If God raised Jesus Christ from the dead, I have good reason to believe both that he exists, and that he is unfathomably powerful.
Furthermore, if he is good enough to send his only-begotten Son to die on behalf of a sinful, rebellious world he loves, he is unfathomably good.
Next, if God is wise enough to use what is objectively the most horrifying, and initially apparently pointless, event in human history—the unjust murder of the Godman—for the salvation of the world, then it is entirely reasonable to trust he has a good enough reason for allowing the evil that he currently does.
Finally, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are the promise that ultimately evil will be judged, removed, and made right. There is comfort and hope for the future.
The May issue of Christianity Today features a cover story on Bethel Church in Redding, CA. Their pastor, Bill Johnson, was asked about his association with the New Apostolic Reformation. This is a movement full of theological error. Its primary doctrine is that the office of apostle is active today, that God gives special revelation to these apostles, and that the church’s effectiveness in the world is dependent on following them.
On yesterday’s podcast, Brett talked to screenwriter and author Brian Godawa about Christian artists, beauty, truth, and storytelling. Art is indeed a powerful vehicle for expressing truth, but as Brian explains in the interview, when we use story merely as a tool to communicate a message, neglecting the beauty of the craft, we tend to end up with preachy propaganda. He argued that beauty is an aspect of the truth about God that we must not downplay when speaking through artistic forms:
When we talk about God and theology, we often talk about things like: we have to have a proper epistemology (or theory of knowledge), we have to have a proper ethic (or system of morality), we want to have a notion of ontology (or reality)—this is what traditional categories are in terms of philosophy. And [with] theology, you could talk about soteriology, salvation, these kinds of things. But what is often lacking in there is aesthetic. There are so many Scriptures in the Psalms and many places where it talks about the beauty of God’s holiness….. My point being, beauty is not just something there to be appreciated; it’s actually part of the whole theology of how God communicates Himself.
So to the extent in which you ignore that or downplay beauty is just as if you were to downgrade any element of truth that we should have, whether it’s Christ’s nature as God, or whether it’s soteriology and salvation, or the work of the Spirit. [In the same way as these,] beauty is a part of that understanding.
Telling stories in a way that reflects God’s beauty testifies to the beauty of our God. Beauty itself is an apologetic for God because it reveals His beauty, just as making a case for the truth of the gospel through apologetic arguments reveals His truth, and serving people in love reveals His love. As Christians, we ought to be declaring God’s beauty to the world through our art. Brian had some good words of encouragement and warning for Christian artists:
I want to encourage Christians who are artists to do two things equally: Seek to value your craft and beauty as high as the truth, and secondly, seek to study and know your God (study theology and study apologetics) because [these are] both two sides of one, unified truth. And to the extent in which you’re imbalanced in either of them, it will show in your art. You’ll either have bad art that is preachy, or you’ll have art that is teaching falsehoods because you don’t understand how truth is embodied in it. So seek to pursue them both….
Study your craft. Do everything you can to learn it…. But pursue that beauty in a way that will value the craft equally with the truth.
Listen to the rest of the interview, and if you’re an artist, consider attending the Canvas Conference in Portland later this year, where they’ll be exploring this very topic. From their website:
The Canvas Conference humbly exists to inform all acts of human creativity and beauty with biblical, gospel-centered theology for the worship of the triune God…. We want to help build strong theological foundations for the artist and, likewise, to push Christians to pursue creative orthodoxy in their theological craft….
The Canvas Conference seeks to build bridges between the artist and the theologian by inviting God to take center stage in every human endeavor. We want to watch the Lord as he puts theology and creativity in their proper place. We want to show that creativity begins and ends with the God of Christian Scripture. It is our Creator who created us in his image to create. Thus, we should do so for his glory, for our good, and for the benefit of all.
“The Bible is full of contradictions!” We hear it all the time from skeptics and atheists as if it’s common knowledge. But is it true?
I’ve devoted the last few months to answering this question. What I have discovered is that many alleged contradictions arise because an unfair standard, or false expectation, is applied to the Bible. Most modern readers just assume that the biblical authors wrote like we do today in the twenty-first century. Consequently, they end up applying a twenty-first century standard to an ancient document. This is a gross mistake. In fact, most claims of Bible contradictions stem from the reader misunderstanding, and even misrepresenting, the author’s intent. The alleged contradictions stem from the reader, not the author.
Some of these false expectations include:
Selection (or omission) of certain facts is a denial of other facts.
If something is accurate, then it must also be precise.
Ordering of events must always be chronological.
Time compressing events of a story is errant.
Mysteries in the Bible are irreconcilable.
For each false expectation, I offer a corresponding helpful principle that will allow you to properly understand that author’s intent in light of the context and literary genre. My hope is that these principles will help you as you read and study God’s Word.
From time to time, an atheist will say to me that the size of the universe is evidence that A) we’re insignificant, and B) it wasn’t created by God (since there’s so much “wasted space”). In his book Look and Live, Matt Papa reflects on a purpose for the massive size of the universe:
One of the best places to see the glory of God is up. The Bible says “the heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalm 19:1 NIV). This means the skies are saying something. And that something is this: “God is massive, eternal, creative, powerful.”
We should listen to them. Consider these fun space facts:
You could fit one million earths inside our star, the sun.
In a larger star named Betelguese, you could fit one billion (1,000,000,000) suns or 262 trillion (262,000,000,000,000) earths.
The largest star in the universe is the VY Canis Majoris. It would take 9.3 billion (9,300,000,000) suns to fill Canis Majoris.
It would take 11,666,192,832,000,000 earths to fill Canis Majoris.
If Canis Majoris were put in our sun’s place, it would extend past Saturn.
Feeling small yet? …
Why in the world would God make something so massive and wild?
Assuming we are the only life in this endless black (which I do), couldn’t He have just made the earth, the moon, and the sun? Or perhaps even just the earth with some sort of self-illumination?
But no. He didn’t.
He made a terrifying, endless, beautiful, unexplored, unexplorable abyss. He made an immeasurable, untamed ocean of mega stars, galaxies, quasars, and black holes in which we are a mere floating speck.
The heavens declare the glory of God.
The Artist must have wanted to tell us something about himself. He is the real terrifying, endless, beautiful, unexplored, unexplorable Abyss. He is the immeasurable, untamed Ocean of truth, wisdom, goodness, and light in which we are a mere floating speck.
So yes, the massive size of the universe does reveal our insignificance in comparison to the God of the universe, and that inspires our awe. But at the same time, He created it this way for this precise purpose of revealing His glory to us, and that means that despite how insignificant we are compared to Him, He stooped down out of love for us and declared us to be significant to Him.
On today’s podcast, Greg received a question about the detailed vision of a temple at the end of Ezekiel (chapters 40–48)—specifically, about the section on offerings introduced by verse 45:22: “On that day the prince shall provide for himself and all the people of the land a bull for a sin offering.”
If this is a reference to the Messiah at the end of the age, then clearly this is a problem for Christianity because Jesus, “having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God” (Hebrews 10:12). He won’t be offering any sacrifices in a future temple.
This is something I’ve looked into in the past, and interpretations of the chapters describing Ezekiel’s vision vary. Here’s a brief summary of a few different positions from the ESV Study Bible:
With regard to the meaning of this passage as a whole:
(1) Some interpreters understand this vision as a prophecy that will be fulfilled literally, with a rebuilt temple and Israel dwelling in the land according to its tribes—a future millennial kingdom on the earth…. Many who hold this position believe that literal animal sacrifices will be offered, but that in the future millennial kingdom they will function as reminders of the complete and sufficient death of Christ, a function different from what they had in the OT.
(2) Other interpreters see this vision of a new temple and a renewal of the land of Israel as an extended, detailed metaphor predicting the presence of God among his people in the new covenant age (that is, his presence in the church).
(3) Another view is that the vision predicts God’s presence among his people in the new heavens and new earth (cf. Isa. 66:17; 2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1), not as physical details that will be literally fulfilled but as symbolic indications of the great blessings of that future age. In this interpretation, the details about worship and sacrifices are symbols of the centrality of worship of God: the temple represents the orderliness and beauty of God’s heavenly dwelling place; the priests and their sacrifices represent the service and worship of all God’s people; the division of the land represents the allocation of places to live for all God’s people; and the river represents the outward flow of God’s blessings to his people forever.
(4) Finally, it is possible that there are both literal and symbolic elements in this vision, and that, as with the visions in Ezekiel 1, this vision describes future realities that cannot be fully expressed in terms of Ezekiel’s present realities. Almost all interpreters agree that Ezekiel 40–48 is one of the most difficult passages in the entire Bible.
It’s also possible the answer is simply this: Ezekiel’s vision conveys instructions, not predictions. There’s a clear break at the beginning of the vision in chapter 40 from the prophecy in chapter 39, and from this point forward, the chapters read like commands (“You shall do this,” “These are the statutes,” etc.), with warnings for the people to repent and follow these commands (e.g., 45:9), rather than descriptions of the future. Though the instructions for the building and running of a temple are given in a vision, the genre of the passage is more like the tabernacle instructions in Exodus than it is like the prophecy in the previous chapter. There’s no unconditional announcement in chapters 40–48 that this is what will take place. In fact, there’s a conditional element introduced in 43:9–11:
Now let them put away their harlotry and the corpses of their harlotry and the corpses of their kings far from Me; and I will dwell among them forever.
As for you, son of man, describe the temple to the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities; and let them measure the plan. If they are ashamed of all that they have done, make known to them the design of the house, its structure, its exits, its entrances, all its designs, all its statutes, and all its laws. And write it in their sight, so that they may observe its whole design and all its statutes and do them.
“If they are ashamed…let them….” “Now let them…and I will....” “Write it…so that they may observe its whole design.” In other words, these last few chapters are instructions God was calling the people to follow, conditional instructions with conditional results. They did not repent and follow them, and so the temple was not built and God did not dwell among them in this way. Instead, Christ came with His unconditional salvation, and the Lord filled His new temple (His people) with His Spirit in a way that far surpassed the way in which Israel failed.
They failed because, as fallen human beings, we’re not morally capable of the kind of obedience required to deserve the dwelling of God among us. This is what God taught all humankind through Israel’s history. We needed to understand that even when given perfect knowledge of all of God’s commands, we could never save ourselves through the Law because the problem lies in us. His Law doesn't have the power to change our morally broken souls, and no merely human prince could perfect us with his sacrifices. We have an undeniable, absolute need for God’s merciful, undeserved redemption and regeneration. The purpose of Israel and all its history was to prepare the world for Jesus and the Gospel.
For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law. But the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. (Galatians 3:21–22)
For now, in terms of Israel, we remain in Romans 11:25–32:
[A] partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in…. For just as you once were disobedient to God, but now have been shown mercy because of their disobedience, so these also now have been disobedient, that because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy. For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all.
And how beautiful that mercy will be!
Now if [Israel’s] transgression is riches for the world and their failure is riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their fulfillment be! … For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? (Romans 11:15)
Now, in regards to Isaiah 65, this chapter speaks about future Prophecies and Promises that GOD Almighty is making for the future of the people of Israel. So, this is not a book that is just giving mere commands. It is rather speaking about the future and the End of Times. Interestingly, we read the following from this chapter (click on the link to read the entire short chapter):
"3They keep making me angry by sneering at me, while offering sacrifices to idols in gardens and burning incense to them on bricks. 4They spend their nights hiding in burial caves; they eat the meat of pigs, cooked in sauces made of stuff unfit to eat. 5And then they say to others, "Don't come near us! We're dedicated to God." Such people are like smoke, irritating my nose all day." (CEV Bible, Isaiah 65:3-5)
Here we see that the pork eaters are so detested by GOD Almighty that He likened them to smoke irritating His Nose all day. This is a very powerful statement regarding eating pork and how detestable it is to GOD Almighty in the Bible.…
So what is it? Is pig's meat allowed today or not?
How would you respond to this argument? Does our eating pork prove we aren’t following the true God? Tell us what you think, and then we’ll hear Alan’s answer on Thursday.