PUTTING THE END AT THE BEGINNING

How should a book be organized?  I just finished reading the Handbook of Christian Apologetics by Peter Kreeft and Ronald K. Tacelli. When I got to the end, it occurred to me that the end should have been at the beginning.

What did the authors put up front? It was proper and perhaps the best thing. The title of the first chapter is: “The Nature, Power, & Limitations of Apologetics”. Since  most people probably don’t even know the meaning of the word apologetics, that chapter has to be up front. Still, when we don’t know where we would be headed, there is not much reason to start the trip. I suppose that is why some people check out the last chapter before they buy the book.

What is at the end of this book? The authors call that chapter “The Bottom Line”. It is about the four steps to becoming a Christian.

  1. The first step is mental belief. This is the point of apologetics. This is why Kreeft and Tacelli wrote their book.
  2. Next is repentance. Once we believe in Jesus Christ we turn from sin.
  3. After repentance, we must put our faith in Jesus. Whereas repentance involves turning from sin, faith requires us to turn toward Jesus.
  4. Finally, we must live out the teachings of Jesus Christ.

How do we put all that more succinctly? I believe Pastor Randy

at Kingdom Pastor has just written a post that explains that, 3:16. Here is the verse that he writes about (for the sake of providing a different emphasis, I cited my preferred translation).

Colossians 3:16 New King James Version (NKJV)

16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

Once we believe in Jesus, that He is real, that He is our savior, then we must make Colossians 3:16 central to our life. Then we must accomplish what Kreeft and Tacelli call steps 2 – 4.

Want to understand Colossians 3:16 better? Read post. Read 3:16.

WHO IS THIS MAN? by JOHN ORTBERG — PART 5

The Holy Spirit depicted as a dove descending on the Holy Family, with God the Father and angels shown atop, by Murillo, c. 1677. (from here)
The Holy Spirit depicted as a dove descending on the Holy Family, with God the Father and angels shown atop, by Murillo, c. 1677. (from here)

This is the fifth installment in a review of John Ortberg’s book, Who Is This Man? The previous four installments can be found by clicking on the links below.

Here we will consider chapters 9 and 10. Chapter 9 tells us how Jesus taught us to see ourselves as we are. Chapter 10 explains one reason why the Christian religion grew so rapidly.

When Jesus Held Up Mirror

Chapter 9 is about one of the most dismaying experiences we will ever have, something even those wise among the ancients had not considered. Try to imagine you are on the receiving end of a tongue-lashing from Jesus. In fact, if Jesus’ first coming had been in our day, He might have been speaking of us.

Matthew 23:13-36 The Message (MSG)

Frauds!

13 “I’ve had it with you! You’re hopeless, you religion scholars, you Pharisees! Frauds! Your lives are roadblocks to God’s kingdom. You refuse to enter, and won’t let anyone else in either.

15 “You’re hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You go halfway around the world to make a convert, but once you get him you make him into a replica of yourselves, double-damned.

16-22 “You’re hopeless! What arrogant stupidity! You say, ‘If someone makes a promise with his fingers crossed, that’s nothing; but if he swears with his hand on the Bible, that’s serious.’ What ignorance! Does the leather on the Bible carry more weight than the skin on your hands? And what about this piece of trivia: ‘If you shake hands on a promise, that’s nothing; but if you raise your hand that God is your witness, that’s serious’? What ridiculous hairsplitting! What difference does it make whether you shake hands or raise hands? A promise is a promise. What difference does it make if you make your promise inside or outside a house of worship? A promise is a promise. God is present, watching and holding you to account regardless.

 (continued here)

The scribes and Pharisees were among the most respected religious leaders of their day. Yet here was Jesus, castigating them. He called them hopeless. Frauds! Hypocrites! He told them that God sees through our pretenses, and God would punish them for their pretenses.

It is not enough to live what we consider a good life. God insists that we actually be good. How did Jesus’ disciples react when He castigated the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees? Did they enjoy seeing the scribes and Pharisees get their comeuppance? No. They wondered. If the Pharisees could not please God, who could? Before God, who is not a fraud, a hypocrite?

Fortunately, as John Ortberg explains, because of Jesus we can all please God if we want to, but first we must admit we need God to give us a new heart, to let our Savior change us on the inside.

There Is One God Who Loves Us All

Jesus introduced the idea that we can convert to different belief about God.

The idea of conversion itself world come into the world through Jesus. To that world, the movement of Jesus was like Churchill’s description of Russia: “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.” Christians were actually called atheists by Romans because of their neglect of the gods. (from page 130, Chapter 9 of Who Is This Man by John Ortberg)

Before Jesus, people associated each religion with a tribe or a city. Christians, however, were something new, a people who found their unity in the salvation provided by Christ Jesus.

Galatians 3:28 New King James Version (NKJV)

28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

What unites Christians? It is not race. It is not sex. It is not a religion.  It is not a tribe, a city, or a nationality. It is love. What unites Christians is love of God. Thus Jesus said we would be known.

John 13:31-35 New King James Version (NKJV)

The New Commandment

31 So, when he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in Him. 32 If God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and glorify Him immediately. 33 Little children, I shall be with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come,’ so now I say to you. 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

In our day, this idea hardly seems novel. So Ortberg tells this story.

I had a dinner with a missionary-anthropologist named Dan Shaw.  He knew he wanted to be an anthropologist since he was ten years old. He devoted many years of his life to translating Scriptures for a people group in Papua New Guinea. He faced a difficulty: they believed in the supernatural and saw spirits and gods in many places, but they had no word for a Big God who was ruler and creator of all.

Dan got to know them and found over the years that in extended families there was a figure called hi-yo, a father figure who would arbitrate disputes and make sure everyone was cared for and decide what was fair. Dan began his translation of Genesis: “Back before the time of the ancestors, hi-yo created the heavens and the earth.”

People said, “Wow. We had no idea. He is hi-yo over everything.”

Dan asked, “What if he’s hi-yo for everyone? Not just for you. Also for your enemies. For the cannibals across the river.”

“Oh no. We’d have to make peace with them.”

And peace happened. (from page 136, Chapter 10 of Who Is This Man by John Ortberg)

WHO IS THIS MAN? by JOHN ORTBERG — PART 1

who-is-this-manEven those who do not believe he was God must find the life of Jesus of Nazareth incongruous. Yet do they ever wonder? How did a mere man, a man unbelievers say was not God and never did anything, ever become the most famous man in history?  Well, the unbelievers are wrong. Jesus did quite a bit, and that is the point of John Ortberg‘s book, Who Is This Man?

In chapter 1, Ortberg begins his book by observing that Jesus did not become famous in any of the usual ways. He was not a conquering general of armies. He was a teacher, but not just a teacher. He was not particularly famous in His lifetime, but He left a church that grew and spread His Gospel.

Made In The Image Of God (Chapter 2)

We live in a nation — in a Christian culture — that believes that we were all made in the image of God. There was a time men did not believe any such thing. Some men, like the emperor or the king, claimed kinship with the gods, but rest of men? No. Some men were thus thought literally better than other men.

Until 2,000 years ago, when Jesus taught about the virtue of humility, the elites did not bridle their pride. In fact, except for those unfortunates at the bottom of the pecking order, most men thought it appropriate to “peck” upon those lower than themselves in the pecking order. Their justification was simple enough.

The king was divine, or semi-divine. The king was understood to be made in the image of the god who created him. Only the king was made in the image of god. This was the dividing line between the king and the rest of the human race. Peasants and slave were not made in the image of god; they were created by inferior gods. (from Chapter 2, page 25)

Jesus taught differently. He said there is only one God, and He made all of us in His image. Jesus destroyed any justification for a pecking order. In Jesus Christ we are all God’s children.

Colossians 3:5-11 New King James Version (NKJV)

Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them.

But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, 10 and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, 11 where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.

Because of Jesus, the men who wrote our Declaration of Independence added these words.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. –That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, (from here)

To be continued

CAN WE TRUST DONALD TRUMP?

 

Building the Tower of Babel was, for Dante, an example of pride. Painting by Pieter Brueghel the Elder (from here)
Building the Tower of Babel was, for Dante, an example of pride. Painting by Pieter Brueghel the Elder (from here)

This is the third post in a series on Donald Trump‘s book, Donald Trump’s book, Crippled America: How To Make America Great Again. Here are the first and the second.

Here we are going to focus on Donald Trump credibility. Why? Trump’s book is largely about Donald Trump, not America.  Trump’s book actually has very little to say about America. The deeper we go into the book the more obvious that becomes.

Trump’s book is a sales job. Should we buy what Trump is selling? Here we will review Chapters 10 -14.

10: Lucky To Be An American

Trump knows he is lucky to be American.  These days I am afraid that actually is a plus. Trump himself provides examples. He likes to fly massive American flags on his properties. Of course, that offends some people. So he has had to fight off the authorities twice.

Trump also talks about his support for the military.  He wants our troops to have the best equipment.  For example, he was shocked to find the parents of some GIs were buying their sons body armor.  In addition, he promises to either fix the Veterans Administration or send the vets to private doctors and hospitals.

11: The Right To Bear Arms

Trump unambiguously supports the Second Amendment. That includes concealed carry (which Trump says he does) and allowing military personnel to carry firearms on bases and at recruiting centers. He also clearly states his support for law enforcement officers.

12: Our Infrastructure Is Crumbling

Here Trump describes the problem. We are not maintaining our infrastructure, and the longer we wait the more expensive it will be to fix the problem.

Trump sees a lack of will.

Our airports, bridges, water tunnels, power grids, rail systems–our nation’s entire infrastructure–is crumbling, and we aren’t doing anything about it. Former secretary of transportation Ray LaHood  knows all about this and he got it right when he said, “If we are going to have safe transportation systems in America, you have to invest in them. We have not done that.”

He described our way of dealing with this problem as the “limp along, go along” system. “There’s no vision. No leadership in Washington to fix it, and they are trying to put Band-Aids and duct tape and other things on these fixes and they simply do not work.”

That’s actually a good statement of the problem. Unfortunately, Trump’s solution is nonsense. He says he can fix our infrastructure because he knows how to build things, and he would make fixing our infrastructure a major priority.

So what is the problem with Trump’s “plan”?

  • The Federal Government has no charter for fixing our nation’s infrastructure. The Constitution does mention postal roads, but that hardly justifies using Federal dollars to fund any infrastructure project anyone can imagine.
  • If we want our infrastructure dollars spent appropriately, then we cannot give our money to sneaky politicians and then just expect them to spent it wisely, but that is what we have been doing. Even if we put Trump in charge as the president, that fact remains true. Even if Trump has the best of intentions, Congress’ powers of taxation and spending will trump his good intentions.

13: Values

Here Trump tells us he cares about his children, that he is a family man. He tells us he is a Christian, and he will defend freedom of religion and the right to say Merry Christmas.

He ends by saying:

  • President Obama has been an awful president. Obama has weaken the military and emboldened our enemies. He has also taken executive actions he had no right to take.
  • He respects women, and he has given his female employees important jobs.

14: A New Game In Town

Here Trump offers himself as a game changer. Elect him, and he will get the best people to work for him and fix problems, that is, make America great again.

Trump does understand the fact nothing gets done in Washington means that people who actually want to do something don’t want to work for the Federal Government. He also understands that we must appoint judges who respect the Constitution. Nevertheless, he thinks that the election of one man, himself, will change the game. What he doesn’t seem to appreciate is that Obama could not have done all the damage he has done all by himself. Obama had to have the support of Congress and the Supreme Court, and Trump will not have that support.

General Observations

Recent news indicates Trump may not be as Conservative as he wishes to sound.

  • RNC Members Open To Trump Campaign’s Pitch Of A Kinder, Gentler Donald (dailycaller.com): Here Trump seems to be telegraphing a move to the center. If Trump wins the nomination, it is quite likely he will move to the center, and he will be able to do so easily. Trump doesn’t have an ideological position; he is running on his charisma and business success. So if Trump wants the big money donors to the Republican Party to back his play, he just has to make it clear he is willing to make a deal.
  • Donald Trump: Let transgender people use the bathroom they want (www.washingtontimes.com): Here Trump’s position is clearly not Conservative. It doesn’t even make sense. We separate the sexes for reasons of safety, not convenience. We have a long history of separating the sexes in the restroom because we know it is worth the expense. If guy can choose whatever restroom he wants just by saying he identifies as a woman, what is to stop him from going into the ladies room just to see what he can see? When the women of our families use the restroom, don’t we want them to be safe? Who wants their wife, their daughter, or their granddaughter to encounter grown men in the restroom, disturbed jokers who think it is “funny” to pretend they are women and use the lady’s room?

More and more I see Donald Trump as somebody who just wants to be somebody. So he builds big buildings. Now he wants to run the country. Long ago under the leadership of such a man people built a huge tower. That tower was impressive but useless.

Haven’t we had enough of politicians who want to take all our money and spend it for us? Check out Ted Cruz. Government has a role. We need it to protect our rights, but we need to vote to run our own lives. As much as possible, if we want to get what we want, then we need to spend our own money. Giving our money to politicians should always be the option we resort to when nothing else will work.