Tag Archives: Gospel

Is Tim Keller right to say that New York City brings the gospel to Christians?

Can New York City can teach Christians about the gospel?
Can New York City teach Christians about the gospel?

(Source)

Here is a short guest post from my friend the software engineer.

Tim Keller dusted off an old pearl of wisdom of his and re-posted it on twitter. I discovered it on Facebook as many of my friends were making fun of it. One Twitter user remarked:

I think it’s been three years since the last time you tweeted this. I predict no misunderstanding this time.

To which Keller responded:

It happens every time. Hard to understand this–unless you realize how much the city can teach us and how much we learn about Christ through common grace, other Christians, the humbling that happens here. Oh well.

I can conjure up in my mind a way for this to not be meaningless tripe. It could be that Keller has in mind the number of ways men made in the image of god remind him of god’s grace and represent an opportunity to live out the sacrifice Jesus called us to.

But I have a hard time believing it doesn’t mean something else. That Keller has in mind here that we should allow the city and its emergent values to exert undue influence over us. I have a hard time believing this because I don’t see Keller’s church actively changing the culture around them and thereby setting an example for the rest of us to follow.

I would further submit that one of the reasons Tim Keller’s church has not been successful in changing the city is that they are too busy succumbing to the social justice influences that are popular today.

Why don’t people take churches like Keller’s seriously anymore? Perhaps it’s precisely because those churches have, as Keller tweeted, allowed the city to bring them the gospel.


OK That’s it for my friend’s post. I was supposed to add two of my beefs with Tim Keller. The first one is that he’s far left on questions of origins.

Here’s an article from Creation.com. I am not a young Earth creationist, I’m an old Earth creationist. Still, my YEC software engineer friend (a different software engineer) tells me that they are the best and largest YEC site.

They say:

Timothy Keller, author of The Reason for God (see our review), recently authored a paper for the theistic evolutionary organization Biologos (see Evolutionary syncretism: a critique of Biologos) titled “Creation, Evolution, and Christian Laypeople” (read the entire paper here). In this paper, he wrestles with how to present science to Christian laypeople in such a way that evolution and the Bible seem compatible.

[…]Keller devotes several pages to showing that believing that evolution happened as a biological process does not necessarily mean that one has to embrace the “Grand Theory of Evolution” involving naturalism and social Darwinism.

The young Earth creationists are concerned that evolution is not what God described in the Bible. Old Earth creationists think it’s worse than that. Not only does evolution not agree with the Bible, it doesn’t agree with good science either. The problem with Keller is his disagreement with what mainstream science shows about the origin of life, the Cambrian explosion, molecular machines, irreducible complexity, etc.

But that’s not the only problem with Tim Keller.

Here is what he says about a statement signed by conservative Christians disagreeing with “social justice”:

A controversial statement signed by more than 9,000 evangelicals and Christian organizations deploring social justice as a dangerous concept to the Gospel, belittles Christians who talk about race and justice, says Tim Keller, founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City.

[…]The Statement on Social Justice & the Gospel was released early this month with initial signers including John MacArthur of Grace Community Church, who recently denounced evangelicalism’s “newfound obsession” with social justice.

Among other things, the statement notes that: “Specifically, we are deeply concerned that values borrowed from secular culture are currently undermining Scripture in the areas of race and ethnicity, manhood and womanhood, and human sexuality. The Bible’s teaching on each of these subjects is being challenged under the broad and somewhat nebulous rubric of concern for ‘social justice.’

If you want to know what Tim Keller really thinks about moral issues, you can read his opinion / editorial in the far-left New York Times, where he has nothing to say about the traditional teachings of the Christian worldview (voluntary charity, chastity, pro-life, natural marriage, not coveting your neighbor’s wealth, limited government, people defined by the content of their character instead of the color of their skin).

Moderate conservative Doug Wilson notes:

So get the vantage of two hundred years from now, and have a doctoral student in American history examine Keller’s op-ed piece for any reference at all to abortion, or to the fact that Planned Parenthood, subsidized by our tax dollars, sells baby parts. It is not there.

[…]So why didn’t more churches apply what the Bible requires of slave-owners two hundred years ago? The answer is that back then it would have taken courage to do so, just as it would take courage today for Keller to denounce Planned Parenthood in The New York Times.

Keller does denounce sins in this piece. But he is still being careful because the sins he denounces are safe sins to denounce—we know this because they are all the sins that the secular world routinely uses to denounce the conservative Christian world. There is the sin of not working for “better public schools,” or not working for a “justice system weighted against the poor,” or “to end racial segregation,” or failing to “lift up the poor.” It is as though we found John the Baptist chiding the Israelites for failing to see the moral imperatives contained within Herod’s economic stimulus programs.

And that’s because the readers of the New York Times, and the residents of the city of New York are pro-abortion (which is the equivalent of slavery in our modern times).  In fact, New York is pro-infanticide – they have a law that allows infanticide. And this did not deserve a mention from Tim Keller in his New York Times editorial. Perhaps he thinks that infanticide is one of the things that New York city has to teach traditional Christians about the gospel.

Did the early church invent the divinity of Jesus over a long period of time?

The Christian doctrine of the Trinity
The Christian doctrine of the Trinity

How early is the doctrine of the divinity of Jesus?

When I answer this question, I only want to use the earliest, most reliable sources – so I can defend them on historical grounds using the standard rules of historiography.

The 4 sources that I would use are as follows:

  • The early creed in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, and 1 Corinthians 1
  • A passage in Philippians 2
  • Two passages from Mark, the earliest gospel
  • A passage from Q, which is an early source of Matthew and Luke

So let’s see the passages.

1 Corinthians

I’ve written before about the early creed in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, which skeptical scholars date to 1-3 years after the death of Jesus, for a variety of reasons I covered in the previous post. Here’s the creed which definitely makes Jesus out to be more than an ordinary man. Ordinary men don’t get resurrection bodies after they die.

Here’s the passage: (1 Cor 15:3-8)

3For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,

4that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,

5and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.

6After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.

7Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles,

8and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

Additionally, 1 Corinthians 1:21-25 talks about Jesus being “the power of God and the wisdom of God”. Paul is identifying Jesus with the divine.

21For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.

22Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom,

23but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,

24but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

25For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.

But it gets even stronger! You all probably already know that the most important passages in the Old Testament for Jews is the famous “Shema“, which is found in Deuteronomy 6:4-9. The Shema is a strong statement of Jewish monotheism.

Here’s the passage:

4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.

5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.

6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.

7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.

9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

So how does Paul fit Jesus in with this strong statement of Jewish monotheism?

Paul alludes to the Shema in 1 Corinthians 8:4-6.

4So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one.

5For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”),

6yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.

Holy mackerel! How did that get in there? Paul is splitting the roles of God in the the Shema and identifying Jesus in one of the divine roles! Jesus is not an ordinary man. That passage “through whom all things came” foreshadows John identifying Jesus as “the Word of God”, which “became flesh and dwelt among us”. Holy snark – did you guys know that was all in here so early?

The date for 1 Corinthians is 55 AD. It should be noted that skeptical scholars like James Crossley accept these passages, and you can check it out in the debate audio yourself.

Philippians

Check out Philippians 2:5-11.

5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

6Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,

7but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.

8And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!

9Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,

10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

The date for Philippians is 60-61 AD. Still within the lifetime of the eyewitnesses, and written by an eyewitness who was in contact with the other eyewitnesses, like Peter and James, whom Paul spoke with numerous times on his journeys to Jerusalem.

Mark’s gospel

Mark’s gospel is the earliest and atheists like James Crossley date it to less than 40 AD, which is 10 years after the death of Jesus at most. When you read the gospel of Mark, you are getting the earliest and best information available about the historical Jesus, along with Paul’s epistles. So what does Mark say about Jesus? Is Jesus just a man, or is he something more?

Check out Mark 12:1-9:

1He then began to speak to them in parables: “A man planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a pit for the winepress and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and went away on a journey.

2At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants to collect from them some of the fruit of the vineyard.

3But they seized him, beat him and sent him away empty-handed.

4Then he sent another servant to them; they struck this man on the head and treated him shamefully.

5He sent still another, and that one they killed. He sent many others; some of them they beat, others they killed.

6“He had one left to send, a son, whom he loved. He sent him last of all, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’

7“But the tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’

8So they took him and killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard.

9“What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others.

And Mark 13:32, talking about the date of the final judgment.

32“No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

And again, this passage is establishing a hierarchy such that Jesus is being exalted above all men and the angels, too. And the passage is embarrassing to the early church, because it makes Jesus look ignorant of something, so they would not have made this passage up. Jesus is not an ordinary man, he is above the angels – God’s unique Son.

The “Q” source for Matthew and Luke

Here’s Matthew 11:27, which is echoed in Luke 10:22:

27“All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

22“All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

Since this passage is in both of Matthew and Luke, but not in Mark, scholars believe that it is in the earlier “Q” source used by both Matthew and Luke. Q predates both Matthew and Luke, and so it is also fairly early (maybe 67-68), although not as early as Mark and Paul. Bill Craig writes that this passage is also embarrassing because it says that no one knows Jesus.

Guest post: Fred Rogers, the patron saint of niceness

Fred Rogers and Francois Clemmons on the Mr. Rogers show
Fred Rogers and Francois Clemmons on the Mr. Rogers show

The following is a guest post by a friend who wants to remain anonymous. He is a Christian apologist who works in the software industry.


The marketing machine for the latest Tom Hanks movie portrayal of Mister Rogers is in full swing. And they’re trying hard to sell the movie to the Christian community. A recent Christian Post article claims:

‘Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood’ was Fred Rogers’ mission field, wife Joanne says

“One of the most important things we accept and know is that Fred was first and foremost a minister in the Presbyterian Church,” Joanne Rogers told The Christian Post.

The trouble with this is that if the show was Fred Roger’s mission field, he failed because people know him more for being nice than for preaching Jesus.

It’s telling that one of the most common “surprising facts” shared about Mr Rogers is that he was a Presbyterian minister. If we hadn’t been told this, we wouldn’t know it based on his work and legacy.

A commenter on Facebook writes:

His job was to do a kids show not to proselytize. Did Jesus go around preaching when He was called to be a carpenter? No He did His job.

I’m sure people asked Mr. Rogers what his motivation was and there’s nothing wrong with having private conversations about it and not using the television to preach. People don’t watch kids shows to be preached at. That would be a misuse of his platform! 😒

Is that true? Let’s take the case of Fred Rogers’s longtime friend and frequent show guest, Francois Clemmons. In addition to being a talented broadway actor, Francois Clemmons is proudly gay. And there’s no indication that Fred Rogers pressed Francois Clemmons to repent and turn to Jesus.

“He says he’ll never forget the day Rogers wrapped up the program, as he always did, by hanging up his sweater and saying, “You make every day a special day just by being you, and I like you just the way you are.” This time in particular, Rogers had been looking right at Clemmons, and after they wrapped, he walked over.

Clemmons asked him, “Fred, were you talking to me?”

“Yes, I have been talking to you for years,” Rogers said, as Clemmons recalls. “But you heard me today.”

“It was like telling me I’m OK as a human being,” Clemmons says. “That was one of the most meaningful experiences I’d ever had.””

Which is even more sad when you consider that Fred Rogers took a brave stand against racism

He found racism to be an important enough subject to import the foot washing example of Jesus but there’s no indication that he called Francois Clemmons to repent for his sinful lifestyle choice.

“But did Mr. Rogers ever condemn you?

No. He said, “Sometimes people do get married and they settle down, they live a different life. You can’t go to the those [gay] clubs. . .That may not be the answer for you, Franc; you have to consider something else. What, I’m not sure. But that may not be the route for you.””

I don’t expect, nor would I advocate for, Fred Rogers to do nothing but condemn Francois Clemmons. But it’s pretty telling that in all of their years working together, with Fred knowing Francois’s sexual orientation, that Fred never saw fit to tell him where his sinful lifestyle would eventually lead according to Scripture and plead with him to repent.

Fred Rogers is being lionized by popular media. You have to ask yourself why. Especially in a culture that still condemns Chick-fil-A for what its founder’s son said nearly a decade ago. The reason is not because Fred Rogers looked like Jesus. Quite the contrary. It’s because Fred Rogers was soft and effeminate. Fred Rogers is what the world wants Christians to look and act like so they can more easily push around and otherwise mold Christians.

Again, our commenter on Facebook responds:

A children’s show on a public network is no place to be preaching the gospel. Should a flight attendant spend all their time preaching and trying to convert people!? They have a job to do. If the Holy Spirit moves them to say something then fine but you’re going to turn people off if you’re acting like a salesperson and not doing your actual job! I am dead serious. The workplace is to be professional and do your job. If you want to preach be a preacher. Otherwise be careful how and when you bring it up. You have a whole private personal life on your time off to get involved in that kind of stuff!

Do we expect Christians to be sharing their faith all the time they are at work? No. Like every other profession the flight attendant has certain required duties to perform. But we are told to work as if for the glory of God (Colossians 3:23). At the very least that means that there is a mode of working that marks us as Christians. Part of that is the joy and peace that Fred Rogers displayed, yes, but that inevitably leads to others wondering about the source of that joy and peace (1 Peter 3:15). And that’s when an opportunity arises to explain to nonbelievers who Jesus is and why we should _want_ to pay the greatest price (Matthew 13:45-46) of giving up our own lives, characterized by sin (2 Timothy 2:25), to follow him.

If Francois Clemmons never felt judged by Fred Rogers then that is a serious condemnation on the ministry of Fred Rogers. It means, at the very least, that Fred Rogers was not doing his job in calling Francois to repentance so that he could come to a knowledge of the truth. The only truth that has any hope in saving anyone.

Peter Williams lectures on the historical reliability of the gospels

Bible study that hits the spot
Apologetics that hits the spot

This is a lecture I found from British historian Dr. Peter J. Williams.

Here’s the main lecture: (54 minutes)

And here’s the Q&A: (9 minutes)

About Peter Williams:

Peter J. Williams is the Warden (CEO) of Tyndale House and a member of the Faculty of Divinity in the University of Cambridge. He received his MA, MPhil and PhD, in the study of ancient languages related to the Bible from Cambridge University. After his PhD, he was on staff in the Faculty of Divinity, Cambridge University (1997–1998), and thereafter taught Hebrew and Old Testament there as Affiliated Lecturer in Hebrew and Aramaic and as Research Fellow in Old Testament at Tyndale House, Cambridge (1998–2003). From 2003 to 2007 he was on the faculty of the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, where he became a Senior Lecturer in New Testament and Deputy Head of the School of Divinity, History and Philosophy. In July 2007 he became the youngest Warden in the history of Tyndale House. He also retains his position as an honorary Senior Lecturer in Biblical Studies at the University of Aberdeen.

Summary of the lecture:

  • What if the stories about Jesus are legendary?
  • were the gospels transmitted accurately?
  • were the gospels written in the same place as where the events happened?
  • do the gospel authors know the customs and locations where the events happened?
  • do the gospels use the right names for the time and place where the events took place?
  • do the gospels disambiguate people’s names depending on how common those names were?
  • how do the New Testament gospels compare to the later gnostic gospels?
  • how do the gospels refer to the main character? How non-Biblical sources refer to Jesus?
  • how does Jesus refer to himself in the gospels? do the later Christians refer to him that way?
  • how does Jesus teach? do later Christians teach the same way?
  • why didn’t Jesus say anything about early conflicts in the church (the Gentiles, church services)?
  • did the writers of the gospels know the places where the events took place?
  • how many places are named in the gospels? how about in the later gnostic gospels?
  • are the botanical details mentioned in the gospels accurate? how about the later gnostic gospels?

And here are the questions from the audience:

  • how what about the discrepancies in the resurrection narratives that Bart Ehrman is obsessed with?
  • what do you think of the new 2011 NIV translation (Peter is on the ESV translation committee)?
  • how did untrained, ordinary men produce complex, sophisticated documents like the gospels?
  • is oral tradition a strong enough bridge between the events and the writers who interviewed the eyewitnesses?
  • what does the name John mean?
  • why did the gospel writers wait so long before writing their gospels?
  • do you think that Matthew and Luke used a hypothetical source which historians call “Q”?
  • which gospel do critical historians trust the least and why?

I really enjoyed watching this lecture. He’s getting some of this material from Richard Bauckham’s awesome book “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses”, so if you aren’t familiar with it, you can get an idea of what’s in it. Peter Williams is a lot of fun to listen to – an excellent speaker.

And you can listen to the Peter Williams vs Bart Ehrman debate. That link contains a link to the audio of the debate as well as my snarky summary. It’s very snarky.

How should we respond to doubts and challenges to Christian beliefs or practices?

The tracks are out ahead, and Spider-Man has to save the day
The tracks are out ahead, but Spider-Man arrives just in time to save the day!

Something happened this week that really provided the watching non-Christian world with a good example of what it means to be an authentic Christian. It was such a good story, that I shared it with my non-Christian co-workers. They were so impressed that they asked me to go to lunch with them so they could tell me why they abandoned their faiths after being raised Christian.

The story starts with a famous Christian musician named Marty Sampsons expressing doubts about Christianity, because he was exposed to challenges to his faith, and not getting any answers from people in the church. Instead, when he expressed his doubts, people who had formerly treated him very well started to insult him and post condemning Bible verses on his Instagram. Instead of listening to his questions, and actually putting in some effort to craft a plan and where everyone could work together, his critics just refused to learn anything or do anything with him to work on the problem.

To be honest, this is often what church people do when they are confronted with challenging thoughts or behaviors. In my office, one of my co-workers who had been raised in the church and then left it in college asked me “what did you expect? People leave the church all the time because this is how Christian parents and church people respond to doubts and challenges. They insult you, drag up everything personal that you ever told them, and slander you to other people. It’s a hate mob. They specialize in being judgmental. They don’t put in any effort to actually solve the problem. And that’s exactly why people DON’T go to church.” He actually used the word “unchristian” to describe church-trained Christians who responded to Mary Sampsons.

I have to admit, my co-worker had a point. I’ve experienced the unwillingness of Christians to take doubts and challenges seriously myself. When I express concerns about whether the church is preparing young people for the challenges of college, the church parents and leaders always stand above me, and reply with Bible verses, sermons, commands, judgments or worse. They don’t want to get down into the trenches and work with me to solve the problem. And there’s always the offer to “pray about it”. That response seems to just dump every problem on God. What I’d really like to see is people in the church who interrupt their happy lives in order to do something self-sacrificially with the people who have the challenges, in order to solve the problem.

Most of the people who responded to Marty Sampsons on his Instagram were not effective to solve the actual problem. But there were two exceptions.

CBN had the story:

Two Christian apologists have reached out with some helpful ideas for Marty Sampson, the former worship leader and songwriter for Hillsong Worship who publicly announced he was struggling to believe anymore.

Using their online platforms, they’re offering resources to assist the singer. Apologist and author William Lane Craig made Sampson the subject of his Aug. 26 podcast titled A Musician Struggles With His Faith. In the 23-minute program, Craig answers Sampson’s questions dealing with his doubts about the Christian faith.

[…][Dr.] Craig also recommended for fellow believers to support Sampson in his search for the answers to his questions, instead of blasting him with judgmental comments.

“Now is not the time for condemnation and criticism,” Craig told his listeners. “Now is the time to say, ‘Here are some resources that can help you in your search, and I’ll come alongside you and help you as I can.'”

Craig is a research professor of philosophy at Talbot School of Theology and a professor of philosophy at Houston Baptist University and the founder of the ministry Reasonable Faith.

Likewise, apologist and author Mike Licona and his wife, Debbie, posted a YouTube video in which they discuss Sampson’s questions for those Christians who may find themselves doubting their faith. In the 38-minute video, the couple talks about several books and other resources for people to use.

In the video, Licona, associate professor in theology at Houston Baptist University and the president of the ministry Risen Jesus, said the questions “are difficult questions, and they’re deserving of thoughtful, reasonable answers.”

Debbie Licona, the wife of famous evidential Christian apologist Michael Licona, also arranged a discussion between two Christian scholars and an atheist scholar about the resurrection.

And here’s why this was the right thing to do:

  1. Marty felt edified by the Debbie-arranged discussion, and he was not insulted by it. It was certainly much more practical and thoughtful than the responses on his Instagram, where some Christians just posted Bible verses threatening him with Hell.
  2. The right way to engage a non-Christian is always self-sacrificial love. If you are taking your time, money and effort to think of a plan, and then self-sacrificially invest in that person co-operatively, then you are doing love the right way. Debbie’s approach is correct because she is putting in work in order to get involved in the other person’s life from alongside them, not standing over them.
  3. Debbie’s approach follows the evidence-focused model in the Bible. God is always having his prophets or his Son use evidence to confirm their claims to non-believers. Just think of Moses and Pharaoh, or Elijah on Mount Carmel, or Jesus with the healing of the paralytic or the resurrection.
  4. Salvation is a gift from God. God is the General who is in charge of the overall effort to save someone from their rebellion against him. Individual Christians are just some of the tools he uses to achieve his aims. Outcomes are none of our business. Our business is to pursue his goals for other people in a manner that is consistent with Christ’s example of self-denial, self-sacrifice, humility and use of evidence.

So, the next time someone asks you questions about Christianity, or refuses to go to church, or whatever, you need to remember who you are working for, and respond like Debbie did. Don’t act in a way that pushes them further away from God. Take challenges to Christian belief and practice seriously. Control your tongue. Read books. Invest yourself. Come alongside the challenger, and solve the problem co-operatively.