s true that trolls can only smell the blood of Christians because they believe that Jesus is God (5), then from the Norwegian worldview Muslims do not believe in the same God since Trolls do not smell their blood. For trolls, Muslim blood does not give off a “sweet smelling aroma.”

Some other Norwegian sources also list a number of other reasons trolls can smell the blood of Christians. These include, but are not limited too: jealousy that the Christians that came to Norway during the Medieval Ages stole the people’s worship from trolls to worship the Christian God, trolls are some form of demonic force that has been expelled by the Christian God to live in darkness, or that they used to be humans/are humans that were never “Christianized” by the advancement of the religion during the time these fairy tales were penned. Whatever the case may be, the point being is this: trolls can smell the blood of Christians because of its sweet smelling aroma, while other religions do not have this distinct scent. Hence, the movie runs with this claim found scattered in all sorts of troll stories from times past and makes for an interesting clash of differing worldviews within certain cultural predispositions towards Christianity.

In the pursuit of truth, it is truth itself that kills Kalle because he is a Christian. In the pursuit of truth, it is Hans who allows the three students to follow him and expose this cover up. In the pursuit of truth, it is why this movie began in the first place as the faith that Thomas has, along with his crew is tested as everything that they thought to be true is false and vice versa regarding the bear killings that are directly linked to the troll sightings.

Faith Must Not Fade Into Fiction

As a child grows into adulthood, there is a period of time known as “childhood innocence” that precedes the teenage years and eventually adulthood. Like Patrick Rothfuss once wrote in The Name of the Wind, “When we are children we seldom think of the future. This innocence leaves us free to enjoy ourselves as few adults can. The day we fret about the future is the day we leave our childhood behind.” The intended audience for the majority of fairy tales is children during this age of innocence. If Trollhunter jumps off from this precedent regarding the intended audience that has grown up, then how does childhood innocence play into the narrative strings of the story and in what way? How does the film’s version of childhood innocence fit with the idea that faith must never fade into fiction as noted above?

When our journey into the unknown world of bear poaching begins and the mystery with the poacher hunting more than the allotted amount, we find our protagonist Thomas with his companions still in this age of innocence. For they think that there is simply a bear poacher, that is Hans, who is killing more than everyone else during the hunting season. They just want to know why that is the case. Most likely presuming that it is for personal pride, sport, or something in the vein of seeking fame and fortune from the populace. Yet their innocence in this situation is challenged when confronted for the first time that this is a lie set by the government to distract people from the truth of a troll problem running rampant in Norway.

Not only that, but the stories that they were told as children take a reverse course in this film versus reality. For here in this movie, the more fantastical the story becomes, the more true it becomes. The fable that trolls can smell the blood of Christians leads to the death of Kalle because of his faith in Christ. While the more plausible in reality, the less true it becomes. Like how earlier they believed that there was a rabid bear poacher killing off the bear population leads to a government cover up of a darker kind.

In the real world, with the advancements of knowledge in various fields of study like philosophy, science, mathematics, and so forth there is the elimination of the supernatural as the likelihood of such things is relinquished to oblivion by our own exit from innocence into experience. Our belief in Santa Claus ends as our belief in logic and truth flourishes through the maturity of mankind over the years. As we understand more about how the universe we inhabit works like a series of fully-functioning gears in a sequential motion of expansion to its inevitable end.

By the end of the movie, Thomas, Johanna, and now Malica have had their innocence fade as their faith has only flourished under these extreme circumstances of troll hunting with Hans. What a poignant end to a film that follows a group of people trying to stop tire-eating, trolls. After some investigation and a little speculation regarding certain aspects of the film, we can conclude that the primary reason for the success of Trollhunter is the monsters-under-the-bed theme that explores a return to childish things that may have been forgotten by some. Something of a subconscious resurgence through the form of a cinematic experience.

From the literal monsters (trolls) hiding under a bed (government conspiracy) to teach children (the audience) an essential truth. The risk for the pursuit of truth is worth the payoff as is the firm convictions of faith we all have in a postmodern society that rejects such objective realities as false illusions. With all that said, perhaps the film is trying to evoke us to remember a time when anything was possible and nothing could stop that free thinking.

This is why the movie succeeded internationally. It reignited a sense of awe and humor into something that lay dormant for years since our own innocence faded from reality to mere fragmented memories. Imagine that. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

Footnotes

  1. Trollhunter (2010)
  2. http://www.flixlist.co/titles/70170065
  3. http://collider.com/andre-ovredal-interview-troll-hunter/
  4. http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=trollhunter.htm
  5. Romans 10:9

Deception Part I: After An Innocent Mistake | Mark Cribari

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 5/27/2019

In this first segment of a three-part series on deception, I would like to focus on where it all began: in the beginning. Since the Bible clearly tells us in multiple places that Satan was the source of the very first lie spoken through an animal in the Garden of Eden, we have our starting point. Then, we will follow the progression of deception from the serpent to separation to “The Secret” in parts II and III.

The Genesis record reveals that every physical thing God made in its original state was declared “good” in the opening two chapters. The only exception to this was loneliness as described in Genesis 2:18, but then again, the LORD wasn’t finished creating at that point. The results from His short surgery (v21‭) included the beauty of ceremony (v22), poetry (v23), unity (v24), and shameless transparency (v25). Even verses 16‭-‬17 imply God’s love by the mere fact that He warned the first man within His first command. Then things took a turn for the worse in chapter 3 when doubt was introduced by that serpent of old (Revelation 20:2).‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

One of my favorite aspects about the Bible is that God used progressive revelation to continue revealing to us things He wanted us to know. What amazes me is that He was also able to use different types of literary genre to do so like historical narratives, poetry, prophecy, and even letters. A good example of this can be found in John 8:44 where Christ gave us more insight about the devil than Moses did in Genesis 3:1 when Jesus said, “He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.” Details like this should be helpful as we take a closer look at the subject of deception throughout Scripture.

Since the Gospel according to John and Genesis are both in the genre of historical narratives, it becomes almost seamless to use Scripture to interpret Scripture since that literary style deals primarily with people, places, things and events. It could get interesting when we use other styles to help us understand this historical event and possibly assist in answering some of the questions I have for you as well. Now before I get to these specific questions so you can come to your own conclusions about the first deception and, at the same time, test what I’m saying based on the facts presented (1st Thessalonians 5:21), I’d like to remind you about the difference between explicit and implicit observations.

Explicit facts are those that are usually obvious to most people whereas those that are implicit would be those truths that are implied by the text within its context. I’m clarifying this distinction so that you as the reader know that if the things I share from this point forward are not supported by the text and the context, you’re welcome to throw them out as assumptions. There is a phrase used by many to describe this as “chewing the meat and spitting out the bones.”

Now there are two reasons why I titled this “After An Innocent Mistake.” First of all, this brief conversation with the serpent reflects the purity and innocence Eve had when she made the mistake of trusting that what he said could be the truth, even though this creature was planting doubt in her mind and denying what God said to her husband in chapter 2. Secondly, the terrible consequences of sin took place only after they both broke God’s original command. At this point, I’d like to present you with some inductive questions to consider in regards to when Adam was actually with Eve during this account.

First off, working from the New King James Version of the Holy Bible, why do Genesis 3:1 and Genesis 3:4 record that “the serpent said to the woman” instead of saying to them (i.e. Adam & Eve) if her husband was there when this initial conversation took place? Why do most people assume that “her husband (was) with her” during the serpent’s deception in the verses previous to verse 6 since we don’t know “when” Eve “saw, took, and ate its fruit” in Genesis 3:6?

Why does the wording in Genesis 3:6b, “She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate” appear to be an afterthought as if it could be a separate event from her choice? The Holy Spirit confirms a fact about this event in 1st Timothy 2:14 when it is written, “And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.” If Adam was there when the serpent lied to Eve as many people believe, wouldn’t “they” have been deceived instead of the strong clear wording of 1st Timothy 2:14? It’s safely been said that Scripture interprets Scripture, so we can’t ignore this New Testament insight into Old Testament history.

Since all the pronouns turn plural in Genesis 3:7-8 after Adam ate (e.g. them, they, themselves, up to the phrase “Adam and his wife”), why did Adam blame her instead of the serpent? As well as in Genesis 3:12 when addressed by God and she then blames the serpent in the singular when she admits in verse 13, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate” instead of including her husband if he was actually there when she was lied to? When Paul expressed his concern in 2nd Corinthians 11:3, why didn’t he include Adam when he wrote, “as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness” if her husband was actually with her during moment that lie was delivered by the Devil?

Genesis 3:17‭ reads: Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of the serpent…” Oh, wait a minute. He didn’t say that at all! Adam’s curse and consequences were because he listened to his “wife.” Don’t you think this would have been a great opportunity to clear things up for us since “God is not the author of confusion?” (1st Corinthians 14:33a). God says what He means and means what He says. Nowhere in Scripture does He say nor infer that the serpent said to the man or that Adam heard from the serpent.‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Finally, when reading through Romans 5:10-21, I find it interesting that the Spirit of God holds Adam solely responsible for disobeying the LORD’s command and bringing sin into the world instead of holding both Adam and Eve liable for it in phrases such as “through one man sin entered the world,” “those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam,” “by the one man’s offense many died,” “through the one who sinned,” “the judgment which came from one offense,” “by the one man’s offense,” “as through one man’s offense,” and lastly “as by one man’s disobedience.” My only question at this juncture is why do some sermons and many pieces of art depict both of them together in the garden with the serpent when the source material, Holy Scripture does not seem to support it? For more on this, click here and this here.

Although I’d prefer not to be dogmatic about this, I do believe that it’s important to understand the true circumstances of that first deception to the best of our ability in light of 2nd Corinthians 2:11 which warns us that “lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.” That last word has also been translated “schemes” and this brings me to my final thought. Could it be that the progression of the devil’s plan as recorded in Genesis chapter 3 to destroy Adam and Eve by introducing doubt, denial, deception, and disbelief of God’s loving warning in Genesis chapter 2 actually began with the strategy of separation? If the old adage, “there is safety in numbers” proves true, then his scheme worked if Satan intentionally waited for these two to be apart from each other before he approached the weaker vessel (1st Peter 3:7). Stay tuned for part two in this series on deception in the future.

Footnotes

  1. Free stock photos · Pexels
  2. https://answersingenesis.org/bible-characters/adam-and-eve/was-adam-with-eve-when-she-spoke-to-the-serpent/
  3. https://www.gotquestions.org/amp/Adam-with-Eve.html

What are the Christian Essentials?

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 5/27/2019

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 Christianity? What separates a Christian from a Latter-Day Saint or a Muslim? With all of these questions in mind, let’s look at what others have laid out as the Essentials of Christianity and see if it is a biblical understanding of what makes someone a 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 (2), yet the Gospel Coalition has up to 20 Essentials (3)! 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 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 said belief system would completely cause that belief system to collapse on itself. Islam, for example, has the 5 Pillars of Islam (3) that indicate the basic tenets of the faith that make someone a Muslim. These would be 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 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 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 Christianity. I refer to them as the “Four Cornerstones of Christianity,” but we will stick to the Christian Essentials for simplicity sake. First of the Christian Essentials is the Nature of God.

1) The Nature of God

The nature of God is comprised of 2 unique beliefs: Monotheism and Trinitarianism. The belief of Monotheism affirms God’s unique oneness and the idea that there is only one God (5), while Trinitarianism affirms God’s tri-unity as three persons, yet one being (6). As Dr. Michael Brown would put it, God is “complex in His unity” (7) and this truth is best known as the doctrine of the Trinity. Now the 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). God is eternal, immaterial, non-contingent, non-physical, personal, and uncaused. 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 (8).

Suffice to say, Christians believe God to be indescribable in His grand majesty and He 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 near to our souls. But how does God, a being beyond definition, interact with His Creation? How could God bridge the gap between finite minds and His infinite mind? Well, that leads us to the second 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 (9) and fully man (10). 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 (11), Jesus adopted a second nature and that would be His human nature. This was for the sole purpose of bridging the 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 (12).

If His deity is denied, then you find yourself aligned with cults that deviated from 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 other deviations of the Hypostatic Union (13). 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, then 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 Hypostatic Union is the second Essential of 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 (14), along with the theological understanding that salvation is by God’s grace and not of works because of Christ’s atonement on the Cross (15). We will observe the biblical and theological side of the Gospel, before going into the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus.

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 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. It goes as follows:

The Romans Road

  • Romans 3:23 | Everyone has sinned and is 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 takeaway our salvation because it is sealed by the love of God.

Now the Romans Road is a great resource to use in sharing the Gospel, but not all of us can memorize or remember that many passages of Scripture on the spot. So how do we explain the Gospel in a shorter and more straightforward way? Here is how I share the Gospel whenever I present it to people: 

The 4-Point Gospel Message

  • Creation | God created everything 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, which causes those who repent and believe to be free from sin’s consequences.
  • Salvation | We receive new life in Christ and enjoy living for the Lord.

Still too complex? Try this simplified version of my way of sharing the Gospel instead. In all honesty, I use the Abridged 4-point Gospel Message more often because more people can understand it. Anyways, here it is:

The Abridged 4-Point Gospel Message

  • Creation | God made everything good.
  • Condemnation | We made everything bad.
  • Propitiation | Jesus has made everything better, so now we should believe in what He did and put all our trust in Him.
  • Salvation | Enjoy new life with Christ.

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 Christianity. For another Scriptural explanation of the Gospel in the form of a video, I would refer you to David Wood’s great YouTube video called “What is the Gospel?” (16). Bottom line: when it comes to the Gospel, keep it Scriptural and simple. That’s what Jesus did and that’s we will continue to do as Christians.

Paul the Apostle once said that if Christ did not rise from the dead, then our faith is in vain (17). 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. Some might use extra-biblical 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 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 Divine Inspiration of Scripture.

4) The Divine Inspiration of Scripture

The inspiration of Scripture is the final Essential and it is the root belief that guides the idea of the inerrancy of Scripture. For those unfamiliar, the inerrancy of Scripture is the idea that all that God says to be true is true. At the same time, this final Essential gives us Christians the other three 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 divinely inspired, I have both an argument and an acronym from Charlie Campbell (18) that will aid in remembering key reasons to believe the Bible to be the divinely inspired and 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 in its truth claims? But can we empirically prove that because the Bible is inspired, that it is also inerrant in its truth claims? Using 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 three Essentials hinges on our understanding of this final Essential.

Like the above picture, the Essentials of Christianity all work together and uphold the very essence of what 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. The Four Posts of Avila, Spain (1566) by Francisco de Arellano
  2. https://www.gotquestions.org/essentials-Christian-faith.html
  3. https://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/kevindeyoung/2013/09/12/what-are-the-essentials-of-the-christian-faith/
  4. https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/world-history/medieval-times/islam-intro/a/the-five-pillars-of-islam
  5. Deuteronomy 6:4, Isaiah 43:10-13, 1 Corinthians 8:4b-6, Galatians 3:20; 1 Timothy 2:5
  6. Genesis 1:26, 3:22-23, 11:7, Isaiah 6:8, Matthew 3:16-17, 28:19-20; 2 Corinthians 13:14
  7. 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.
  8. https://www.princeton.edu/~grosen/puc/phi203/ontological.html
  9. John 1:1-3, 10:30; 20:28-31
  10. John 1:14, Philippians 2:5-11; Hebrews 2:14-18
  11. 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
  12. 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).”
  13. http://coldcasechristianity.com/2014/historic-heresies-related-to-the-nature-of-jesus/
  14. John 2:19-22, 1 Corinthians 15:1-22; Galatians 1:6-9
  15. John 14:6, Acts 4:12; Ephesians 2:8-9
  16. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0maL4cQ8zuU
  17. 1 Corinthians 15:13-14
  18. 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.

Mentors That Made Me A Man: Andrew Morrison

Updated: 5/27/2019

When I first met Andrew Morrison, it was at one of the Calvary Chapel Aurora summer youth group events for the high school ministry and we were playing rugby at Olympic Park. Before that day, I had never heard of rugby. After that day, I realized it was probably the hardest sport I have ever played. Oh, and the guy leading this skull-crushing sport was none other than Andrew himself: the leader who served at CCA in the high school ministry and who loved to pull pranks on everyone in youth group.

There were a few guys from the youth group like Bailey Monroe and Isaac Hardwick there, so I didn’t feel that alone trying out this new sport. Although, I was intimidated by Andrew and his sheer size compared to me as we were on opposing teams. At the time, he was near 300lbs and I was less than spare change, so I took quite a beating that day during the game. It went as expected: bloody, dirty, and non-stop adrenaline as we went back and forth playing rugby. Regardless, looking back it was actually a good time. Lots of smack-talk, testosterone, and a whole lot of really painful tackles worthy of an ESPN rewind. So that was the start of a discipleship bond between Andrew and I that is still ongoing to this day.

As I continued to go to the high school youth group at CCA, I figured Andrew would only be interested in hanging out with the athletes that went there. Those athletes were usually Bailey, my older brother John, the Fouse boys, Jeffrey Torres, Lomar Rodriguez, the Obinnah trio, and some other athletes that would occasionally show up. Yet Andrew took the time to invest in the scrawny guy that spent all his free time playing Pikmin and Mech Assault.

At first, it didn’t make any sense why he wanted to invest in me and be that mentor in my life. I mean, we had literally nothing in common. We both were known by Christ and for Andrew that was enough reason to invite me to join his Leaders In Training group, also known as LIT. This group was a disciple program for hand-picked, high schoolers that wanted to grow deeper in their faith in Christ. It was a group that included Adaeze Obinnah, Alyssa Almond, Bailey, Bella Newberry, Bethany Trantham, Charlie Tomaskovic, Daniel Walton, David Dekhtyaryuk, Heather Baca, Kathryn Koff, Khilah Fouse, Lisa Brooks, Lomar, Mariah Santos, Miciah Lewis, Millie Tomaskovic, Ryan Vincent, Sarah McFarland, Taylor Urling, and Zach Fouse.

It was a really challenging group in that we had to do the following every week: serve at church during service, serve at evangelistic outreaches in the Denver area, memorize Scripture weekly, inductively study Scripture weekly, along with a number of other tasks that were required for this program. In retrospect, it was a high point in my spiritual growth as Andrew with the aid of Joel Wheelersburg, instilled the truths of Christianity into us. To this day, those lessons till remain with me all these years later.

Later on, Joel went and started a new church plant called “Calvary Reach” in 2015. Around that time, Andrew left CCA to be the youth pastor at Calvary Chapel Westminister up north of where we were at in Aurora, Colorado. Even amidst all of this change, Andrew still kept in touch with all of us students to the best of his ability.

He would nag us on how we should workout with him or how we should visit him at his new church. Either way, he kept checking in on us and he still does to this day. This accountability and responsibility he took on is one of my favorite aspects that he has as both a mentor and a friend of mine. His constant desire to see the spiritually young in the faith mature is what makes him such a great leader for anyone that learns under him.

Andrew firmly believes in the idea of a church on the move. What I mean by that is inviting someone to hang out with you outside church doors throughout the week by sharing your hobby or trade with them. For instance, if you love to skateboard, then you would invite whoever it may be to hit the skate park with you and as you hang out, talk about stuff that really matters like God.

It’s been his way to share the Gospel to people that don’t go to church or have been hurt by the comfort-seeking American Church. Like Jesus would do when He would minister one-on-one with people doing simple, everyday things like drawing water from a well (1) or simply having dinner together (2). It’s when sacred meets secular. A refreshingly powerful way of reaching out to a world that needs to see authenticity and consistency from Christians.

One way Andrew meets people where they are is by inviting them to workout with him and do Strongman. I started doing this with him in the Fall of 2014 and have been hooked on Strongman ever since. I remember when I walked into the Colorado Pro Gym for the first time and saw Mike Burke, a World’s Strongest Man competitor, training on Log Press as he dwarfed everyone around him. It was a little insane how big this guy was as he stood at 6’ 6” and weighed about 350lbs at that time. It was this encounter with one of the strongest men on the planet that inspired me to try out this sport. It was the fact that Strongman is so challenging, both mentally and physically, that really drew me into this small niche of athletics.

Since then, I have trained on and off with Andrew and have done four Strongman competitions (i.e. Team Tom – May 2015, Iron Warrior Classic – December 2016, Team Tom – February 2017, Team Tom – February 2018). What this type of discipleship also taught me was seeing people in their element outside of the social construct of “Sunday-Only Christians.” What it looks like to be a Christian in the world, but not apart of it.

Watching as Andrew would stop everything to attend to the needs of his family or in-between sets asking how I’m doing in life. Meeting people where they are at versus having people meet you where you’re at. It’s a mode of discipleship that I’ve started to emulate as I now invite people I know to lift and minister to them all at once.

Through the years, Andrew taught me how to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit, yet physically strong as I equally impact eternity. Over the years, he has pushed me to think like Christ and to completely transform the way I see or think about my life. In fact, we still hang out, workout together from time-to-time, and even share a vision for a new church plant in Colorado. Thank you Andrew for being a mentor that made me a man. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

Footnotes

  1. John 4:3-30
  2. Mark 2:14-17

Matriarchal Christianity Examined

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 5/27/2019

In this blog-post, we’re going to examine the claims of Matriarchal Christianity and discover whether or not the Holy Spirit is a woman. What is Matriarchal Christianity exactly? It’s the idea that God as a triune being is comprised of three persons: the Father, the Mother, and the Son, with the Mother being the Holy Spirit.

Eisegesis vs. Exegesis

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

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 guides meaning from outside sources into the text (subjective interpretation), while exegesis guides meaning out of the text itself (objective interpretation). With this in mind, let’s quickly discover whether or not the Holy Spirit is a woman as we examine the claims of Matriarchal Christianity.

God Incarnate

In Scripture, there are certain verses and passages that reveal the nature of God, along with how He chose to reveal Himself in a way that we humans could comprehend. In fact, Jesus as a person within the Godhead has appeared and interacted with humanity in various physical forms (2). This is commonly known as a Christophany where Christ appears or manifests Himself on Earth.

But isn’t Jesus a man? Doesn’t the Bible clearly state that He is a man? Doesn’t that make Him a male? The Bible and extra-biblical sources do say that Jesus was physically born and became a man, but He was more than just a man. As God, Jesus adopted a physical body and was fully human when He lived on the Earth. Yet He never was less than God either. This is known as the Hypostatic Union where Jesus is both fully God and fully man.

Well, what about God in general? If Jesus has appeared and adopted the body of a man, doesn’t that mean the Father or the Holy Spirit can too? No because of the three persons within God’s triune nature, only the Son appears physically as a human in history. Jesus is the only member of the tri-unity of God who can be seen since He does take on a physical form in history (3), while the other two persons do not adopt a physical form.

Remember that God is not a physical being to begin with, 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.

God’s Pronouns

With that said, what we find in Scripture are 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 being described in the feminine sense as well (4), so then what are the correct pronouns for God? Do we refer to God in the feminine or masculine sense?

Before answering this, we must reiterate 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. Therefore, how God in His sovereignty allows Himself to be referred to in the Bible reflects what His preferred pronouns are and how we should refer to Him as God.

Next, do those passages referenced above about the Holy Spirit being described with feminine verbs indicate that He is in fact supposed to be referred to in the feminine sense? No because we see this sort of usage all throughout both the Bible and other texts where the gender is switched to express an idea better or just as an exception to the rule. Just because there are two verses that appear to be used in the feminine sense towards God, does not mean that God is to be referred to in the feminine sense.

Those exceptions to the rule do not supervene all of the other references to God in the masculine sense. They’re simply exceptions to the rule and that’s it. The vast majority of the Bible is geared to calling God a He and each person within the Trinity a He, so we should refer to Him in that way as Christians even if God is a gender-less being.

Even if God wanted us to attribute the feminine sense to Himself or any person within the Trinity, then He would have made the distinction clear. But Scripture overwhelmingly supports the masculine verbiage in reference to God. Since God has chosen to and prefers to be referred to in the masculine sense, then we should respect that decision. The Trinity consists of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. It does not consist of the Father, the Son, and the Mother.

In order to properly understand the text in the Bible, we must allow context to dictate our conclusions and not our culture. In order to know who God is, we should hear and read how He is referred to in Scripture. Projecting our culture onto another culture’s original understanding of God is dishonest 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. Cultures and interpretations change, but context is timeless when we understand the text. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

Footnotes

  1. Free stock photos · Pexels
  2. https://www.gotquestions.org/theophany-Christophany.html
  3. John 1:18
  4. 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.