Doubting Your Faith: Good or Bad?

12 04 2012

Sometimes not questioning is a sign that you don’t really care; you don’t care enough to think about stuff.

Faith and Doubt sermon series by Pastor Greg Boyd

Faith is sometimes understood as the lack of doubt. Doubt can be seen as the enemy of faith; however, doubt is not always the enemy. God wants His people to wrestle with Him on the things that happen in their life. We must not be afraid of struggling with deep questions.

“couldn’t an unwillingness to question lead to a false security that would be even more dangerous? For example, imagine it’s 1860, and you’re a Caucasian Christian in the American south and you are taught in church that dark-skinned people are inferior and therefore should be “our” slaves. The Bible is used to buttress this belief as a moral absolute, and to doubt it is seen as treason against not only the state but also the church. Don’t you think a person would be a better Christian for doubting that belief? Or think of Galileo back in the late Middle Ages. He doubted the church teaching (“proved” absolutely by the Bible) that the sun rotated around the earth. Would he have been a better Christian – not to mention astronomer – if he had refused to doubt?”

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doubt is and will remain a fixture in faith communities. Doubt is widespread and it isn’t going away. Church leaders are just going to have to figure out how to minister to lots of doubters within the church.

Why this is so is largely due to our historical location. Modernity has changed the way we experience belief. We live in the age of reason, empiricism, skepticism and science. The world has become disenchanted. The are no more witches or goblins, we live with molecules and entropy. As Bonhoeffer phrased it in his letters from prison, the world has “come of age.” We don’t need any more fairy tales.

Modernity hasn’t run faith out of the building. If anything, faith is experiencing a renaissance in modernity.

What characterizes modernity is the radical range of choices now in front of us. I can choose to be a Christian. Or a Buddhist. Or a Muslim. Or a Humanist. Or an atheist. And I can change my mind. Faith hasn’t been eliminated. Rather, faith has become radically open. The options available to us are dizzying. We live in the wake of what Charles Taylor calls “the Nova Effect,” this explosive expansion of choices, worldviews and lifestyles.

what this means is not that modernity has made faith unreasonable. But it does mean that faith is more fragile and unstable. As are all things in the foreground. The fact that faith is a choice means that faith can be revisited and the reasons behind that choice opened up to scrutiny. Further, we are constantly in contact with people making their own faith choices and can’t help but be affected by their reasons. No longer taken for granted, faith is always exposed to reflection and revisitation. When faith is a choice it needs to be reasserted, like all our other choices. It’s like waking up every morning and deciding what to wear. The choice is an everyday object in the mind. Thus, we need to keep choosing faith, over and over. And, like all things in the foreground, this take a lot of time and effort. Faith is now hard work. And some people, not surprisingly, just get tired.

In short, faith is going to feel different in modernity. It’s going to feel vulnerable and fragile. It’s going to be effortful. All this is simply saying that faith has moved from…

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for many Christians faith simply means “belief.” Further, “belief” is taken to mean “I think proposition x is true.” Thus, having faith means something like “I believe God exists.” While atheists are defined as those who say “I don’t believe that God exists.” Faith becomes reduced to asserting (or denying) propositions.

Needless to say, this is a thin and hollowed out notion of faith. Faith becomes an abstract, intellectual, cognitive, and rationalistic process. And the implication is that if you can’t get your intellect in line then you don’t have faith.

This formulation has many problems. First, it suggests, by definition, that doubt is a lack of faith. If faith means confidently asserting propositions doubt is found to be incompatible with faith. Unshakable intellectual confidence becomes the mark of faith. No doubt can be admitted into the faith experience. Such a situation is worrisome on many levels. First, in the bible faith is never understood to be unshakable intellectual confidence. In the bible faith is more similar to perseverance, obedience, covenant faithfulness or worship. Additionally, if faith is “unshakable intellectual confidence” religion becomes inflexible, intolerant and dangerous.

A second problem with a rationalistic notion of faith is that the believer has nowhere to go when doubt emerges. If doubt is the opposite of faith then when intellectual questions emerge the believer has to conclude that she has “lost faith” in God. But, as we all know, intellectual questions come and go. Our ability to assert anything about God waxes and wanes, often for years or decades. So we need understandings of faith that allow us to engage with those questions without the whole house of cards being thrown up into the air. Faith needs a stable foundation that can support intellectual exploration, questioning and doubt.

The first stage of the cognitive turn occurred with the establishment of the Christian creeds during the reign of Constantine. With the establishment of the creeds being a “Christian” became a matter of assenting to the propositions listed in the creeds. This was a hollowing out of faith. Faith was no longer participation in the life of the counter-cultural Christian sect declaring that Jesus was Lord in the face of the Roman Empire. For these early Christians “faith” was more akin to allegiance, rebellion and revolution, a declaration that you were not a citizen of this world. That Caesar was not, in point of fact, your king.

But in the wake of the creeds all this was lost. “Faith” became the public endorsement of a list of religious propositions. Being a “Christian” became equated with orthodoxy (asserting the correct propositions) rather than political allegiance.

The second stage of the…

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Doubters tend to be thinkers; and thinkers want someone to interact with, and so I want to recommend two books that have been helpful for me with doubts. I begin with Daniel Taylor, The Myth of Certainty: The Reflective Christian & the Risk of Commitment and Robert Wennberg Faith at the Edge: A Book for Doubters. These books will sometimes speak to you as if the…

I have to begin with this observation: you will never go back to where you were and you will never be the same again and you will never get back to where things were. Instead, this season of doubt, which for some lasts months and for others years and even in some ways lingers for a lifetime, is with you and it changes you and your faith. There is a temptation to seek to go back and find your first feelings or your former way of doing things. That approach to encountering doubt teaches most us one one thing: that’s not the approach that “works.”
Instead, it is my advice for you to see that faith and doubt are not opposites but instead companions, with doubt a direct challenge or at times an assault on what you believe. Your faith will mature and develop because of encountering doubt, but it will be a new and more flexible form of faith itself.
You have now experienced what many today call “deconstruction.” Deconstruction bewilders, but provides an opportunity for reconstruction. That is, once the building has been dismantled, the new reconstruction will not be the same — but dismantling will give you the opportunity to begin all over again with an existential yearning for it all to make sense. This opportunity may be the most significant season in your life. I know when I was in seminary I struggled mightily with the nature of the faith but I came out chastened but stronger in that everything considered important had to be important in order to be included in the new construction.

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Doubt keeps us honest. My nervous-meter rises when anyone claims that their view is obvious. Christianity or atheism, pacifism or just war, new perspective or old. If you “don’t understand how anyone could think that,” that’s a you problem. People think all of it because none of it is obvious. And if it is obvious, then everyone who disagrees with you is either evil or stupid. And that’s obviously not true. By all means land, but land lightly.

Doubt exposes our…

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War and the Hero Impulse

12 04 2012

In our culture, the narrative of heroism, the “hero impulse,” gets manipulated into propaganda such as: “be all that you can be,” “an Army of one,” “the few. the proud,” “honor. courage. commitment,” “Army strong,” and the list goes on.

To be an American hero one commits to military service. The intentions of many to enlist are indeed good motivations. But I often wonder if those who become part of the military system of America are in fact trying to make meaning out of their own “hero impulse?” And if so, what if they are misapplying the reason that God gives us that desire?

Recently, a song by the band Rise Against, powerfully spoke to my own personal reflections on heroism and violence. The music video does a good job of…

Jesus teaches us the pathway of peace. He shows us through the cross that the way of non-retaliation, upside-down enemy love, is the path through which God’s kingdom comes to earth. As 1 Peter 2 reminds us: Jesus… “suffered on your behalf…” leaving “you an example so that you might follow in his footsteps…. When he suffered, he did not threaten revenge. Instead, he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly. He carried in his own body on the cross the sins we committed.”

Jesus invites us into a life that looks like crucifixion, a life modeled by enemy love and peace. Christ believed that every human being bears God’s own image. To inflict violence against a human is like inflicting violence against God’s own self. . .

Violence doesn’t simply injure the victim. Such actions destroy the offender’s humanity, be it a private in the Army fighting for homeland security or a drunken man cowardly striking a woman. When someone executes violence something changes within that person. Subtly but surely, violence stifles the movement of the Spirit to transform us into the likeness of the full image-bearer of God, Jesus the crucified and resurrected Messiah.

As Christians, we’ve done a horrendous job following the biblical teachings on nonviolence. From the days of Constantine to the “War on Terror,” well-meaning Christians applauded fellow believers who choose to take up arms against enemies of the state.

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(Joseph) Kony #kony2012campaign – A Few Different Perspectives

7 03 2012

The #kony2012 video that has gone viral:

“Grisly killings, abductions, and rapes allegedly committed by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in central Africa have garnered international attention following the release of a video highlighting abuses committed by the group and its leader, Joseph Kony.

The half-hour film (above) produced by Invisible Children follows a former child soldier named Jacob. The film issues a call for action, reportedly aiming to raise awareness by making Joseph Kony a household name. While the organization describes itself as a movement seeking to end the conflict in Uganda, some have criticized the group’s spending practices and the film’s approach as overly simplistic.

However, the LRA is allegedly responsible for a host of abuses, including the murder, rape, and abduction of tens of thousands in the past two decades.

Kony, whose army abducts children and takes women as sex slaves, has been indicted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity committed during a decades-long insurgency against Uganda’s government. The group has been blamed for the murder of thousands of civilians in four countries, and the U.S. classifies it as a terrorist organization.”

HuffPost article

In the “Kony 2012” video, the co-founder of IC, Jason Russell, explains to his young son that Kony is “the bad guy,” and to save the children.

But critics say it’s not that simple.

They note that Joseph Kony no longer lives in Uganda, that his power has dwindled significantly over the past few years and that the Ugandan army—which IC says should be supported by the United States to hunt down Kony—is itself guilty of violence, looting and rapes. Some say launching a major strike against Kony may cause more violence. In addition, Christians committed to non-violence have questioned Invisible Children’s militaristic approach on the grounds that Christians in particular should seek a peaceful resolution.

Also, because Invisible Children is primarily an advocacy and awareness organization, only 37 percent of the funds they raise directly impact the people of Uganda. Critics say donors should send their money to organizations that devote a larger percentage of their resources to empowering the people in this region to bring peace and prosperity to their communities, and to help former child soldiers assimilate back into society.

Furthermore, many are uncomfortable with what they see as a “savior complex,” reducing a complex socioeconomic and political conflict into a “good guys vs. bad guys” scenario. Some African writers have expressed concern that the video presents white, American college students as heroes to poor, helpless Africans—a storyline that has plagued African aid for decades.

These are valid concerns, but many IC supporters reacted defensively when they were raised, because it disrupted the narrative they had already embraced. As difficult as these questions may be though, they are important ones to ask. For if we hope to move from mere awareness to long-term activism, we have to confront some realities we don’t like or understand, and accept that not every question has an easy answer.

To continue reading this post by Rachel Held Evans, click here.

By my current research, Invisible Children and “Kony 2012″ are doing more harm than good. I do not support the Kony “campaign”. Here are my reasons.

(1) Violent Intervention

A statement by Invisible Children’s Director of Communications has indicated that Invisible Children is now working with the Ugandan Army and Sudan People’s Liberation Army, both of which are violent forms of intervention.

IC are filmmakers (obviously powerful filmmakers at that), and millions of dollars in donations go toward their white savior films. These films hold little to no practical value except to sell wristbands, t-shirts, and other crap that makes people feel like they’ve done their social justice deed of the year.

Michael Wilkerson, an Oxford PhD candidate who has lived and reported from Uganda, writes:

“But let’s get two things straight: 1) Joseph Kony is not in Uganda and hasn’t been for 6 years; 2) the LRA now numbers at most in the hundreds, and while it is still causing immense suffering, it is unclear how millions of well-meaning but misinformed people are going to help deal with the more complicated reality.

First, the facts. Following a successful campaign by the Ugandan military and failed peace talks in 2006, the LRA was pushed out of Uganda and has been operating in extremely remote areas of the DRC, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic — where Kony himself is believed to be now. The Ugandan military has been pursuing the LRA since then but had little success (and several big screw-ups).

…Additionally, the LRA (thankfully!) does not have 30,000 mindless child soldiers. This grim figure, cited by Invisible Children in the film (and by others) refers to the total number of kids abducted by the LRA over nearly 30 years. Eerily, it is also the same number estimated for the total killed in the more than 20 years of conflict in Northern Uganda.”

Ugandans are expressing their alarm with the viral film. Ugandan community organizers & activists have spoken out against “Stop Kony”, saying:

“What that video says is totally wrong, and it can cause us more problems than help us . . . There has not been a single soul from the LRA here since 2006. Now we have peace, people are back in their homes, they are planting their fields, they are starting their businesses. That is what people should help us with.”

-Dr Beatrice Mpora, director of Kairos, a community health organisation in Gulu, a town that was once the centre of Kony’s activities

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“I do not doubt for a second that those involved in KONY 2012 have great intentions, nor do I doubt for a second that Joseph Kony is a very evil man. But despite this, I’m strongly opposed to the KONY 2012 campaign. . . Kony’s a bad guy, and he’s been around a while. Which is why the US has been involved in stopping him for years. U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) has sent multiple missions to capture or kill Kony over the years. And they’ve failed time and time again, each provoking a ferocious response and increased retaliative slaughter. The issue with taking out a man who uses a child army is that his bodyguards are children. Any effort to capture or kill him will almost certainly result in many children’s deaths, an impact that needs to be minimized as much as possible. Each attempt brings more retaliation. And yet Invisible Children supports military intervention. Kony has been involved in peace talks in the past, which have fallen through. But Invisible Children is now focusing on military intervention.”

Click here to read the rest of this article by Grand Oyston (a sociology and political science student at Acadia University in Nova Scotia, Canada).

“The LRA is not particularly unique, and, even more crucially, is a symptom of a disease, not the disease itself. Joseph Kony is merely the product of a very complex mess of deep-rooted social and economic issues. He is a particularly nasty symptom who chops off people hands, kidnaps children, and brutally murders lots of people. But even if Kony is removed, the underlying social and economic ills will simply manifest as something else, like the Rwandan Genocide, the war in South Sudan, ethnic cleansing in Darfur, or the Congo war (which killed six million people). Hail Malthus.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not arguing that we leave the people of the Congo to be brutalised by Joseph Kony and his ilk. The point is that the straightforward problem and solution presented by IC bears no relation to the very complicated problem and potential solutions on the ground in Central Africa.

Invisible Children’s Kony 2012 campaign is not a sophisticated program aimed at the root cause of the injustices in the Great Lakes region of Africa (although these exist), it is just another ill-conceived, shiny, and simplistic form of philanthropy that make people feel like they are making a difference while in fact accomplishing no lasting positive change.

If you have seen the Kony video I am glad that you are now at least aware of a tragedy which you had formerly never heard of, but I hope that people take this as a wake up call to learn about and confront the injustices in our world substantively, rather than settling for the superficial good/evil narrative IC presents and the well-intentioned ineffectiveness their programs exemplify.”

Click here to read the rest of this post by Edmund Inglis (he spent four years being heavily involved with Invisible Children).

I have heard nothing about Kony 2012 here in Kampala because, in a sense, it just does not matter. So, as a response to the on-line debate that has been going on for the last couple days, I want to explain why, from here, Kony 2012 can be ignored.

First, because Invisible Children is a symptom, not a cause. It is an excuse that the US government has gladly adopted in order to help justify the expansion of their military presence in central Africa. Invisible Children are “useful idiots,” being used by those in the US government who seek to militarize Africa, to send more and more weapons and military aid, and to build the power of military rulers who are US allies. The hunt for Joseph Kony is the perfect excuse for this strategy—how often does the US government find millions of young Americans pleading that they intervene militarily in a place rich in oil and other resources? The US government would be pursuing this militarization with or without Invisible Children—Kony 2012 just makes it a bit easier. Therefore, it is the militarization we need to worry about, not Invisible Children.

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A spokesman for Uganda’s defense and army, Felix Kulayigye, said Mr. Kony is already a spent force. “The world is just realizing the evil in this man, but these are the things we have pointed out countless times in the past,” Mr. Kulayigye said. “Good enough, we have decimated his capabilities now.”

Angelo Izama, a Ugandan analyst with local research group, Fanaka Kwa Wote, said the campaign is misleading since Mr. Kony’s crimes in Uganda are from a bygone era. “What does it profit to market the infamy of a man already famous for his crimes and whose capture is already on the agenda?”

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In light of the teachings of Jesus, and the message of the cross, is war/violence the answer that Christ followers are to propose and/or support?

“While I respect that people will have differing convictions about this, I must confess that I myself find it impossible to reconcile Jesus’ teaching (and the teaching of the whole New Testament) concerning our call to love our enemies and never return evil with evil with the choice to serve (or not resist being drafted) in the armed forces in a capacity that might require killing someone. The above cited texts show that the Gospel can reach people who serve in the military. They also reveal that John the Baptist, Jesus and the earliest Christians gave military personal “space,” as it were, to work out the implications of their faith vis-à-vis their military service. But I don’t see that they warrant making military service, as a matter of principle, an exception to the New Testament’s teaching that kingdom people are to never return evil with evil.

Many have argued that such grounds are found in Romans 13. Since Paul in this passage grants that the authority of government ultimately comes from God and that God uses it to punish wrongdoers (Rom. 13:1-5), it seems permissible for Christians to participate in this violent activity, they argue, at least when the Christian is sure it is “just.” The argument is strained on several accounts, however.

First, while Paul encourages Christians to be subject to whatever sword-wielding authorities they find themselves under, nothing in this passage suggests the Christians should participate in the government’s sword wielding activity. Second, Romans 13 must be read as a continuation of Romans 12 in which Paul tells disciples to (among other things) “bless those who persecute you” (vs. 14); “do not repay anyone evil for evil” (vs. 17); and especially “never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord’” (vs. 19). Leaving vengeance to God, we are to instead feed our enemies when they are hungry and give them water when they are thirsty (vs. 20). Instead of being “overcome by evil,” we are to “overcome evil with good” (vs. 21).

Now, in the next several verses, Paul specifies that sword-wielding authorities are one means by which God executes vengeance (13:4). Since this is the very same vengeance disciples were just forbidden to exercise (12:19, ekdikeo) it seems to follow, as Yoder argues, that the “vengeance” that is recognized as being within providential control when exercised by government is the same “vengeance” that Christians are told not to exercise. In other words, we may acknowledge that in certain circumstances authorities carry out a good function in wielding the sword against wrongdoers, but that doesn’t mean people who are committed to following Jesus should participate in it. Rather, it seems we are to leave such matters to God, who uses sword-wielding authorities to carry out his will in society.

The Kingdom Alternative

But there is an alternative to this ceaseless, bloody, merry-go-round: it is the kingdom of God. To belong to this kingdom is to crucify the fleshly desire to live out of self-interest and tribal interest and to thus crucify the fallen impulse to protect these interests through violence. To belong to this revolutionary kingdom is to purge your heart of “all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice” (Eph 4:31)—however “justified” and understandable these sentiments might be. To belong to this counter-kingdom is to “live in love, as Christ loved you and gave his life for you” (Eph 5:1-2). It is to live the life of Jesus Christ, the life that manifests the truth that it is better to serve than to be served, and better to die than to kill. It is, therefore, to opt out of the kingdom-of-the-world war machine and manifest a radically different, beautiful, loving way of life. To refuse to kill for patriotic reasons is to show “we actually take our identity in Christ more seriously than our identity with the empire, the nation-state, or the ethnic terror cell whence we come,” as Lee Camp says.”

Click here to continue reading this post by pastor Greg Boyd regarding Christians call to non-violence.

The whole point of Jesus’ teaching is to tell disciples that their attitude toward “enemies” should be radically different from others. “If you do good to those who do good to you,” Jesus added, “what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same” (Lk 6:32). Everybody instinctively hates those who hate them and believes they are justified killing people who might kill them or their loved ones. In contrast to this, Jesus is saying: “Be radically different.”

This is why Jesus (and Paul) didn’t qualify the “enemies” or “evildoers” he taught us to love and not violently oppose. Jesus didn’t say, “Love your enemies until they threaten you; until it seems justified to resort to violence; or until it seems impractical to do so.” Enemies are enemies precisely because they threaten us on some level, and it always feels justified and practically expedient to resist them, if not harm them if necessary. Jesus simply said, “love your enemies” and “don’t resist evildoers” – and note, some of the people he was speaking to would before long confront “enemies” who would feed them and their families to lions for amusement.

As with all of Jesus’ teachings, it’s important to place this teaching in the broader context of Jesus’ kingdom ministry. Jesus’ teachings aren’t a set of pacifistic laws people are to merely obey, however unnatural and immoral they seem. Rather, his teachings are descriptions of what life in the domain in which God is king looks like and prescriptions for how we are to cultivate this alternative form of living. In other words, Jesus isn’t saying: “As much as you want to resist an evildoer and kill your enemy, and as unnatural and immoral as it seems, act loving toward him.” He’s rather saying: “Cultivate the kind of life where loving your enemy becomes natural for you.” He’s not merely saying, “Act different from others”; he’s saying, “Be different from others.” This is simply what it means to cultivate a life that looks like Jesus, dying on a cross for the people who crucified him.”

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If you want some more resources regarding Invisible Children, the LRA, and Kony click here.

According to the New Testament writers, what is the ‘gospel’?

5 03 2012


Scot McKnight is a widely-recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. He is the Karl A. Olsson Professor in Religious Studies at North Park University (Chicago) . A popular and witty speaker, Scot has given interviews on radios across the nation, has appeared on television, and is regularly asked to speak in local churches and educational events throughout the USA and in Denmark and South Africa. Dr. McKnight obtained his Ph.D. at the University of Nottingham. Dr. McKnight is a member of the Society of Biblical Literature and the Society for New Testament Studies and the author of more than twenty books, including the award-winning The Jesus Creed.

According to McKnight, contemporary evangelicals have built a “salvation culture,” rather than a “gospel culture” in which the good news is reduced to a message of personal salvation. In the video trailer above, he says that “the so-called gospel at work in many of our churches today is actually deconstructing the Church into a society of the saved instead of constructing a society that follows Jesus to the cross.” McKnight suggests that ramping up our emphasis on God’ wrath on the one hand or his mercy on the other won’t help because “if you tweak a weak gospel, you still have a weak gospel.”

In The King Jesus Gospel, McKnight argues that:

1. The Gospel is defined by the apostles in 1 Corinthians 15 as the completion of the Story of Israel in the saving Story of Jesus
2. The Gospel is found in the Four Gospels
3. The Gospel was preached by Jesus
4. The sermons in the Book of Acts are the best example of sharing the gospel in the New Testament.

Ben Witherinton dialogues with McKnight about ‘The King Jesus Gospel’

Ben: You talk a lot in this book about the difference between the ‘soterian’ Gospel which is not a full presentation of the Gospel and what you view as the full Evangelical Gospel. Can you explain this distinction and what you are wanting to stress by making it?

Scot: In part that is answered in the first one, but now I can say it differently. The fact is that if you ask most of us what “gospel” means they will give us something to do with salvation, and that will involved God’s love and grace and holiness and Christ’s atoning death and our need to believe. And if you ask people to present the gospel they will order a rhetoric that seeks to compel people to get saved. But the gospel – the Greek word is euangelion and we get the word “evangel” and “evangelical” and “evangelism” from that Greek word – cannot be reduced to salvation in the New Testament. So The King Jesus Gospel seeks to show that salvation is not the same as gospel, that salvation needs to be seen as something that flows from gospel, but that gospel is something bigger and different. The gospel is to declare something about Jesus, from whom our salvation comes.

Ben: I can see that one of the immediate misunderstandings or objections to your book will be—- Are you really saying that the Gospel is not mainly about soteriology or salvation?

Scot: I’m really saying that, but I’m saying that because that is what the New Testament really does teach.

Ben: What precisely is wrong with someone who says ‘Paul preached the Gospel, but Jesus actually didn’t?’

Scot: Nothing I suppose, if what we are talking about doesn’t matter. If we say Jesus didn’t even talk about elders and Paul did, I can’t say that I think it matters that much to have a word from Jesus about elders and their qualifications. And I’m not sure it matters if Jesus talked about spiritual gifts. But we are not talking, when we talk about “gospel,” about something that is of secondary importance. We are talking about top shelf, first order theological truths that we embrace. It is exceedingly hard for me to think Jesus taught and taught and did and did but neither talked about nor did gospel in his day. It is this tension that has animated so much of the struggle in composing a New Testament theology: it is the instinct of Christians to want Jesus – after all, we claim he’s God, he’s the truth, he’s the one on whom we rely and under whom we live et al – to be on the side of Paul or Paul to be on the side of Jesus when it comes to first order theology.

Here’s my instinct: if we think something is cardinally important and we think Jesus never talked about it, I think we want to ask if we have got what’s cardinally important right.

The most exciting thing about the work for this book was the discovery that Paul’s gospel and Jesus’ gospel are not just connected, but virtually identical. Jesus preached Paul’s gospel because Paul preached Jesus’ gospel.

Ben: Another major stress in this book is that the four Gospels in fact contain the Gospel, and that Jesus and Peter and Paul preached basically the same thing— namely King Jesus, and his becoming King on earth as in heaven. This will seem strange to the soterians who thinking the Gospel is justification by grace through faith. Are you simply focusing on the person of Christ rather than on his soteriological benefits?

Scot: Yes, I think – with John Dickson, that fine young evangelical pastor down in Sydney, and Pope Benedict’s exceptional study on gospel – that the Gospels are the gospel. Dickson even says the fullest preaching of the gospel in the NT is the Gospels. I agree.

Here’s a big point, and I’ll move on: these books were not called “gospel” because they did a search in the library on genre questions and decided that “gospel” is a little more accurate than “biography.” No, they called these books “The [one and only] gospel according to Matthew, or Mark, or Luke, or John.” They were not giving us a genre classification so much as a substance declaration. They were saying these books tell us the gospel. Liturgical churches make this clear every week because they not only stand for the reading from the Gospels, and they sit for everything else, but they call that reading not a “reading from the Gospels” but simply “The Gospel.” That’s exactly right.

Click here to read the rest of this interview.

We have chosen to reframe evangelism through the doctrine of salvation, and then we’ve sorted out the major elements of salvation, re-ordered them into a compelling package and then said, “There, that’s the gospel.” I’m convinced this is not the gospel and I’m not convinced this method of persuasion is nearly as effective as many think.

… we can learn from them that what we need to learn to develop more of a declarative rhetoric than a persuasive rhetoric. Put simply, the apostles announced Jesus was who he was (and they did this in a number of ways) and then summoned people to respond. That’s declarative rhetoric: declare and then summon. Our preferred method is persuasive rhetoric, and what we do is we figure out what is most emotively effective and affective in precipitating decisions and re-arrange all we have to say into that model of persuasive rhetoric. It does produce decisions, but it is neither biblical nor any where near as effective as many think. Decisions are not a good measure. Decisions are not enough. Our method is too much shaped toward decisions.

Part 2 of Witherington and McKnight dialogue.

Scot shows in King Jesus Gospel that the gospel according to the NT is best defined out of 1 Corinthian 15. Here the Gospel is the telling of the whole Jesus Story as the completion of the Story of Israel, the lordship of Christ over the whole world. It is the summoning of people to respond to the completion of the promise to Israel in Jesus Christ as Lord. Through the proclamation of the gospel, we are invited to enter into this grand work of God in history in Christ. Out of all this, we are saved and redeemed (here’s where salvation is part of the gospel but not to be equated with the gospel). Without the Story (of Israel), Scot says, there is no gospel (36). So Scot singularly does one thing in this book, he shows how “individual salvation” is part of the wider gospel. It is not the whole gospel. The salvation we as individuals receive is something we receive as we participate in the wider work of God in the world to bring in His Kingdom in and through Jesus Christ. Even this “personal” salvation is much bigger than “justification by faith” although it certainly includes that!

Click here to continue reading.

Ed Stetzer interviews Scot McKnight about ‘The King Jesus Gospel’

Ed: How do you define the gospel in the book?

Scot: The gospel is to announce that the Story of Jesus, who is Messiah/King, Lord and Savior, fulfills or completes the Story of Israel. It is the good news that God’s promises have now been realized in Jesus Messiah, Lord and Savior.

Ed: In the book you seem to want to emphasize the differences between
what you call a “soterian” gospel and the full evangelical gospel? How
do you define these and why do you believe it’s necessary to
distinguish between them?

Scot: In brief, the soterian (Greek word for salvation) gospel is a message of how to get saved from sins and how to be properly related to God. In brief, the apostolic gospel makes the Story of Israel and the Story of Jesus first, and not my personal salvation, and makes personal salvation second. I distinguish the two because our current models of the gospel — and here I ask that we consider what we tell people who we think are not Christians — do not sufficiently pay attention to how the New Testament talks about the gospel. We can find that gospel in 1 Cor 15, the sermons in Acts, and in the Gospels. I constantly ask this question: Do you think the gospel is found in those three points?

In brief, it works like this: the soterian gospel is a message of salvation without the Bible’s Story (Israel fulfilled in Jesus as Messiah and Lord) and the Story gospel I am pleading with us to consider more carefully has both the Story line and the salvation message.

Ed: In your view, how does justification relate to the gospel? Are they separate matters? And is it right or wrong to say that the church
stands or falls on the doctrine of justification?

Scot: Simply put: justification is the “effect” of the gospel. The gospel is about Jesus and Jesus brings salvation, and justification is one way of describing that salvation. God, in Christ, through his death and especially resurrection (Rom 4:25), makes us right with God. I tend to agree with double imputation, but it’s not clearly taught in the New Testament, and never in one text, so I don’t want to make it too central to how I understand justification. Justification is God’s judgment on us in Christ.

… The church stands or falls on one thing and one thing alone: Jesus Christ, him who lived, was crucified and raised and exalted. That is God’s action in Christ is that on which the Church stands or falls. The Church does not stand or fall on an idea or a belief but on a Person. On God, Father, Son and Spirit.

I also contend that a gospel that is first Christology and then soteriology is more biblical and differs from the gospels that are through and through soteriology. I ask this: Does your gospel tell me about Jesus (Messiah, Lord, Savior) or does your gospel tell me how to get saved (and Jesus is the one who does it)? That’s the difference.

The gospel of Jesus and Peter and Paul is a gospel that is first Christology and second soteriology.

Click here to read the rest of this interview.

Frank Viola interviews McKnight

The King Jesus Gospel entails the need to surrender to Christ, to be sure, but the gospel of the New Testament can’t be reduced to the plan for personal salvation, which is what that debate did, and so while I agree with Macarthur that Jesus is Lord is at the heart of the gospel, I don’t agree with how he was then defining the gospel. One more time: the gospel cannot be reduced to the plan of personal salvation; the gospel is the Story about Jesus, the full Story, and then the plan of salvation flows out of that Story.

Scot McKnight: Did Jesus preach the gospel? (part 1)

Scot McKnight: Did Jesus preach the gospel? (part 2)

What is the gospel, and why is it the “good news”? – N.T. Wright

Simply Jesus – N.T. Wright (part 1)

Simply Jesus – N.T. Wright (part 2)

HOW GOD BECAME KING: The Forgotten Story of the Gospels by N. T. Wright


Click here to buy: ‘The King Jesus Gospel’ on Amazon.

How to Read Genesis

27 02 2012

Some good resources on the topic:

Evolution of Adam, The: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say about Human Origins by Peter Enns

The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate by John H. Walton

Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament: Introducing the Conceptual World of the Hebrew Bible by John H. Walton

The Bible & Science DVD by James-Michael Smith

Flaws with ‘The China Study’

25 02 2012

The China Study frequently ignores the contribution of animal foods to certain classes of nutrients, such as B vitamins and carotenes. Both classes of nutrients are assumed to come from plant foods, despite egg yolks and milk from pastured animals being a good source of carotenes, and the high B vitamin content of liver. But the most curious of such statements is one found on page 220, where Campbell declares, “Folic acid is a compound derived exclusively from plant-based foods such as green and leafy vegetables.” This is a fascinating statement, considering that chicken liver contains 5.76 mcg/g of folate, compared to 1.46 mcg/g for spinach! A cursory look through the USDA database reveals that the most folate-dense foods are organ meats.

The China Study contains many excellent points in its criticism of the health care system, the overemphasis on reductionism in nutritional research, the influence of industry on research, and the necessity of obtaining nutrients from foods. But its bias against animal products and in favor of veganism permeates every chapter and every page. Less than a page of comments are spent in total discussing the harms of refined carbohydrate products. Campbell exercises caution when generalizing from casein to plant proteins, but freely generalizes from casein to animal protein. He entirely ignores the role of wheat gluten, a plant product, in autoimmune diseases, so he can emphasize the role of milk protein, an animal product. The book, while not entirely without value, is not about the China Study, nor is it a comprehensive look at the current state of health research. It would be more aptly titled, A Comprehensive Case for the Vegan Diet, and the reader should be cautioned that the evidence is selected, presented, and interpreted with the goal of making that case in mind.”

Click here to read the rest of this critique.

Holes in the China Study

There is No Perfect Diet for Everyone

When science is properly performed, it can provide valuable insights to help us make our choices. However, ultimately the best science is listening to your body.

It is great to experiment with your food choices and see how you feel. If your energy level is high, you aren’t hungry after meals you aren’t coming down with colds and flus, and your health is phenomenal, this is probably a good clue that your food choices are serving you well.

However, if your health is declining and you aren’t thriving on any particular diet, like Chris found when he ate a vegetarian diet, then it is time to make some changes. So the best study you can do is on yourself.

Read whoever you want but don’t follow anyone, Campbell or me, just because you believe what we say makes sense. Ultimately your body needs to validate biologically that you are supplying it with a fuel that is optimized for your specific genetics and biochemistry.

Why it Works for Some, but Not for Others

Clearly, our experiences can’t justify the opposing stance that everyone should eat meat.

About ten years ago I was exposed to concepts that helped me get a deeper understanding of the enormous level of biochemical and genetic individuality that essentially guarantees that there is no perfect food plan that will work for everyone.

What I gradually came to appreciate is that we are all uniquely designed and require customized plans.

This plan categorizes people into three different groups:

– Protein: High amounts of healthy fats and protein and lower amounts of vegetables
– Carb: High amounts of vegetables and lower amounts of protein and fat
– Mixed: Somewhere between the above options

You can experiment for yourself and observe your reactions, but if you would like a systemized way to approach this and record your results so you can reach your own independent conclusions about what you were designed to eat, then I would encourage you to take the FREE Nutritional Typing Test.

To read the rest of the above article, and/or to watch the other 3 parts of the interview, click here.

More articles:

The Truth About the China Study

The China Study vs the China study

The Curious Case of Campbell’s Rats — Does Protein Deficiency Prevent Cancer?

Response to T. Colin Campbell

Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease: The Revolutionary, Scientifically Proven, Nutritionally Based Cure By Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., MD Penguin Group, 2008 Reviewed by Chris Masterjohn

How T. Colin Campbell Helped Prove That Protein Protects Us

Laci Green: Makeup

10 12 2011

Why we *THINK* we need makeup

Makeup Parody

Click here to see more of Laci’s YouTube vid’s.

Laci’s website.