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Heaven Is For Real vs. Bible 2/2

Heaven Timeheaven time

Still, how could Colton see all this? His father Todd mentioned a possibility of “heaven time”, suggesting that concepts of – past, present and future are perhaps valid only for earth, while time in heaven might not be linear. The nature of time and Gods relation to it is closely related both to our individual but also collective future “times” and I will assess it at least briefly. Grudem agrees with God being a timeless being, which does not experience a succession of moments, as his experience of time is qualitatively different. He does not attempt to specify how this could be but only writes, “To God himself, all of his existence is always somehow “present,” (Grudem 1994: 169). Divine timelessness has been the dominant view of Christian orthodoxy throughout the history of the church. However, Grudem suggests that it is not true that heaven itself will be timeless. Based on several descriptions of heaven from the book of revelation[1] he argues that “there will be a succession of moments one after another” and that we will not experience “an exact duplication of God’s attribute of eternity” (Grudem 1994: 173). Others like Professor William Lane Craig, who worked extensively with the Christian philosophy of time deny divine omnitemporality[2] altogether. Craig argues for temporal becoming or a dynamic theory of time (also called an A-Theory of time) in which past is no longer here, future has yet to come and the only thing that is really in existence is present. In his essay “God, Time, and Eternity”, he concludes: “God is timeless without creation and temporal subsequent to creation.” (Craig 2002).

In both cases, Todd’s proposition of heaven time seems inadequate. Cessation or interfusion of time after our physical death is certainly not a doctrine held by most mainstream evangelicals; neither has it been well established in the belief systems of other major Christian denominations. Read the rest of this entry »

 
 

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Heaven Is For Real vs. Bible 1/2

Heaven is for realA New York Times article from March 11, 2011 describes the Thomas Nelson broken sales records after publishing the book “Heaven is for Real.[1]  While there were initially in print only 40,000 copies, this book has gone back to press 22 times, now reaching 8 million printed copies. In a similar article[2] almost 3 years later, we follow its still continuing success on popular bestseller lists. With the TriStar Pictures movie version of this book, released on April 16, 2014 this story became a great deal of the western popular discussion about heaven and the life after life. In the following lines I will analyze some of the main ideas one can extract from reading this book and compare them to what some of the Biblical scholars have over centuries orderly summarized in doctrines of eschatology. After all the reasoning I will try to show how can we correctly understand what truly happened but also what meaning can Colton’s story have for you.

Heaven is for Real

Over 6000 Amazon customer reviews speak of the impact this publication had on peoples lives. To mention a few, B. Prickett wrote “This is a wonderful book. If you have any doubts about what happens after death, read this book. It will become clear to you.” or Sophia Maria Hall said, “We all need hope that there is better after the life we have here on this crazy earth…this is proof we are getting that!” Also, Cynthia Trueblood shared that “This book was written in an easy style and yet impacted my view of heaven profoundly!”[3] While one can find also more disapproving comments, those above do represent the majority. Words like “clear”, “proof” or “profound impact” are frequently used to describe the effect this material had on its readers and their view of heaven. Now, what does this book actually say about heaven? Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on April 22, 2014 in Reasonable Faith, Reviews, Theology

 

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Paul: What Is The Gospel?

In Romans 1:16-17, Paul explained what the Gospel is. He viewed it as God, in his righteousness, justify (or acquit or vindicate) a morally guilty person, both Jews and Gentile, through faith in Christ Jesus, His Son. It is “the power of God for salvation of the Jew first as well as the Gentile”(Witherington 2004: 47)

Through faith in Christ Jesus, God implemented his righteousness, which is “a divine gift rather than human achievement” that also enables obedience, to Jews and Gentiles as He put believers right with Himself.

God’s righteousness is “incompatible with dependence on mere human righteousness” and “is not a goal to be reached by human effort, but a relational premise that should dictate the new life of faithfulness to Christ”. (Keener 2009: pg)

Paul understands that faith in Christ Jesus, which is both an intellectual acknowledgement and genuine dependence, loyalty and allegiance to Christ Jesus, involves dependence on God’s righteousness and is not “a human work, whether physical or mental in nature”. (Ibid pg)

The gospel is good news because God preserves from His wrath those who trust in him. At the cross, God has already delivered both Jews and Gentiles from His final judgment and began restoring those in Christ into the image of His Son.

According to Paul, Keener explained, “[t]he gospel is the object of faith, and its subject is God’s Son (1:9), Jesus Christ (15:19, 20; 16:25).” (Ibid pg)

Bibliography:

Keener, C. S. (2009) Romans.  Kindle edn.  New Covenant Commentary Series. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books.

Witherington III, B. (2004) Paul’s Letter to the Romans: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

 
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Posted by on July 23, 2012 in Theology

 

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True be or not true be?

Previous: Christian: “Jesus is the truth!”; Postmodernist: “…whatever” (in attempt to get the complete picture it is strongly advised that you’ll read the previous article before moving on to this one.)

For decades modern approach of Enlightenment period was exhaustively rational in its way of dealing with reality and the world around us. Science was considered to be the sole measure of truth, where knowledge was certain, objective and good. Postmodernist does not believe any of those things. Actually, also here could be established another common ground as Christian believes that some truth lies even beyond reason and cannot be accessed by reason, secondly we find ourselves in a historical and cultural context and thus cannot work as external agents uninfluenced by it, thirdly the knowledge being perceived as intrinsically good can only hardly hold in the light of the past nuclear events that ascribe to knowledge possible future Armageddon that would never be possible without scientific discoveries around splitting of the atom. Thus, confident reason that suggests definite solutions alone would most likely be unwelcomed by many also in the sphere of apologetics.

Figure 1 – Retrieved from Kinnaman, D. (2011). “You lost me: Why young christians are leaving church..and rethinking faith.

Yet another issue signaled by this chart is the direct opposite. Frequently Christians completely neglect the duty to involve themselves in intellectual debates whereby positive conflict could be stirred and are left with bullet-proof social tolerance of postmodernism. To illustrate how serious this problem is in this generation I attached one more diagram made by Barna Group in 2009.

Figure 2 – Retrieved from Kinnaman, D. (2011). “You lost me: Why young christians are leaving church…and rethinking faith.”

Thirdly, new methods were offered that strive to contextualize our approach to such an extent that they suggest we too should abandon the notion of objective truth and merely focus on our action in the world that will alone raise the question in those around us. Phillip Kenneson in his chapter called “There’s no such thing as objective truth, and it’s a good thing, too” recommends the following:

“I realize there are plenty of Christians who think it makes good sense to say that the proposition “Jesus Christ is Lord of the universe” is objectively true; that is, our temptation is to insist that this is simply true whether we or anyone else believe it or not. But succumbing to such a temptation is deadly for the church… giving up on the notion of objective truth will force the church to take responsibility for its judgments about the way it sees, understands and acts in the world. This means that what will give our testimony authority will not be that what we say is “objectively true” such that any reasonable person would be required to take us seriously. Rather, what will lend our testimony authority is that by the grace of God we live in such a way that our lives are incomprehensible apart from this God.”

It seems to me that by giving up objective truth we might lose more than gain, for without it, it is only very hard to show why Christianity is different from any other religious mysterious lifestyle. Moreover it is difficult to find basis for biblical imperatives stemming out of preaching that draw upon the authority of the truth breathed in the biblical text. At last this view appears to be rather idealistic, for after considering the doctrine of Hamartiology, we can see that due to our sinful nature, while in our human bodies, we are not able to live a life that would alone speak unequivocally for Gods existence and His redemptive activity on the cross.

This fallen condition however equally influences our intellectual capacities as well, which are not only limited, but also deceptive (Romans 1:21-28).

Thus I believe conclusion does not lie in a revolutionary method but somewhere on the middle way. Here, both reason and personal example walks co-operatively in humble apologetics, persuading people to make an informed decision for Christ always relying on the power of Holy Spirit in the Gospel. “Such a persuasion does not have to be perceived as propaganda” for as Chan points out: “Despite postmodernism’s pronouncement on the demise of reasons, we maintain that interpersonal persuasion of a reasonable sort continues to be practiced in everyday life. Sellers seek to persuade potential buyers that their products are superior to those of their competitors. Schoolteachers appeal to the reasoning faculty of students, while government leaders defend the rationale for their policies. Even enthusiastic relativists who are out to convince others of the superiority of their philosophies of life do so by turning to the tools of persuasive speech, reasoning with their listeners or readers.”

In this age it is the last two adjectives of 1.Peter 3:15 that presumably matter more than ever before for such a balanced approach addresses both obstacles presented in the beginning. “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,…” (NIV) Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on June 22, 2012 in Ethics, Mission, Reasonable Faith

 

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Christian: “Jesus is the truth!”; Postmodernist: “…whatever”

(or) Bringing Gospel into the Postmodern world.

The truth can be spoken only by someone who is already at home in it; not by someone who still lives in falsehood and reaches out from falsehood towards truth on just one occasion.”

These words came from an Austrian-British philosopher Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein who contemplated about the logical relationship between the propositions we make and the world. In the end he concluded that there cannot be such a relationship.

While the Great Commission found in Matthew 28 certainly remains unmodified, the context (space and time) for which it is originally meant, on the contrary is nearly always different that is a natural result of the phrase “all nations”. If apologetics is perceived to be one of the ingredients of effective evangelism, then it follows that the way one reasons or promotes the defense for Christian case must go along with any adaptation to the particular environment. It is not otherwise with major group of the western world that was swayed by intense thoughts of Postmodernism and Relativism presented by Foucault, Derrida and Rorty. This would cover mostly all the people born between the years 1984 and 2002, which some usually refer to as Millennials or Gen Y, while Barna Group uses a very apt expression – Mosaics for “it reflects their eclectic relationships, thinking styles, and learning formats, among other things.

Postmodernism

Since Postmodernism can be understood variously, depending on the point of view we are taking we must be careful with some assertions of a definite sort. In fact the postmodern inability of being accurately defined could serve as some sort of definition itself. Due to its syncretistic nature it accepts no simple answers or singular truths and disapproves any core foundation for an ideology. A postmodern person does not believe that in any way we can examine, prove or access the objective reality or truth, if there is such a thing. At best we can observe what works and what does not. Claims about any higher truth are perceived as an attempt to impose view or push someone’s agenda (propaganda). Since all people were born into an environment, all were influenced by their context and thus cannot serve as independent agents in search for a truth. Because of that what is true for a group of people at a certain point in time is not necessarily true for another group, therefore as Jim Leffel said: “There is no possibility of “transculture objectivity.””. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on June 8, 2012 in Mission, Reasonable Faith

 

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Hallucination Delusion or Did Jesus rise from the dead? (2/2)

Resurrection Hallucination

Previous: Hallucination Delusion or Did Jesus rise from the dead? (1/2)

One of the theories that is still under the discussion and is considered to be the best naturalistic explanation is the hallucination hypothesis, originally proposed by David Strauss in 1835[1], today defended primarily by Gerd Lüdemann. What exactly is a hallucination? There are several terms in psychology that are similar to one another and thus might be easily confused. These are delusion, illusion, peridolia and hallucination.

Term Definition

  • Delusion: something that is falsely or delusively believed or propagated (false belief)
  • Illusion: perception of something objectively exists in such a way as to cause misinterpretation of its actual nature. (E.g. peripherally seen lamp mistaken for a person)
  • Peridolia: misinterpretation of a vague stimulus as something clear and distinct.[2]
  • Hallucination:
    • I. perception of objects with no reality (absence of external stimuli)
    • II. Serious misperception of actual external stimuli (e.g. lamp which is directly looked at is perceived to be jumping around while talking to me)[3]

Ultimately all of the above can be defined as either individual or collective in regard of how many specimen share the same misconception.

Throughout the history there were quite many events that some considered to be genuine miracles, which others regarded as hallucinations while in fact they perfectly fit in one of the other prior definitions. Some regarded Bigfoot as a collective hallucination while it was only a collective misinterpretation of an actual animal and his footprints, which resulted in a collective delusion. Another saw a statue of Mary in Ireland in 1980’s supernaturally move back and forth, which was later very naturally clarified by the lighting conditions of the environment. This makes it a good example of illusion. At last social networks are today permeated by Peridolias as a grilled sandwich that looks like Mary[4] or resemblances of other familiar objects seen in various shapes of trees, mountains, clouds etc. While all of the above fall to some sorts of collective misconception they are far from, above defined hallucination.

The Textbook Response

As the hallucination hypothesis requires us to recognize collective hallucination (shared by two or more people) the Christian textbook response for decades was to simply say that collective hallucinations do not occur. Let us just look at some of these dismissals: Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on May 14, 2012 in Reasonable Faith, Theology

 

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Hallucination Delusion or Did Jesus rise from the dead? (1/2)

In this post I will look into some arguments against the resurrection of Jesus with a special focus on the theory of hallucination. For a long time this option was nearly ignored, easily discarded and considered to be a complete nonsense. However after acquiring better understanding of hallucinations throughout history, earlier conclusions are not so unquestionable anymore. In the the first part I will present the environment in which the entire debate takes place. Later in the second, the key-words will be defined and at last I will analyze the hallucination hypothesis in light of the new discoveries in the realm of psychology.

Critical Attitude

Joseph Ernest Renan

Joseph Ernest Renan (1823 – 1892)

Year 1863 gave birth to a book called “The Life of Jesus” written by a French philosopher and historian Ernest Renan who first suggested that the Bible should be subjected to the same critical methods as any other historical document. At that time this idea caused controversy and evoked rage among many Christians. In his book, Renan takes this path that ultimately leads him to make this statement: “Let us place, then, the person of Jesus at the highest summit of human greatness”[1]. He believed that the whole resurrection story was made up as a consequence of a hallucination[2] and while Jesus was “inexhaustible principle of moral regeneration”[3] and “condensed all that is good and elevated in our nature”[4] he strongly disagreed with the classic notion of his divine status: “This sublime person, who each day still presides over the destiny of the world, we may call divine … in the sense that Jesus is the one who has caused his fellow-men to make the greatest step towards the divine”[5] Today Christian scholars widely accepted this challenge proposed nearly 150 years ago and in the attempt to explain the events that took place on Easter 30 A.D. they apply the same procedures and historical criteria of authenticity as if they were investigating other ancient sources like Thucydides’ “Peloponnesian War” or the “Annals” of Tacitus.[6]

The Time Problem

While nearly 2000 years’ time span might represent a major obstacle to trust the content of a source, we must realize that this is not the crucial gap that we ought to be looking at, for “the crucial time gap is not the gap between the evidence and today; rather what’s important is the gap between the evidence and the original events that the evidence is about.” Craig continues by saying: “Good evidence doesn’t become poor evidence just because of the passage of time!” Since most of the primary sources that speak about Jesus’ life come from within 60 years of Jesus’ crucifixion while the eyewitnesses were still alive we can consider them as good sources for there was insufficient time for any historical influence to alter or erase the essential facts. In contrary, e.g. most of what we know about the major conqueror of antiquity Alexander the Great was written down by Arrian & Plutarch 400 years after his death. However these records are widely regarded as trustworthy accounts.[7]

The Three Facts

The empty tombNow, based on conclusions of mainstream New Testament critics we can say today that there are three independently established facts around the person of Jesus Christ:

  1. Jesus’ empty tomb
  2. Jesus’ appearances alive after His death
  3. The origin of the disciples’ belief in His resurrection[8]

At this point, we have this evidence that needs to be clarified and the next step is to decide which explanation of the evidence is the best explanation. There is a good number of alternative explanations that naturalists proposed in effort to disqualify the resurrection hypothesis. Here are some of the well-known ideas. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on May 4, 2012 in Reasonable Faith, Theology

 

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