Michael Sherlock explains the main concept of his book, I Am Christ, in an interview posted on YouTube:
INTERVIEWER: What is the process of I Am Christ? How does that lead to humility...?
SHERLOCK: It causes you to recognize your own beliefs for what they are—and that is, they’re just beliefs. They’re my personal roadmap to reality, but I’m not going to confuse the map with the actual territory that that map surveys anymore. I’m going to realize it’s just a map. It’s my map. And I’m not going to try and impose my map on others, and I’m going to let other people write their own maps, as well….
The trouble with religions like Christianity is they spread with the belief that the missionary, or whoever spreading the belief, has the correct belief, and all others should conform with their belief—my God, my religion, my belief. This is egocentrism.... What’s the result of egocentrism in an ever-shrinking world where belief systems are coming into conflict with each other?... Can someone say, okay well, I’ll be the first one to say that my beliefs are just that—they’re beliefs. So I’m not going to go and kill anyone, I’m not going to be so certain of my beliefs anymore and mistake them as truths. I’m going to realize that I need to suffer the cognitive crucifixion—that is, the psychological crucifixion—of considering the possibility that my beliefs are just that: beliefs….
INTERVIEWER: You put it so nicely, you put it so openly. It really is a way of uniting every human being. I mean, if people adopt what you preach here as a religion, it would be, in a sense, the unification of all religion into a single human quest for the truth, and that seems like such a noble virtue.
Here are a few things to think through as you respond to this video in the comments below: 1) What is the unspoken (in this section) premise behind his plea for you to see your beliefs as “just beliefs”? 2) What is the problem he’s hoping to fix? 3) Will his solution solve the problem? 4) What alternative does Christianity offer for solving the problem? 5) Can you identify the root disagreement you have with Sherlock and/or the interviewer that ought to be addressed first? 6) What are the biggest mistakes being made by both Sherlock and the interviewer?
Give us your thoughts below, and Alan will have a video response to this on Thursday.
[Scientists] have learned how to reprogram adult cells so that they can do many things an embryonic cell can do. No human embryos are destroyed in the process. Along the way, embryonic stem cells—just a decade ago hailed as the future of medicine—have largely been bypassed. Some researchers still use them, but for now, the future belongs to adult stem cells and iPS cells, which are adult cells genetically reprogrammed to express specific genes.
Every year for the past 10 years, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has funded more adult stem cell research compared with embryonic research. For 2012, NIH grants totaled $146.5 million for embryonic stem cell research, but $504 million for adult stem cell research—a difference of $357.5 million. And the belief that adult stem cells are more promising than embryonic stem cells for therapies is now largely mainstream.
Translating Truth by Brett Kunkle: "In Romans 10:17, Paul writes that 'faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.' He didn’t mean faith comes from merely hearing audible sounds. By 'hearing' Paul means understanding. We must understand the truth of Christ before it can impact our faith in Christ. To be transformed by a message, we must understand it. To understand a message, it must be translated into a language we know. Even God’s Word, originally written in different languages, must be translated. However, if the rendering is done poorly, the message gets lost in translation and its impact thwarted." (Read more)
An Inconvenient Truth for the Gay Rights Movement by Alan Shlemon: "You know the gay rights narrative. Homosexuals are born that way, change is impossible, and their behavior is morally permissible. For those who believe in a higher power, God made them gay and loves them that way. Homosexuals should find moral parity with the plight of African Americans during their struggle for civil rights…. But there’s an inconvenient truth that won’t go away: Homosexuals can change. Gay rights activists will stop at nothing to prevent this belief from becoming widespread. It’s the one fact that undermines the entire homosexual narrative." (Read more)
As we continue to investigate the late non-canonical gospels, let’s move from documents attributed to more prominent apostolic figures (like Peter, James or Thomas) to two documents attributed to Bartholomew. All of these texts were rejected by the Christian community even though they often contain nuggets of truth related to Jesus. They are elaborate stories, legends and fabrications, written by authors who were motivated to alter the history of Jesus to suit their own purposes. The texts attributed to Bartholomew, like the others we’ve examined so far, are alternative narratives fabricated from the foundational truths of the original Gospels. Much can be learned about the historic Jesus from these late lies, including these non-canonical documents falsely attributed to the Apostle Bartholomew:
The Book of the Resurrection of Christ by Bartholomew the Apostle (200-550 AD) This text has been reconstructed from three Coptic fragments and additional pieces of papyri (the Coptic language was spoken in Egypt until the 7th century). The dating for the book has been very difficult to establish. The British Museum possesses the best manuscript of The Book of the Resurrection of Christ by Bartholomew the Apostle, but this manuscript dates to the 12th century. There are fragments of the text that are much older, but scholars are undecided on the original date of authorship. Some place it as late as the 5th or 6th century given its similarities to other Coptic literature. Some scholars believe that this book is, in fact, the lost Gospel of Bartholomew, although it is unclear what relationship this text or the Questions of Bartholomew might have to the missing Gospel.
Why Isn't It Considered Reliable? While the text claims to have been authored by the Apostle Bartholomew, the date of authorship (even considering the earliest possible dating by scholars), is far too late to have been penned by anyone who was an eyewitness to the life of Jesus. If this text is, in fact, the lost Gospel of Bartholomew (as some scholars have maintained), there is a record of it amongst the writings of the Church Fathers. Jerome (early 5th century) mentions the Gospel of Bartholomew in the prologue of his Commentary on Matthew and labels it as an unreliable apocryphal work. In addition, Pope Gelasius (late 5th century) includes the Gospel of Bartholomew in his list of apocryphal Gospels.
How Does It Corroborate the Life of Jesus? The Book of the Resurrection of Christ by Bartholomew the Apostle acknowledges a number of details related to the life and ministry of Jesus. Jesus is described as "all-powerful" and identified as the "First Born of the Father," “the Savior,” the "Son of God," the "Holy Lamb" and the "Shepherd" who came from Heaven. Judas Iscariot is identified as the man who betrayed Jesus, and the crucifixion and the death of Jesus are acknowledged, along with the piercing of His side. The resurrection of Christ is also described, along with several details of the narrative paralleling the Biblical account. Jesus' body is recovered by Joseph of Arimathea, laid in a new tomb, wrapped in linen and anointed with oils and perfumes. An earthquake is describe and the tomb is visited by the women who followed Him during His ministry (including his mother Mary, Salome, Mary Magdalene, Mary and Martha). Jesus appeared to this group and His disciples after the resurrection and He ascended to Heaven, sitting at the right hand of the Father. Jesus’ disciples are acknowledged and named: Bartholomew (of course), Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Thomas, Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, Simon Zelotes, Thaddeus and Matthias.
Where (and Why) Does It Differ from the Reliable Accounts? The text focuses on the Passion of Jesus (events surrounding His death and resurrection) and the Eucharist. Bartholomew is given a place of prominence in the text (something very common for apocryphal texts in which an apostle is cited as the author in order to provide a sense of authority). Like some of the Infancy Gospels, The Book of the Resurrection of Christ by Bartholomew the Apostle appears to have been written in order to fill in details related to the Passion narrative. In addition to this, the book may also have been written to give authority to a Eucharist liturgy used by a local Egyptian sect of believers. The text describes Bartholomew as being lifted into heaven to observe the heavenly liturgy celebrating the resurrection as if to legitimize and provide authority for earthly Eucharist celebrations.
The Questions of Bartholomew (200-550 AD) Like The Book of the Resurrection of Christ by Bartholomew the Apostle, this text may actually be the lost Gospel of Bartholomew according to some scholars. There are also similar challenges in dating this text, as scholars recognize that the Questions of Bartholomew contains passages suggesting it was written well after other apocryphal documents (the unashamed veneration of Mary is one such example). Some have suggested it was penned as late as the 6th century while others date it as early as the 2nd century. The Gospel exists in three different languages (Greek, Latin and Slavonic) and these individual versions vary from one another. Scholars have attempted to reconstruct the original text by layering the existing manuscripts. There is speculation the original text was written in Coptic in Egypt, like The Book of the Resurrection of Christ by Bartholomew the Apostle.
Why Isn't It Considered Reliable? Like The Book of the Resurrection of Christ by Bartholomew the Apostle, this text claims to have been authored by the Apostle Bartholomew. But once again, the date of authorship (even considering the earliest possible dating by scholars) is far too late to have been penned by the real Bartholomew. Similarly, if this text is the lost Gospel of Bartholomew, it was also rejected by the Fathers of the Church on grounds that it was a heretical fraud. The Questions of Bartholomew is similar to Gnostic dialogue Gospels in which a key disciple of Jesus is provided with secret wisdom that is intended for a select few. In this respect, it is yet another Gnostic, heretical document identified by early Church leaders.
How Does It Corroborate the Life of Jesus? The Questions of Bartholomew does acknowledge several aspects of the reliable Gospel accounts. Jesus is identified as “Lord” and is the source of spiritual wisdom. The text acknowledges Jesus was crucified on a cross and was resurrected. In addition, the darkness that occurred at the death of Jesus is mentioned. Jesus’ disciples are acknowledged, including Bartholomew, Peter, Andrew and John. The virgin conception of Jesus is acknowledged (although the text supports the notion Mary was a perpetual virgin)
Where (and Why) Does It Differ from the Reliable Accounts? The text is clearly Gnostic and portrays Jesus as coming to earth from the Father to provide men with the secret wisdom required to “heal every sin.” In addition, the text demonstrates a Gnostic view of the material body. Jesus tells His disciples He cannot tell them the secret mysteries of heaven until He puts off “the body of the flesh.” The text is filled with secrets related to Jesus’ descent into Hell prior to the resurrection, the immaculate conception of Mary and secrets provided by Satan himself related to his creation and his fall. Throughout all of this, Jesus instructs Bartholomew this information is not to be shared with those who are unworthy, reflecting a Gnostic value for esoteric knowledge.
A caller to the radio program asked about answering a historical challenge to Luke 2 that Bart Ehrman has raised. I have to confess, I wasn't aware of this apparent problem, and researching it has actually been quite fascinating. Ehrman mentions it in this week's Newsweek magazine. Part of the key to the answer is what the Greek text of Luke 2 actually says, as opposed to what we've come to think it says. Greg has observed that answering many of the problems about the Bible that callers raise on the radio program can be resolved simply by reading the text. That's part of the answer here, plus a little historical context.
The gist of the problem is that Luke claims that the first tax when Quirinius was governor of Syria was at the time of Jesus' birth – around 4-2 B.C. The Jewish historian Josephus, however, records that the first tax under Quirinius' administration was in 6 A.D., after Jesus' birth. There's no reconciling these reports, unless we actually look back at what Luke wrote and at some historical data.
First let me make the point Greg made to the caller. Luke itself is a historical account that we should take just as seriously as Josephus. The posture that the Bible is the questionable source behind other historical sources is just plain prejudice before examining the accounts. The Gospels, just like Josephus, claim to be ancient historical records, and they should be taken as such until proven to be untrustworthy. So far, they have not been dismissed based on the facts, only by assumption. Josephus' accuracy can be questioned in light of Luke's account just as much as the other way around.
As it turns out, the two historical sources are easily reconciled. And a quick note on answering apparent contradictions in the Bible: Reason requires we show a possible resolution, not that we have proof that it's the actual resolution. If there's a way to understand the text in harmony with other historical data, then we've answered the challenge. That's true for any historical document, not just the Bible.
Go and read Luke 2 in the ESV orNASB – no tax is mentioned, only a registration or census. I would have recited Luke 2 from memory "that all the world should be taxed." That's in the KJV, but it's not what Luke actually wrote. Luke doesn't mention the purpose for the registration. We know from historical records that there were other reasons the rulers ordered registrations of their citizens, and that Augustus ordered citizens to register on more than one occasion. Tertullian reports that there were censuses conducted in Palestine during the time period Jesus was born. So we have historical support that registrations were conducted at that time.
It could be that the registration was for the purpose of renewing loyalty to Caesar on the 25th anniversary of the Roman Senate giving Augustus complete allegiance. As descendants of a royal family, both Mary and Joseph would have been required to go to the seat of their royal ancestor. Both had royal blood, so both had to be registered in Bethlehem.
In fact, Josephus reports an oath of loyalty took place at the time of King Herod. It fits perfectly with what Luke actually wrote.
The other apparent problem with Luke's account is the description of Quirinius as governor of Syria, but other historical records show that others were governor during the time of Jesus' birth. And Josephus mentions that Quirinius was governor in 6 A.D., not at the time of Jesus' birth. However, Justin Martyr recorded that Quirinius was procurator in Judea during the time of Saturninus, who was governor of Syria. Justin Martyr adds that this was during the time of Jesus' birth and that Quirinius was there for the purpose of conducting a census. Gleason Archer explains that Quirinius was a special assistant to Augustus who often sent him on his behalf to conduct specific tasks. To the provincial citizens, procurators had authority just as the governors had. From a functional standpoint, there wasn't any real difference between the offices. But from what I've read (I don't know Greek), what Luke wrote means ruling or administrating; it doesn't have to mean govern or governor, though it can. (The Greek can also be translated beforeQuirinius was governor of Syria, which would reconcile the timing and position, as well.)
So an appeal to what Luke actually wrote and some historical records reconcile this apparent problem. Luke said that he set out to write a careful historical account of what took place. And there's very good reason to think that is what he accomplished.
I like to encourage Christians to take time to prepare for Christmas so that it's truly a season, and not just a day. So that you have time to think on the biblical expectation of the Messiah and God's fulfillment of His promises. I've found that it makes Christmas so much more enjoyable and meaningful to prepare rather than let it sneak up on you in the confusion of the other Christian preparations. Advent is a good time to reflect on Biblical themes that often don't get much attention the rest of the year. Advent devotionals are a good way to do this.
John Piper has a new Advent devotion book that I am really enjoying for its depth of thinking and also its brevity. Piper has some good encouragement in the introduction to celebrate Advent.
...[W]hat Jesus wants for Christmas is for us to experience what we were really made for - seeing and savoring His glory.
Isn't that one of the wonderful aspects of Christmas? How much better to extend it through December.
Don't let Christmas find you unprepared. I mean spiritually unprepared. Its joy and impact will be so much greater if you are ready!...It will not have its intended effect until we feel desperately the need for a Savior. Let these short Advent meditations help awaken in you a bittersweet sense of need for the Savior.
Traditionally, Advent readings review the Old Testament promises to Israel of a Savior and the longing we hear in the recitations of Mary, Elizabeth, and Zechariah in Luke. Their joy over the Savior helps us focus on our need and longing for salvation, which increases our joy over the celebration of Jesus' birth.
In the past, I have not been the best Christmas-season dad for my daughters. My background was not so much Christ-oriented as it was festive and family-oriented. In an effort to get better, here are some things our family is doing to be intentional about investing Christmas with both the meaning and the seasonal “magic” that makes this month so memorable.
The goal is creating a meaningful and memorable family celebration of Christ’s birth. We want to focus on Christ, but there are many other aspects of the Christmas celebration, some more “secular,” that add to making the entire season’s focus on Christ special.
In general, there are three ways to refocus during this season. First, slow down. There are so many obligations and things to do this season. Find small ways to say "no" in order to free up your schedule and take the season a little slower. For example, I recommend saying "no" to Christmas cards this year. Christmas cards take a lot of time to make and send. Can you think of the people who didn't send you a card last year? I can't. Maybe forgoing Christmas cards this year is one way you'll find rest.
Second, be together with whoever is most important to you. For me, that's my immediate family. If you're single, like I was for 48 years, attach yourself to another family. Don't be alone this Christmas.
Third, simplify. Buying gifts online using Amazon Prime is a great way to simplify. When you sign up, you get 30 days for free, which includes free 2-day shipping on a vast amount of products. So, you can get all your Christmas shopping done in about 30 minutes, and then visit the mall or go out to dinner stress-free.
Here are some specific ways to make the Christmas season more meaningful:
If you are going to send out Christmas cards, choose a meaningful Christmas card (no “Happy Holidays”), and send it out early.
Put out a nativity, though don’t put baby Jesus out until Christmas morning.
Greet/thank people with a Christmas greeting that stands out (e.g., “Happy Christmas").
Display a magnetic car sticker of a stable and Bethlehem star and “Keep Christ in Christmas” (kcnativitysets.com).
Celebrate Advent during Sunday evening dinners with candles and a short reading.
Play CDs of Christmas music.
Traditional hymns sung the traditional way
Watch meaningful videos.
“The Nativity Story” (We watch this the first week as a kick-off.)
“It’s a Wonderful Life”
Some version of “A Christmas Carol” (I like the 1951 version with Alistair Sim.)
“The Star of Bethlehem” (more for older kids and adults)
Any others meaningful to you
Have a “date” with the kids to buy the other parent's Christmas present and eat out.
Attend a Church Christmas concert.
Visit the mall to look, not buy.
Practice Christmas charity.
Give to an organization, e.g., Salvation Army, Operation Christmas Child.
Give face-to-face to someone needy in your community (financial help or visit with act of kindness).
Attend Christmas Eve service at church.
Have a Christmas morning reading from Luke before presents are opened.
We’re coming to the end of the year—the time when many hopeful Christians decide that next year will be the year they read through the Bible. Reading the whole Bible can be daunting the first time or two, and even after many complete read-throughs you might still not have a solid grasp of the framework of the story or understand the roles of the types of literature involved. So here’s something that will help you succeed in either finishing the Bible for the first time or enjoying a more meaningful reading next time.
As part of their current series on “How to Read the Bible,” the White Horse Inn posted some lectures by Michael Horton (about 30 minutes each) introducing and summarizing each of the major sections of the Bible, explaining how each part fits into the whole. (Related articles, books, audio, and other study aids are included in the links below.) Take the time to listen this month, and you’ll be ready to start reading on January 1.
How the monasteries preserved and advanced education and culture in the middle ages:
When Charlemagne took the reins, Europe was teetering under regional warfare, poverty, illiteracy, clerical corruption, lax spiritual standards, and lingering pagan practices. There were no major cities. Local life was agrarian and feudal. Education had become nonexistent. Thus, one of his chief aims was to bring order and reform to both society and the church. Charlemagne read his Bible regularly and regarded himself as the protector of the church. Monasteries played a vital role in his vision for a Christian civilization. He urged the monks not only to have a strong spiritual commitment but also an active cultural life....
In his 789 General Admonition outlining reforms for the church, Charlemagne lamented the many poorly written letters he had received from monasteries: "We therefore started to fear that as they were not that accomplished in writing, they were perhaps even less accomplished in understanding the Sacred Scriptures, and we know very well that the incorrect use of words is dangerous, errors of meaning being the most dangerous of all."
God forbid that the church's doctrine or practice should falter on a grammatical error! Yet that was precisely the problem. People were praying incorrectly, and how people are taught to pray affects what they believe. Though sermons were in the local languages, the Bible and the liturgy were in Latin, and few monks or clergy knew Latin well enough to understand them. In order to "recall the kingdom which God had given him to the worship of God," Charlemagne was convinced that books were the key. The resulting explosion of literary activity, education, and cultural revival is often called the "Carolingian Renaissance."
Monks were at the heart of this explosion. They heeded Charlemagne's warning that "correct conduct may be better than knowledge, nevertheless knowledge precedes conduct," and mastered Latin in order to study Scripture and other early documents of the church. Monasteries became publishing houses, producing original manuscripts (such as the monk Einhard's biography of Charlemagne) as well as tens of thousands of copies of biblical and classical texts. The monk-copyists developed a clear style of handwriting known as Carolingian minuscule—readily recognizable as the ancestor of basic letter shapes today.
Monastic libraries often held several hundred titles (the largest, at Fulda, had almost 1,000), including Bibles, church fathers such as Augustine and Jerome, saints' lives, and major classical writers such as Cicero, Livy, and Tacitus. The monks' tireless efforts proved essential for the preservation of ancient literature. In most cases, the oldest surviving copies of such works we possess today were made by Benedictine monks in the early Middle Ages.
If there were books to read, there had to be schools to teach reading. Monastic schools were the most successful of the era, imparting the liberal arts to boys and girls destined for church careers or convent life.
Most of the world seems to believe that same-sex attraction can’t be changed. I believe this is a myth.
I attended the NARTH (National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality) annual convention in Phoenix a few weeks ago and learned a lot about the current state of research helping people with unwanted same-sex attraction (SSA). I’m not a therapist of any sort, but I go almost every year to keep abreast of the work being done in this field.
It turns out that not only is sexual orientation fluid, but many instances of change occur without any therapy or intervention. For example, a study from the Archives of Sexual Behavior found that 68% of 15 year-olds with same-sex attraction had opposite-sex attraction (OSA) by the age of 21.* Again, these changes occurred spontaneously.
It’s interesting to note that sexual identification appears to be most fluid during these teenage years, precisely when youth are most likely to be affirmed by the culture as “gay.” Yet what we find is that it’s more likely that they will naturally fall back to predominately OSA within a few years.
Another highlight of the conference was to learn how clinicians have improved the effectiveness of therapy. By complimenting their therapy with new modalities used to treat other psychological symptoms, they are now able to achieve results more quickly.
In fact, some of the clinicians I spoke to said that if a person with unwanted SSA enters therapy, they expect them to experience change in their attraction. If they don’t see results, then either the therapist is missing something or the client is not following through on their end. The point is that they are finding a high rate of success helping people reduce their unwanted SSA.
Just to be clear, the therapists I spoke with are not saying that it’s easy to achieve success or that everyone is able to change. It’s hard work. Nor are they suggesting to force therapy on anyone. In fact, they believe in client self-determination and pursuing the client’s goals. They often treat gay men and women for other kinds of psychological symptoms with no intent to alter their SSA.
Another point of clarification is that categorical change (from exclusive SSA to exclusive OSA) is relatively rare, but it does occur. NARTH clinicians (and their clients) see change occur along a continuum, where many of those with unwanted SSA achieve major and sustained shifts in their sexual attraction that they find satisfying. These people begin with exclusive or dominant SSA and end with dominant OSA. Most importantly, they experience significant degrees of satisfaction because they find that their OSA is more congruent with their values or life goals.
Those who deny that change is possible often have unrealistic expectations for what constitutes genuine change. Their standard seems to be a categorical 100%-gay-to-100%-straight change. Anything short of that is failure. The instant a former homosexual experiences even a hint of a homoerotic thought, they’re branded a backslider, a faker, or an ex-ex-gay. This is unrealistic, though, and isn’t consistent with the measures of success for other therapies. As I wrote in my book, “People being treated for depression still feel depressed at times. Others fail entirely. That doesn’t mean depression can’t be treated. The same is true with other psychological conditions like bipolar, obsessive compulsive disorder, etc.” In other words, genuine change occurs along a continuum.
I suspect that many people are skeptical of this report and that’s understandable. To be honest, I’ve been following this field for more than a decade and I was surprised. It’s rare to hear this kind of success, even in Christian circles. It’s possible, though, that one reason for this is that sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) constitute a broad range of therapies. From what I can tell, many clinicians at this conference specialize in a particular type of therapy that has proven more effective than others. An even smaller group are combining modalities to their therapy to be more efficient. That’s why you might hear of people attempting SOCE but finding that rate of success to be extremely low. It could be that they are pursuing religiously mediated change or other therapy methods that aren’t necessarily used by NARTH’s clinicians.
Either way, it seems the claim that change is impossible is a myth. Not only does therapy help men and women with unwanted SSA, it’s becoming more effective.
That’s a problem for the gay rights narrative. If homosexuals can change, then this casts doubt that homosexuality is an inborn, immutable trait. If homosexuals can change, it will be hard to draw a parallel between sexual orientation and ethnicity. If homosexuals can change, they can no longer claim that God made them that way. Many of the arguments of the gay rights narrative will seem specious.
*Savin-Williams et al., “Prevalence and Stability of Sexual Orientation Components during Adolescence and Young Adulthood,” Archives of Sexual Behavior, 2007.