Monthly Archives: June 2016

A Lesson from Orlando: Responding to Fear

FearWhen I heard the news the other day about an Islamic man, claiming to be associated with ISIS, gunning down 49 people in a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, I was grieved and saddened. That evening, at a meeting in our church, we prayed for the families impacted by this terrible event.

However, in the midst of processing all that has happened in Orlando, I would contend that a lot of my Christian brothers and sisters feel a bit bewildered by the whole thing. How do you respond to something like this? How do you love people gunned down in a gay nightclub? How do you love someone claiming to be an Islamic terrorist, slaughtering people around him? What would Jesus do?

If I had to name one word that covers a lot of what Christians are feeling, it would be this:

FEAR

A lot of Christians are afraid.

Hey, I struggle with it. Don’t you??

On one side, many Christians are afraid of Islam. Some are afraid of Sharia law taking over America. Some are afraid of Christianity being diluted by an unfamiliar faith that claims Abraham as their father. Some are afraid of violence.

On the other side, many Christians are afraid of the LGBTQ community. Some are afraid of family values going downhill. Some are afraid of the “ick” factor associated with homosexuality. Some are afraid of the pressure to change the theology of the church in order for LGBTQ folks to feel like being accepted.

But does fear tell the whole story?

No.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love (1 John 4:18).

Allow me to tackle a couple of these fears. For example, as has been discussed before here on Veracity,1 literally millions of Muslim-background people are fleeing countries that have been closed to or otherwise restricted from Christian missionaries. Furthermore, some reports show2 that Muslim-background people have shown a greater interest and openness to the Christian faith within the past 14 or so years, than in the preceding 14 centuries. The harvest is plentiful. And the fields are coming right to your doorstep in your community.

Should we respond in fear, or should we respond with obedience to the Great Commission?

Here is another fear to address. Many Christians are afraid that the LGBTQ community is trying to force Christians to give up on the theology of the Bible in order to feel accepted by the church.

A new book from NavPress by Andrew Marin makes the case that this typical evangelical concern is misplaced. In Us versus Us: The Untold Story of Religion and the LGBTQ Community, Marin reveals the results of a long-term scientific study regarding the LGBTQ community and the Christian church. Here are some startling observations from the study:

  • 83% of the LGBTQ community has some type of Christian faith background.
  • 76% of the LGBTQ community would be open to coming back to church.
  • 80% of the LGBTQ community pray.

According to a recent review of Marin’s book by theologian Preston Sprinkle,3 only 15% of LGBTQ leave the church because of “theological interpretations of sin.” In other words, most LGBTQ people have left the church not because the church teaches that same-sex marriage is not supported by the Bible. Instead, they leave the church for the following reasons (I list the most common):

  • The person did not feel safe in the church (18%)
  • The person experienced a relational disconnect with church leadership (14%)
  • Christians were unwilling to dialogue (12%)
  • The person was kicked out of the church for being gay (9%)

Of the 76% of those who would be open to coming back to a church, only 8% would insist that the church change its theology of sin and/or marriage. Think about that. That means 92% of LGBTQ people who are interested in coming back to a church are more interested in how they are treated than they are with the doctrinal stance of that church, regarding sexual ethics.

With the added emphasis of what has happened recently in Orlando, it is imperative that Christians demonstrate compassion towards those in the LGBTQ community, when their sense of fear of being relationally isolated from the church has only been compounded all the more.

Here are some practical suggestions: Get to know someone who is a Muslim or someone who identifies with the LGBTQ community. Listen to their story. Ask them questions. Show them hospitality. Then, ask the Lord where to lead you next in your relationship with that person.

Sure, there is always an aspect of fear. Radical terrorists still threaten with violence: convert to Islam or die. There are still some LGBTQ people who will not budge an inch in their efforts to change your Christian theology on marriage. But I am reminded by a quote from a sermon this past week. In C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, a question was asked about Aslan, the Christ-figure in the story. Is the Lion safe?

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

If Christ is the King, and he is good, then we have nothing to fear.

Notes:

1. See John Paine’s post on Syrian refugees and his series on Basic Islam. Here is my report on viewing world history through Islamic eyes

2. Open Doors, a ministry to the persecuted church, observes that God is using visions of Jesus Christ to bring many Muslims to having faith in Christ.

3. Preston Sprinkle has written what I believe is the best book on how Christians should view same-sex attraction, People to Be Loved. You should read it. I gave a brief review here.


Christian Passion About Israel: Can We Talk?

Is the secular nation state of Israel a fulfillment of Bible prophecy? Veracity tackles a "hot potato."

If I had to name one, persistent, mind-boggling issue that has divided so many conservative, evangelical Christians, it would be this one: Israel.

Unlike, say the creation vs. evolution controversy, women in ministry, etc., that some categorize as conservative vs. liberal splits, the question of what to think and do about national Israel defies simple labels. There is tremendous pressure from the surrounding culture to go in very opposite directions. On one side, are those who view Christianity as complicit in enabling, and even consciously encouraging, centuries of antisemitism. On the other side, are those who view Christianity as terribly narrow and closed-minded, urging Christians not to try to share their faith with the Jewish people.

Nowhere does the issue become more focused and heated among believers, than when it comes to the subject of the land of Israel, and the current Jewish nation state that exists there in the modern Middle East. To one extreme, are those who view any criticism of the nation of Israel as being hateful and antisemitic. On the other extreme, vocal support of the nation of Israel at the expense of spiritual concerns is sometimes viewed as a compromise on the centrality of Christ, diminishing the need to have Christ, and Christ alone, for salvation.

Israel can be deeply polarizing.

Call me naive, but I am a big believer in the need for Christians to have better and more civil conversations with one another, on emotionally-charged subjects like Israel.  Otherwise, the consequences can be devastating. If Christians are unable to have frank and open dialogue with one another, without resorting to name-calling, then this brings ill repute upon the message of the Gospel to a watching world. In an effort to promote such open and brotherly discussion, I will soon embark on a multi-part blog series on the question of “Zionism,” and its relationship to Bible prophecy1.

As I have been studying Romans 9-11 over the past year or so, the theme of how a Christian should respond to “Zionism,” the Jewish desire to return to their ancestral homeland, pops up over and over again in my conversations with fellow believers. Keep an eye out for this upcoming blog series…. and keep your Bibles, and your minds, and your hearts open.

Do you want to get the conversation going? How about two movies that illustrate the tension in the discussion?

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The Wrong Jesus for the Right Young Graduate

Greg Monette, a young scholar with Logos Bible Software and the Navigators, has written the perfect book to curious minds to sort out fact from fiction regarding who was and is Jesus.

Greg Monette, a young scholar with Logos Bible Software and the Navigators, has written the perfect book for curious minds to sort out fact from fiction regarding who was and is Jesus.

The Internet. YouTube. Your NewAge neighbor. The History Channel. Morgan Freeman’s The Story of God. Youth pastors. Skeptical friends. Parents. College professors…. Our world is simply bombarded with an untold number of conflicting voices, all telling us who Jesus really was. How do you figure out who the right Jesus is from the wrong Jesus?

If you know of a Christian young person graduating high school or college, you should know that they will be facing challenges to their Christian faith in college, the secular workplace, or just with their iPhone, scrolling through the Internet. Would not the best gift to such a person be something that will help to prepare them to better understand and defend their faith?

I recently picked up a copy of Greg Monette’s The Wrong Jesus: Fact, Belief, Legend, Truth . . . Making Sense of What You’ve Heard. Monette helps the reader to navigate many of the challenges to what the Bible teaches about Jesus, including questions about His existence, His divinity, and His message to a skeptical world.

In past years, I have recommended Truth Matters: Confident Faith in a Confusing World, by Andreas Köstenberger, Darrell Bock, Josh Chatraw. This is another excellent book along the same line (Hey, if Veracity co-blogger, John Paine, had dinner with co-author Andreas Köstenberger, it has to be good, right?). In Truth Matters, the authors focus on the popular writings of former evangelical scholar turned skeptic, Bart Ehrman. However, Monette’s book is broader in focus, looking also at archaeological issues, the miracles of Jesus, and how Jesus treated women.

Monette brilliantly defends the faith, but he is also refreshingly candid. The Bible is historically reliable, but the truth of Christianity is not dependent on our ability to figure out every detailed Bible discrepancy and fitting it in with some simplistic view of inerrancy.1 What ultimately matters is that if Jesus really is resurrected from the dead, then this changes everything.

A healthy perspective. A highly recommended book.

Notes:

1. I have written about this topic before, but I feel like this point needs to be repeatedly stressed.


When God Spoke Greek: A Short Review

When I first started to read the Bible as a young Christian, I bought myself a study Bible. As I was reading the New Testament, I would run across quotations of the Old Testament. I rarely took the time to go back and read the various Old Testament references. But for the past two years, I have taken a “deep dive” into the Book of Romans, so I decided to look up some of those cross-references…finally. What I found at first surprised me, then it bothered me, and then it captivated me.

Here is the surprise: On more than one occasion, a New Testament writer will quote something from the Old Testament. But if you compare the quotation in the New Testament with what you have in our English translations of the Old Testament, the quotations typically do not match, word-for-word.

Are these typos in our Bibles?  Apparently not.

Not sure if you believe me? Come take a little trip with me into the Book of Romans, and I can show you…

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