Last Updated on Thursday, 27 March 2014 11:34
So I recently saw Inside Llewyn Davis. It’s the story of a talented folk singer living in New York City in the early 1960s, trying to make it as a musician. And the whole time, you’re cheering for him, hoping he’ll get his lucky break, but instead, you just see him being pummeled and beat down by life, so that the movie is rather depressing, full of yearnings and disappointments. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it, maybe it's the haunting music, but I really like this film.
Because disappointments and failures tell us that there’s something more than this world we can see and touch. There’s a deeper reality that can only be accessed through a kind of death to this life. So that uninterrupted success is hallow and unsatisfying. This is deep mystery of the gospel--that defeat is not soul-crushing, but the door to another world, a better world.
Last Updated on Thursday, 20 March 2014 11:48
This past Saturday, we had our third “Skeptics Night”; this time addressing the question – isn’t it cruel of God to cast people into hell just for not believing in him? The basic response I gave is that God is not so much casting people into hell against their will, but letting them go. So that if heaven is the loving presence of God, hell is the absence of God’s love. And therefore, hell is simply God giving us what our rebellious hearts want – to flee from him forever. So that hell arises out of our own desires and therefore self-imposed. This is the passive wrath of God (see Romans 1:24).
But there is also the active wrath of God. David in Psalm 139 says, “where shall I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from Your presence?” So that God is present even in hell, in wrath and judgment (see Revelation 14:10). God will forever be angry at evil and injustice, for he is a good and holy God.
And therefore, God will simultaneously rejoice with the saints in heaven and pour out his wrath on sinners in hell – for all eternity. This is a difficult teaching for us. Most of us cannot imagine being both angry and eternally happy, but God is infinitely complex and we will never plumb the depths of his being. We can only cover our mouths with Job and say, “surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.” (Job 42:3)
In the end, why is the doctrine of hell central to the gospel? Because hell tells us how much God loves us. For Christ, on the cross, drank the cup of God's wrath, to save us and love us. We can never know the love of God until we contemplate the wrath of God.
You can hear the skeptics talk with Q&A here. You can also read about our previous Skeptics Nights here and here.
Last Updated on Thursday, 13 March 2014 11:32
The IGC mercy study group has been reading through Tim Keller’s Generous Justice. And we’ve been asking ourselves, how can we be a church that loves the poor? One of the resources Christianity gives us is the doctrine of the Imago Dei, man created in the image of God. Genesis tells us, “God created man in his own image,” so that every person, no matter their circumstance or condition, deserves dignity and respect. This was a radical concept in the ancient world, where tribalism, genocide and slavery were simply accepted.
The modern world no longer tolerates such atrocities, holding to the idea of universal human rights. But we often don’t realize that the Western idea of human rights arose out of the Christian teaching on the Imago Dei, the inherent value of every human being made in the image of the Creator God. As we move into a post-Christian world, the very idea of human rights stands on tenuous ground. Many secular philosophers argue that all people deserve dignity because of certain capacities – self-consciousness, the ability to reason, to make moral choices. But who is to say which capacities qualify and in what measure? What if a person has greatly diminished capacities – like someone born with cerebral palsy or severe autism? Is he still deserving of human rights? What about a fetus or someone in terminal illness?
This brings me back to the question: how can we be a church that loves the poor? When we see that every person, no matter their economic circumstance or their job skill-sets or their sociability, bears the image of God, will we love the weak and needy. For Jesus said, “whatever you did for the least, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40)
Last Updated on Thursday, 27 February 2014 10:54
So I’ve been reading Given for You by Keith Mathison, which is a fairly lengthy treatment on the Lord’s Supper. Have you ever read a book so that even as you are learning a great deal, you realize how little you actually know? This is one of those topics for me. But I wanted to share one thing I’ve come to appreciate more deeply. Which is why the Lord’s Supper, a picture of our communion with Christ, is a physical meal. Why does our connection to Christ consist of eating bread and drinking wine? Why is it so physical? In John 6, Jesus said he is the true bread from heaven and that unless we eat his flesh and drink his blood, we cannot have eternal life. Just as it was for the Jews, this is difficult imagery for us. But what Jesus means is that he saves us through his body – his bodily death on the cross and his bodily resurrection from the grave. And therefore, we partake of this salvation by physically eating and drinking his body. Therefore, the Lord’s Supper is not just a fitting symbolic picture, it is the meal through which we actually partake in Christ and are united to him.
Last Updated on Thursday, 13 February 2014 11:42
So I’ve been reading Tim Keller’s book, Center Church. And he talks about how though we live in a post-Christian world, modern people are nevertheless attracted to the values inherited from our Christian past. I thought it was an interesting point and I’d like to quote the passage at length:
In his history classes, C. John Sommerville used to demonstrate to students how thoroughly Christianized they were, even those who were atheistic or antireligious. He would list the values of shame-and-honor cultures (like those of pagan northern Europe before the advent of Christian missionaries) and include values like pride, a strict ethic of revenge, the instilling of fear, the supreme importance of one’s reputation and name, and loyalty to one’s tribe. Then he would list corresponding Christian values, which had been hitherto unknown to the pagans of Europe – things like humility, forgiveness, peaceableness, and service to others, along with an equal respect for the dignity of all people made in God’s image. Many of Sommerville’s most antireligious students were surprised to learn just how deeply they had been influenced by ways of thinking and living that had grown out of biblical ideas and been passed on to them through complex social and cultural processes. His point was that much of what is good and unique about Western civilization is actually "borrowed capital" from a Christian faith, even though the supernatural elements of the faith have been otherwise neglected of late in the public sphere.
This has relevance to how we do evangelism in a post-Christian world. Christianity is widely seen as retrogressive and oppressive. And yet people are still drawn to the Christian ideals of universal human rights, justice, equity, freedom. We must make our appeal that these values have their strongest foundation in the gospel and not in secularism, and simultaneously, we must address the objections our culture has that makes Christianity no longer a viable option.
We’re going to try to do that at Bodi’s Java café on March 15. I will be addressing the question: Isn’t it cruel of God to cast people into hell just because they don’t believe in him? I encourage you to invite your friends.