Every human being is hungry for a single overarching storyline that ties all of our smaller stories together. Since 2008, evidence for this hunger has been as close as your nearest cinema. That’s when the release of Iron Man marked the genesis of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is not merely a series of movies, neatly sequentialized into episodes that convey a single storyline. The MCU includes a multiplicity of individual narratives. Continue reading.
I’m excited to announce that I’ll be launching two new podcasts in 2019! The first one, Urban Ministry Podcast, is being produced in coordination with the Dehoney Center for Urban Ministry at Southern Seminary—I’ll post more later about the Urban Ministry Podcast.
The second podcast is a 24-episode personal project entitled Three Chords and the Truth: The Apologetics Podcast. Each episode of this podcast brings together a few of my favorite topics: apologetics, history, and rock and roll. Continue reading.
Imagine yourself as a follower of Jesus in the opening decades of the second century. Nearly a century has passed since the first followers of Jesus claimed they saw their leader alive three days after they watched him die. Now, the Christian faith has reached nearly every urban center in the Roman Empire. And yet, this faith—your faith—remains marginalized and despised. There is an ever-present risk that someone will accuse you of bearing the hated title “Christian.” Despite this specter that shadows every segment of your daily life, you know that your social position has improved since the days of Nero and Domitian. In many regions, allegiance to Jesus as your only God results in a death sentence only if you are guilty of another crime as well. In Athens, there are even philosophers who openly pursue their love of wisdom from the foundation of their faith in Jesus. One of these philosophers is a man named Aristides of Athens. Continue reading.
Imagine yourself as a follower of Jesus in the opening decades of the second century.
Nearly a century has passed since the first followers of Jesus claimed they saw their leader alive three days after they watched him die. The Christian faith has reached nearly every urban center in the Roman Empire. And yet, this faith—your faith—remains marginalized and despised. There is an ever-present risk that someone will accuse you of bearing the hated title “Christian.”
Despite this specter that shadows every segment of your daily life, you are deeply aware that your social position has improved since the days of Nero and Domitian. In many regions, allegiance to Jesus as your only God results in a death sentence only if you are accused of another crime as well. In Athens, there are even philosophers who openly pursue their love of wisdom from the foundation of their faith in Jesus. One of these philosophers is a man named Aristides of Athens.
In the winter of the year that we know as 125, it is Aristides who turns his philosophical capacities toward the goal of converting a king. The king is none other than Emperor Hadrian, lover of Greek culture and builder of the wall across Britain that is known by his name still today.
How can the Bible be inerrant if there are variations among the manuscripts and even between different accounts of the same events? That’s the question we’ll explore together in this post.
How Can We Have the Word of God If Some of the Words Are Different?
I slumped in an unpadded pew, half-listening to the morning Bible study. I wasn’t particularly interested in what the Bible teacher in this tiny Christian high school had to say. But, when the teacher commented that the New Testament Gospels always reported word-for-word what Jesus said, I perked up and lifted my hand. Continue reading.
At least once or twice every year—usually around Christmas and Easter—popular magazines and blogs seem to go out of their way to locate some shocking fact that supposedly debunks what Christians believe about Jesus. In most cases, these supposedly-shocking data are recycled from one of the many failed quests for the historical Jesus that have ebbed and flowed since the nineteenth century.
But this pattern of false claims about Jesus isn’t anything new!
I need your help! Here’s the challenge: I’m working on a video that summarizes the history of the Bible in six minutes. Below, I’ve posted the script so far—and I’d be interested to know what you think needs to be included and what might be left out. The narration for the video is already six minutes long, so nothing can be added without taking something out. What that means is that, if you suggest any additions, you’ll need to point out some possible deletions as well!Continue reading.
Open your Bible to the table of contents and take a look at the list of books in the New Testament. There, you’ll find the Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John leading the list. But did this quartet of early Christians actually have any connection with the books that bear their names? Were Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John really the ones who wrote the Gospels? If so, how do we know?
With few exceptions, even the most skeptical scholars admit that Jesus was crucified—and with good reason. Not only the authors of the New Testament but also later Christian writers, the Roman historian Tacitus, and quite likely the Jewish historian Josephus mention the crucifixion of Jesus. And it’s highly unlikely that first-century Christians would have fabricated such a shameful fate for the founder of their faith. In the first century A.D., crucifixion represented the darkest possible path to death, after all.
In fact, it is almost impossible for contemporary people to comprehend the full obscenity of crucifixion in the ancient world.Continue reading.
“The more I probed the Bible,” Reza Aslan declares in the introduction to his bestseller Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, “the more distance I discovered between the Jesus of the gospels and the Jesus of history” (xix).
The result of this discovery—at least in Aslan’s estimation—is that the New Testament Gospels should be treated as texts that convey something other than “history.” Continue reading.
The witch’s knife plunged deep into the lion’s heart, and the majestic creature quivered and died. For a few seconds, complete silence descended on the movie theater. A slight sniffling beside me broke the stillness, and that’s when I heard my 9-year-old daughter whisper a rather profound word of wisdom to her friend—wisdom that reminds us of an important truth about the New Testament Gospels.Continue reading.
“Comics are the new Bible,” film critic Anne Billson recently declared, “and devotees never tire of seeing their idols save the world.” Her elevation of comic books to canonical status in the culture is overstated, but I think she may be close to the truth in suggesting that part of the current appeal of comics is their openness to the supernatural.
In an increasingly secularized culture, comic books splash unabashed glimpses of supernatural sacrifice and world-saving wonder across silver screens and wood-pulp panels. Continue reading.
On November 17, 2017, the much-anticipated Museum of the Bible will be opening in Washington, D.C. with more than 40,000 objects on display in a 430,000-square-foot structure, three blocks from the Capitol Building. The collection includes artifacts from the time of Abraham, fragments from the Dead Sea Scrolls, as well as biblical papyri and manuscripts, Torah scrolls, and rare printed Bibles.
Around twenty-seven thousand people racked up nearly one hundred thousand views of this blog in 2016. If you were one of them, thank you! Since there are no advertisements on my site, I don’t profit from any of the content. And so, if you’ve profited from what I’ve written, please consider purchasing a book (or two or three!) that I’ve written.
Here’s a quick breakdown of what happened on my blog this year:Continue reading.
Advent is the season when we meditate on experiences of waiting and silence in the Scriptures. By coming to terms with the waiting that we see in Scripture, we prepare our souls for those moments when God seems silent in our own lives. One of the ways we prepare ourselves for this silence is by recognizing that, even when we struggle with the silence of God, we are not alone. In the silence, we find ourselves in the company of past prophets who glimpsed God’s glory but who died before they saw God’s plans fulfilled. “All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance” (Hebrews 11:13).Continue reading.
Is Christianity headed south?
Year after year, Western culture continues to grow increasingly secularized. Secularization is—in the words of Baptist theologian R. Albert Mohler—
the process by which a society becomes more and more distant from its Christian roots. Though the formal sociological theory is more complicated than that, the essence of secularization is the fact that the culture no longer depends upon Christian symbols, morals, principles, or practices.
Even as the United States and Europe grow more secular, most of the world—particularly in the Southern Hemisphere—remains resolutely unsecular, and the church’s greatest growth is happening south of Equator. Take a look at this video to understand what this means for the future of the Christianity.
On October 23, 787, the last session took place of the last church council that brought together church leaders from both the eastern and western halves of what had once been the Roman Empire. Centuries later, one of the key Protestant reformers of the sixteenth century would reject what these church leaders decided. What brought church leaders from the east and the west together in the late eight century was a disagreement over the issue of icons.
No, no, I’m not talking about the tiny tiles on your computer screen that you click to activate programs!Continue reading.
The claim has been repeated over and over that the first person to list the same twenty-seven books that we find in our New Testament today was Athanasius of Alexandria, in the year 367. When this claim comes from the lips of a skeptical scholar, it’s typically followed by a long leap to the conclusion that the New Testament canon was in flux until sometime in the late fourth century A.D. Such a supposition is, however, problematic at multiple levels.Continue reading.
The Canon of the New Testament and the Categories of Eusebius
The suggestion continues to be made by popular skeptics that the New Testament canon was in flux for hundreds of years. One scholar claims that no one came up with “a definitive list of books to be included in the canon that matched our list today” until “the famous Athanasian letter of 367 C.E. Even the powerful Athanasius could not settle the issue once and for all.” It’s true that, in the year 367, Athanasius of Alexandria did write a letter in which he listed the same twenty-seven books that appear in the New Testament today.
But that doesn’t mean that the canon of the New Testament was in complete flux until the end of the fourth century or later!Continue reading.
How free are your choices? Do human beings possess free will? Does God determine your choices or do you? Part of the answer depends on how you define “freedom” and “free will”! With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at the notions of human freedom and free will.
Does God Save People Against Their Wills?
There’s a difficult dilemma when it comes to the freedom of the human will that may have crossed your mind if you’ve ever read passages like these in the writings of the apostle Paul:
Those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. Continue reading.