Saturday, July 30, 2011


So here I am in Germany, serving as Activities Director and Counselor, doing my first devotional time with my five guys. Afterwards, I open it up to questions about anything: me, God, the U.S., even game-time tomorrow. Nothing. Not even crickets. Just as I'm standing up and getting ready to leave, one of my campers asks me in a thick German accent: "Do you believe in... theory of Darwin?"

Things just got REAL.

I answered him, telling him that I did not believe it and why (different subject for a different post). I don't know what he thought of my answer. He just nodded and leaned back in his seat.  I hope that I said the right things, but I just don't know. Then, after confirming that there were no more questions, I went back to my room. My first thought, on entering my room, was "Holy flip. What was that?" My second thought was, "Thank you, God, for prodding me to pray for wisdom before that question." I was drained. I felt as though I'd just gone through a long test back in school. I was both physically and mentally exhausted. I flopped down on my bed, flipped open my Bible, and read a couple of chapters and prayed, and I could feel some energy coming back to me. Then I thought about edges.

We are on the edge here--the edge between light and darkness. We are tasked with taking the light into places that are dark, and sometimes we can forget what that means: stepping into the dark places so that they may become light, not stepping into them once they are already well-lit. That's what Jesus did, when he first came into the world. "The people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned" (Matthew 4:16). And John tells us that "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it" (John 1:5). Jesus stepped over the edge, into the darkness, so that his light could shine and be seen. Because it is here, on the edge, that things can happen. It is here that the great battles are fought, and it is on the edge that great deeds are accomplished. And these are accomplished with struggle. Jesus himself was exhausted at times, weary and troubled and sorrowful, and Paul saw himself as being poured out like a drink offering (2 Tim. 4:6). But the struggle is well worth it, because it is on the edge that souls can be saved.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

If the [Christian] faith is true...

I was halfway through what was going to be a monster of a post when, purely by accident, I found my thesis for the post: if you are a Christian and are ok with Christianity being taught as merely one of many options, or neglected altogether, than you have not thought sufficiently about it. Either that, or you do not really believe the Christian faith to be really objectively true.

John Henry Newman talks about a University being a place of universal knowledge, and by knowledge he means "absolute and objective truth." He theorizes about a University which specifically excludes theology from its field of studies, and he has this to say of the founders of such a University:  "Did they in their hearts believe that their private views of religion, whatever they are, were absolutely and objectively true, is is inconceivable that they would so insult them as to consent to their omission in an Institution" which, by definition, teaches universal knowledge. Later on, Newman states his thesis in the clearest terms possible: "If the Catholic Faith is true, a University cannot exist externally to the Catholic pale [enclosure], for it cannot teach Universal Knowledge if it does not teach Catholic theology." While I do not agree with the specific statement about Catholicism, I do agree with the statement he is making about objective truth and how we should react to such objective truth.

If you believe, really believe, that Christianity really is absolutely and objectively true, you should not be content with it being left out of the curriculum.  Nor should you be content with it being taught merely as one of many options, each of which are equally valid. Because Christianity is not merely one of many options: it is the only option. And its competitors are not equally valid: they are not valid at all. If you believe that Christianity is true, than you must believe that all other religions, philosophies, and worldviews are at best horribly incomplete and insufficient. If you teach someone that atheism and Christianity are equally viable worldviews, you are telling them a lie. It is no less a lie than telling a small child that 2 + 2 = 5: it is worse, for the lie about math does not concern the child's eternal destiny.

Finally, some will say that we should not force our beliefs on others, or that we should let them choose: they say that even though we believe one of the choices to be better than the other, we should let each person decide for himself or herself. Hopefully, after the last few paragraphs, you see that neither of these objections make sense. A teacher telling a child that 2 + 2 = 4 is, indeed, forcing his or her belief on that child: it is right for the teacher to do so, because the teacher's belief is right, and all other beliefs concerning the outcome of 2 + 2 are wrong. Jesus forced his beliefs on others: he did not offer alternate interpretations. Jesus did not say "I believe this is right, but why don't you choose whatever you like best." Jesus said, "I am the way... no one comes to the Father except through me." Paul was the same way. "But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed." One path. One right answer. No other options. If you really believe Christianity to be absolutely, objectively true, you must proclaim all other beliefs to be false. Any other action you take has the potential to lead others away from the truth you yourself claim to believe... and you should read Luke 17:2 to see what Jesus thinks about that.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Peter: Introduction

This is the first small segment of my Peter story, titled "Simon, Who is Called Peter." If you want to read the whole thing, you can email me or comment on this post. I will be attempting to self-publish through Amazon for the Kindle and other e-readers at the end of the summer. Enjoy!

Rome, 50-60 AD
“I will soon leave this tent,”[1] I whisper, as I do every day upon awakening in this prison cell. And a cold, wet tent it is—it is always damp in these cells. I rise slowly, and as I pull myself up with shaking hands I am reminded—I am old. Soon, I think, what the Lord told me will come to pass.[2] The scars from years of fishing pull at my palms as I raise them up to pray, and I say the words that the Lord Jesus taught us so many years ago: “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.” I’d heard the Father’s voice, once, on a mountain, the day Moses and Elijah came and talked with Jesus. “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread…” And he did. Every day, the food came—of course, it wasn’t really bread, but still sufficient. “And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” I swear that I do not know the man! Simon, son of John, do you love me? Yes, Lord, you know I love you. “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.”
            I lower my eyes and my hands, both raised towards heaven, and look around the small cell. There isn’t much to look at. A stone slab, both for sitting and sleeping. A pot in one corner. And in another corner a pile of papyri, the oldest of them already starting to decay in the perpetual damp. Letters. Paul is here, somewhere, in Rome—I have not been allowed to see him. Mark and Silvanus have, however, and they have brought me copies of his letters. The Spirit of God has given him great wisdom. He is like the prophets of old—bold, inspired, and often confusing. Mark would often have questions about them when he came to visit me, and I would do my best to answer them with the words God gave me.[3]
            Mark. My son. He was with me for a long time, listening to my preaching, writing things down (a fisherman seldom needs to write).[4] He and Silvanus helped me write my letters to the church.[5] He is gone, now, gone with Paul’s disciple Timothy. Silvanus, too, has gone. Luke is still in Rome, though, and he visits me to talk about the Lord in his days on earth.[6] He, like Mark, is always writing things down. He says it is important to get the account from “eyewitnesses,” as he calls them, so that it will be trustworthy and accurate.[7] That is good. 
            There is not much to do in this prison cell. I am unable to leave, and now that Mark has left, I do not receive many visitors aside from Luke, and he does not come as often now. I understand why Paul writes so many letters—doubtless part of it is to keep the boredom at bay. I do not have that option, so I spend most of my time thinking, and praying, and remembering my time with Jesus. It is all so clear, in my mind, every memory fresh and crisp—like the smell of the sea early in the morning. Like when Jesus came to us, when all of it was just beginning, and we were only fishermen.

[3]2 Peter 3:15-16. Peter displays more than a passing familiarity with Paul’s letters. That he can say Paul does the same thing “in all his letters” means, presumably, that he has read them all, and that he acknowledges they cause confusion implies he has experienced people being confused by them.
[4]Tradition has Mark as the translator and scribe for Peter. Many scholars now dispute this, but Bauckham (Eywitnesses 125) and Hengel (Underestimated Apostle 47) see evidence for it, not only in the tradition, but in the way the gospel of Mark is constructed.
[6]2 Timothy 4:11 places Luke in Rome and Mark with or near Timothy. If Luke was in Rome at this time, it is likely that he would have visited Peter and recorded his account of Jesus.

Note: the footnotes seem to be messed up for some reason. I don't know why.

Update: Rather than self-publish, I was able to go through an actual publishing house, resulting in Simon, Who Is Called Peter! The result is a much more polished and researched book, and you will definitely enjoy it. 

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Some Sort of Crazy Lover-Fighter Hybrid...

"I'm a lover, not a fighter." You have likely heard this phrase before: since its debut in the 1994 film "Little Rascals," it has become very popular indeed. Taken as a semi-witty justification of a lack of violence and/or violent acts originating from one's person, it's pretty alright. However, it can also be taken another way--as a philosophical statement pointing out a dichotomy (contrast or division between two things) between a "lover," presumably one who loves, and a "fighter," one who fights. Taken in this way, it is completely and utterly false.

This is apparent even from the movie which popularized the phrase. Alfalfa claims to be a lover, as opposed to a fighter, early on: by the end, he surely realizes the silliness of saying something like that as he finds himself fighting, yes, fighting, for the love of Darla. This is not mere semantics, mere wordplay. Being a fighter is a necessary part of being a lover. How can you claim to be a lover, yet deny being a fighter? How can you say you love something, yet in the same breath deny your willingness to fight for it? The statement is inherently nonsensical.

Enough Little Rascals. Let's talk God. "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son..." God is the ultimate Lover. God invented love. Yet... "'Behold, I am against you,' declares the Lord of Hosts, 'and I will burn your chariots in smoke'" (Nahum 2:13). How about "Have you entered the storehouses of the snow, or have you seen the storehouses of the hail, which I have reserved for the time of trouble, for the day of battle and war?" (Job 38:22-3). You might be tempted to polarize these statements, to say that one demonstrates the love of God and that the other two demonstrate the wrath of God: one shows the lover and the others show the fighter. Not true. God's love, as shown in the first verse, is not passive. It is moving and active, and the sending of his Son was nothing less than an act of war on Satan, the ruler of this world (John 12:31). In the same way, God's love is demonstrated in the second two verses: he fights for his chosen people, for his beloved. The lover and the fighter cannot be separated: he who truly loves must fight, or else his love is no love at all.

Now to us. Many people claim to love good, and they say that it is because they love good that they are unwilling to fight evil. These people separate love from fighting, and they separate "good" from fighting as well. This is a false dichotomy. One who does not fight evil cannot truly love good, for the love of good is the hatred of evil.

One last thing: do not think that I am saying that all fighting is good, or that fighting necessarily means physical violence (I think that it can, but that's not the point). It's clear that fighting and violence can be evil: but they are not, in and of themselves, opposed to love and good. That much is clear from Scripture, from both the Father's and Christ's actions. Be a lover and a fighter. Love what is good. Hate what is evil. And remember why the Bible is called a sword.