Book Reviews 2023

Book Reviews 2023

Reading Time: 11 minutes

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

I have read less than I would have liked this year due to the hours I have been putting in. Nevertheless, I wanted to review four of the titles I found time to read in 2023 that you might enjoy. 

Analog Christian – by Jay Kim (41 notes, 178 pages)

Atheism on Trial – by Mark Lanier (55 notes, 202 pages)

Confronting Christianity – by Rebecca Mclaughlin (76 notes, 226 pages) 

Irreversible Damage – by Abigail Shrier (60 notes, 231 pages)

Son of Hamas – by Mosab Hassan Yousef (Audible)

Devotion – by Adam Makos (Audible)

The reference to notes is my note-taking system when I read a book. The more notes I made, the more impactful, relevant, apologetic, or valuable I found the contents. Of course, the size of the book would also make a difference, so I have listed the number of pages. I enjoyed the two Audible books and would recommend them both. 

Analog Christian

This was published in 2022 by Jay Kim, a pastor in Silicon Valley. 

Kim wrestles with the dangers most Christians are unaware of concerning the technology we are surrounded by daily. Engineered to keep us swiping, social media is all-consuming. Inherent in the algorithms are pitfalls that often outweigh the benefits. 

Frances Haugen, a Facebook insider who became a whistleblower, wrote concerning the algorithm, its “engagement-based formula helps sensational content, such as posts that feature rage, hate or misinformation, travel far and wide.”1 Kim explains comparison and contempt are tools used by the enemy and are inherent in social media.

Before my divorce, I would celebrate the joy and love I felt for my wife on social media. On more than one anniversary, I’ve posted pictures of my wife and how many years we have attained. Bragging rights. After the divorce, social media became a punch in the gut. Every anniversary others posted celebrating their 20th, 25th, 30th, etc., would pour salt in the wound. It never occurred to me my posts would/could have done the same to someone else. 

Of course, we should celebrate successful marriages, but the inherent poison of comparison on Social Media is destructive and can be malignant. Kim writes about a time when he and his wife struggled with infertility, “Every pregnancy announcement, be it from a friend or acquaintance, felt like a punch in the stomach. I was unable to genuinely celebrate anything with anyone. All I could do was compare their good fortune to our anguish.”2

Temperature of Hate

Psychologists talk about hot-hate and cool-hate. Hot hate is something we are all familiar with. We have all experienced moments where someone does something blatantly rude, and our tempers flair. Crimes of passion and road rage, not brought under control, are examples of hot-hate.

But another kind of hate, cool-hate, is common in social media and circles of gossip among friends. Based on contempt and disgust, Kim explains people use sarcasm, dismissal, and mockery. It can be, and often is, more damaging than hot-hate. Just ask the family whose child committed suicide because of bullying. 

Kim writes, “The apps we use are actually using us. We are not so much the customers as the products. Each search and click provides valuable dates to companies constantly searching for ways to effectively commodify our attention and, more slyly, our addiction. A never-ending loop of comparison, which eventually breeds contempt.”3 Philippians 4:7

I highly recommend Analog Christian to any family concerned about social media, screen time, and how much time their still-at-home teens their phones.

Atheism On Trial

This was published in 2022 by Mark Lanier, a successful trial lawyer in Houston, Texas, and featured in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and American Lawyer. 

Lanier looks at the rationality of atheism and its coherence in the world as we understand it. He writes, “I am compelled to find answers to big questions that harmonize. I expect consistency. Consistency is the bedrock of logic, science, and sound thinking. I must have consistency.” 4

A couple of years ago, I had a conversation with a woman who did not believe in God. She reasoned the complexity and immensity of the universe was beyond what any ‘god’ could create, but manage in any sense of the word. 

Of course, she had put God in a box; her mind, and arguably this is true for all of us, cannot truly fathom who God is and what He is capable of. 

Richard Dawkins has the same line of thinking in his best-selling book, The God Delusion. Lanier writes, “With all due respect to Richard Dawkins’s brain power, that is not proof there is not God. If the average human brain is a full three pounds of grey matter, and I give Dawkins a brain and a half, still even four and a half pounds of neural and glial cells surely cannot be the standard for determining the makeup of the mind of God.”5

Can an insect, or even a dog or horse, conceive of man building the Golden Gate Bridge or flying from LA to New York? 1 Corinthians 2:9 Romans 11:34

Justice and Fairness

Steven Fry, a graduate of Cambridge and an outspoken atheist, was asked what he would say if he came face to face with God. Fry replied, “I’d say, ‘Bone cancer in children? What’s that about? How dare you? How dare you create a world to which there is such misery that is not our fault? It’s not right, it’s utterly, utterly evil. Why should I respect a capricious, mean-minded, stupid God who creates a world which is so full of injustice and pain?’ That’s what I would say.”6

What Fry and others need to recognize or accept is the hardwired concept of fairness, justice, and morality. How did this idea come about from natural selection? It didn’t. Lanier asks the same thing, “So where do the concepts come from? If there is a Judeo-Christian God, the answer is easy. If there isn’t, one is hard-pressed to find a source beyond the fascinating electrical synapses of human sacks of chemicals.”7

Lanier points out that the notion of justice and fairness is essential to Fry, but “Consider how this came to be. Should one believe that people have developed a keen sense of justice and fairness through natural selection? That somehow individuals benefit from fair treatment, and that humanity found it comes only if we ensure fairness to society? Perhaps, but that’s a stretch of post hoc analysis.”6 

He explains humans don’t want fairness; people want what they want, not what is best for their neighbors. The world doesn’t have a society where the redistribution of wealth comes from the heart of the people, and it never will. Jeremiah 17:9

Confronting Christianity

This was published in 2019 and written by Rebecca Mclaughlin, who holds a Ph.D. in Renaissance literature from Cambridge and a theology degree from Oak Hill College. She is also a former vice president of content at the Veritas Forum. 

When it comes to apologetics I have read William Lane Craig, Nancy Pearcey, Doug Powell, Hugh Ross, Kenneth Samples, Frank Turek, John Lennox, R.C. Sproul, Johnathan Morrow, Abdu Murray, J.P. Moreland, Greg Koukl, Tim Keller, C.S. Lewis, Josh and Sean McDowell, Ravi Zacharias, Nabeel Qureshi, Paul Copan and a dozen others who would be considered the heavy hitters in Christian apologetics. All of their books, lectures, and debates have bolstered my faith, but none of their books would I describe as beautifully written. Rebecca Mclaughlin has done just that. Weaving personal experience and exposing vulnerable struggles within herself, she is empathetic to the battles many have. 

At the same time, she addresses many of the hard questions Christians may face when having discussions with unbelievers. She gracefully acknowledges the shortcomings of Christians in the past and the harm they have done in the name of Jesus. Mclaughlin then removes the layers of counterarguments without using hyperbole and other inflammatory language, and lays the facts on the table for all to see. 

Violent Buddhists?

Concerning religion and violence, she acknowledges the Crusades, as has William Lane Craig and other Christian apologists, though liberal historians have greatly exaggerated the numbers. And few have any doubt about the violence and blood on the hands of martyrs in the name of Islam. However, are there other examples? 

In 2018, the New York Times ran an op-ed titled, “Why Are We Surprised When Buddhists Are Violent?” Mclaughlin explains, “The article cites Sri Lanka’s civil war…fueled by ‘specifically Buddhist nationalism’; violence in modern Thailand; violence within the Dalai Lam’s own sect; and a growing body of scholarly literature on the martial complicity of Buddhist institutions in World War II era with Japanese nationalism.”8 Mclaughlin explains it is not that Buddhism is inherently violent, but as a religion, it is not free of blood-stained hands; no religion is. 

Some of you may have seen the 2016 Martin Scorsese film Silence. Tens of thousands of Christians in the 1700s were executed in horrific ways at the hands of the Shinto-Buddhist government. When we think of the Shinto Shrine, pictures of serene monks meditating, incense softly trailing in the air, and lush green foliage come to mind. 

Yet, Christianity and Islam seem to be the center of the target and the examples the media draws attention to. 

Rohingya Muslims in Buddhist majority Myanmar have experienced terrible violence at the hands of Buddhist soldiers. Nicholas Kristof writes, “‘Ethnic cleansing’ and even ‘genocide’ are antiseptic and abstract terms. What they mean in the flesh is a soldier grabbing a crying baby girl named Suhaifa by the leg and flinging her into a bonfire.”9

Religion is a Tool

Mao Tse-tung said, “Politics is war without bloodshed, while war is politics with bloodshed.” Religion has been and will continue to be used as a tool to further the agenda of politicians/dictators whose goal is control and power. 

Nazis changed scripture and published bibles to make Jesus a blond-haired, blue-eyed Aryan. Hitler announced, “I can imagine Christ as nothing other than blond and blue eyes, the devil however only with a Jewish grimace.”10 

Mclaughlin rightly points out human goodness is not innate, and the Bible makes that clear from Genesis to Revelation. “We are not naturally good people who behave badly only if we have been deprived of the proper upbringing, education, or circumstances. Rather, we are innately sinful, veering toward selfishness like a car with a misaligned steering wheel.”11 

“Staked at the heart of Christianity is a symbol of extreme violence – the brutal, torturous, state-sponsored execution of an innocent man. Christians believe that this execution was orchestrated by God himself. Some argue from this that Christianity glorifies violence. But the meaning of the cross is precisely the opposite. Violence is the use of power by the strong to hurt the weak. At the cross, the most powerful man who ever lived submitted to the most brutal death ever died, to save the powerless. Christianity does not glorify violence. It humiliates it.”12 

Irreversible Damage

Abigail Shrier writes, “This is a story Americans need to hear. Whether or not you have an adolescent daughter, whether or not your child has fallen for this transgender craze, America has become fertile ground for this mass enthusiasm for reasons that have everything to do with our cultural frailty: parents are undermined; experts are over-relied upon; dissenters in science and medicine are intimidated; free speech truckles under renewed attack… and the desire to escape a dominant identity encourages individuals to take cover in victim groups.13

Having raised three daughters and entering the phase of life where I am inclined to mention the joys of grandchildren to strangers, this book hits a home run for those who have serious concerns about the transgender storm and gender-affirming contagion that has overwhelmed our culture. 

Girls Becoming Boys

There is no doubt a generation of youth has drunk the Kool-aid and been taught and bullied into believing double mastectomies and puberty blockers are steps girls can take to become men. 

Parents and grandparents should be aware and informed about what is being taught at their child’s school. “The ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and GLSEN (formally the “Gay and Lesbian Independent School Teachers Network”) supply curriculum materials. Their members are routinely brought into schools to lecture students on sexual orientation and gender.”14

If you attend school in a progressive urban city, LA, San Francisco, or New York come to mind. All you need to view is the school district calendar. Pride month? No, it is now a pride year parade, and you better get in line, or you can expect to be ostracized by staff and peers. 

The LGBTQ Calendar

October begins with “Coming Out Day,” followed by “International Pronouns Day,” and “LGBTQ History Month”. In November, we find “Transgender Awareness Week” and “Transgender Day of Remembrance,” March is “Transgender Visibility Month,” and April adds “Day of Silence/Day of Action.” May is “Harvey Milk Day,” and June is “Pride Month.”15

Any educator worth their weight in salt should proactively address any form of bullying. This includes students who identify as LGBTQ or transgender, but the pendulum has swung far and wide of any sensibility or reasonableness. 

A better remedy would be to teach all classmates kindness, understanding, compassion, and decency, regardless of their skin color, sexual orientation, political beliefs, or religion. What is a shame is that many students lack those kinds of characteristics, something generally taught at home, but now educators have to spend time reinforcing those virtuous behaviors.

After 25 years of teaching and dealing with parents, the old saying “the apple does not fall far from the tree” holds true. Some never get it; tragically, their children seem to be one train wreck after another, yet it is the teacher’s fault. 

The States Solution

Parents are blind to the fact they have acquiesced the raising of their children to the current culture. What is streaming on the big screen? What do they follow on Youtube, Instagram, and Twitter/X? They have unhindered access to smartphones, which suck away their time and bleach their brains. 

And the state’s solution? Affirm everything the child feels. Can you imagine a school board mandating everyone wear a pagri (Hindu head wrap), or a panung sash across their torso? Then, they affirm their religion is true and accurate because some Hindu students were teased. 

Shrier points out that ‘bullying’ is used as an excuse to indoctrinate youth on gender ideology, and those who are questioning their gender or adopt one of the nearly one hundred labels on the new gender spectrum must be affirmed. The National Education Association (NEA) warns, “The consequences of not affirming a child’s gender identity can be severe, and it can interfere with their ability to develop and maintain healthy interpersonal relationships.”16

Obviously, many parents disagree with this conclusion and are standing up and speaking out to teachers, principals, and school boards. Unfortunately, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) considers it a violation of students’ rights if parents interfere with a student’s gender choices. If a student changes their pronouns from his to hers, the parents have no say, nor are they informed. 

Shrier ends her book with some advice for parents. 

Don’t get your kid a smartphone. Nearly every novel problem teenagers face traces itself back to 2007 and the introduction of Steve Jobs’s iPhone. In fact, the explosion in self-harm can be so precisely pinpointed to the introduction of this one device that researchers have little doubt that it is the cause.17
Don’t relinquish your authority as the parent.
Don’t support gender ideology in your child’s education.
Reintroduce privacy into the home.
Consider big steps to separate your daughter from harm.
Stop pathologizing girlhood.
Don’t be afraid to admit: It’s wonderful to be a girl.

There are three types of books you can learn from: books that encourage you, books that inform you, and books that challenge you. If you don’t read books challenging your status quo, you are simply building a room without doors and windows. 

It is easier to perceive error than to find truth, for the former lies on the surface and is easily seen, while the latter lies in the depth, where few are willing to search for it. – Johann von Goethe

Book Reviews 2023 by James Glazier is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

  1. Kim, Jay. “Kindness and Goodness Instead of Hostility.” Analog Christian, IVP, 2022, pg. 85 []
  2. Kim, Jay. “Kindness and Goodness Instead of Hostility.” Analog Christian, IVP, 2022, pg. 33 []
  3. Kim, Jay. “Kindness and Goodness Instead of Hostility.” Analog Christian, IVP, 2022, pg. 8 []
  4. Lanier, Mark, W. “Opening Statment.” Atheism On Trial, IVP 2022, pg.12 []
  5. Lanier, Mark, W. “Opening Statment.” Atheism On Trial, IVP 2022, pg.29 []
  6. Lanier, Mark, W. “Opening Statment.” Atheism On Trial, IVP 2022, pg.85 [] []
  7. Lanier, Mark, W. “Opening Statment.” Atheism On Trial, IVP 2022, pg.87 []
  8. Mclaughlin, Rebecca. “Doesn’t Religion Cause Violence?” Crossway, 2019, pg. 80 []
  9. Kristof, Nicholas. “Is This Genocide?” New York Times, 15 December 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/15/opinion/sunday/genocide-myanmar-rohingya-bangladesh.html 6 Dec. 2023 []
  10. Mclaughlin, Rebecca. “Doesn’t Religion Cause Violence?” Crossway, 2019, pg. 83 []
  11. Mclaughlin, Rebecca. “Doesn’t Religion Cause Violence?” Crossway, 2019, pg. 92 []
  12. Mclaughlin, Rebecca. “Doesn’t Religion Cause Violence?” Crossway, 2019, pg. 93 []
  13. Shrier, Abigail. “Introduction.” Irreversible Damage-The transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters, Regnery, 2020, pg xxix []
  14. Shrier, Abigail. “Introduction.” Irreversible Damage-The transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters, Regnery, 2020, pg 64 []
  15. Shrier, Abigail. “Introduction.” Irreversible Damage-The transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters, Regnery, 2020, pg 69 []
  16. Shrier, Abigail. “Introduction.” Irreversible Damage-The transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters, Regnery, 2020, pg 71 []
  17. Shrier, Abigail. “Introduction.” Irreversible Damage-The transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters, Regnery, 2020, pg 212 []
Stop! Consider What Is Wrong With The Passion Translation – Part III

Stop! Consider What Is Wrong With The Passion Translation – Part III

Reading Time: 8 minutes

The above image by Smiling Pixell from Pixabay

 

Ties To The New Apostolic Reformation

The Passion Translation has ties to the New Apostolic Reformation, which several biblical scholars have pointed out. Andrew Wilson, a teaching pastor with degrees in history and theology from Cambridge, explains greetings in Scripture are straightforward to translate. He says, “…virtually all the major translations render Philippians 1:1 pretty much the same way: “Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus.” But TPT throws in at least two ideas that fit the agenda of the version, but appear nowhere in the text: “My name is Paul and I’m joined by my spiritual son Timothy, both of us passionate servants of Jesus, the Anointed One.”((Wilson, Andrew. “What’s Wrong With The Passion ‘Translation’?” Think Theology, thinktheology.co.uk, 6 Wednesday, 2016, https://thinktheology.co.uk/blog/article/whats_wrong_with_the_passion_translation)) So let’s continue looking at the translations I have used in this series of posts comparing The Passion Translation to the NIV, NASB, and the KJV.

Philippians 1:1

The NIV saysPaul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons:

The NASB saysPaul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons:

The KJV saysPaul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:

TPT saysMy name is Paul and I’m joined by my spiritual son Timothy, both of us passionate servants of Jesus, the Anointed One.

Furthermore, Wilson explains in the very next verse where Paul says, “Grace and peace to you,” The Passion Translation reads, “We decree over your lives the blessings of divine grace and supernatural peace.”((Wilson, Andrew. “What’s Wrong With The Passion ‘Translation’?” Think Theology, thinktheology.co.uk, 6 Wednesday, 2016, https://thinktheology.co.uk/blog/article/whats_wrong_with_the_passion_translation)) The artistic license Simmons takes with his Passion Translation would make Bob Ross proud. Andrew Wilson identifies multiple mistranslations, insertions, and additions that don’t even come close to the original text. 

Dr. Shead alluded to how Simmons slips in the prophetic to appeal to those within the NAR circles. Shead explains the translations of Syriac and Greek in the footnotes are incorrect. Shead writes, “Simmons renders ‘word’ in Psalm 119:11 as ‘prophecies’, claiming that this is translated from the Septuagint. The Greek word in question (λόγιον) means ‘word’, ‘teaching’ or ‘saying’; thrice in the Bible it means ‘oracle’. But in Psalm 119 it is a key term meaning ‘word’ or ‘promise’ – and this is how Simmons translates all 18 other cases in this psalm where the Septuagint has λόγιον. It appears that he was just looking for an excuse to slip prophecy in, despite the fact that the Psalm celebrates God’s written word, not the spoken oracles he gave his prophets.”((Shead, Andrew, G. “Burning Scripture with Passion: A Review of The Psalms (The Passion Translation).” The Gospel Coalition, thegospelcoalition.org, April 2018, https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/themelios/article/burning-scripture-with-passion-a-review-of-the-psalms-passion-translation/))

God’s language of love in Scripture is not hiding. What He has done for us is spelled out plainly, and Simmons, with his visions and visitations, is not needed to expose ‘the secrets’ that supposedly hide within Scripture; because there are none. Scripture is compiled of figurative language, narrative, history, poetry, letters, prophecy, and oratory language, all of which are ways God has used to express his neverending grace, mercy, and love for us. 

Dr. Michael Rydelnik points out, “Brian Simmons holds to an egalitarian view of men and women in ministry and marriage, and his paraphrase reinterprets the meaning of the words to reflect his own view. He also repeatedly uses words and phrases that are significant in the hyper-charismatic world, even when they’re not in the text of Scripture.”((Rydelnik, Michael. “The Problems with the Passion Translation.” Dr. Michael Rydelnik, michaelrydelnik.org, 14 January 2023, 18 March 2023. https://www.michaelrydelnik.org/the-problems-with-the-passion-translation/))

Endorsements

One notable blogger, Dr. Paul Ellis, who endorses The Passion Translation, says, “There are plenty of critical reviews pointing out what TPT gets wrong, so let me point out some things it gets right.”((Ellis, Paul. “Paul’s Review of The Passion Translation.” Escape to Reality, 9 Feb. 2022, escapetoreality.org/. Accessed March 1. 2023. https://escapetoreality.org/2022/02/09/review-of-the-passion-translation/)) Concerning John 15:2, Dr. Ellis explains that Jesus does not remove unfruitful branches, but He lifts them up. Sure, there are many passages Simmons gets correct, but I have to ask, why would I want to read a bible with errors, or even numerous errors? 

Dr. Ellis continues concerning John 15:2, “If you are an unfruitful Christian, would you rather hear [emphesis mine] that Jesus plans to cut you off and take you away (something he never said) or that he will lift you up? Bad translations hurt people; good ones encourage them to trust Jesus.”((Ellis, Paul. “Paul’s Review of The Passion Translation.” Escape to Reality, 9 Feb. 2022, escapetoreality.org/. Accessed March 1 2023. https://escapetoreality.org/2022/02/09/review-of-the-passion-translation/))

Frankly, who cares about what you would ‘rather hear’? Reading Scripture is not an exercise in subjectivism. What is important is what the author is trying to communicate. Don’t read the word to chase the next emotional high or find the next spiritual encounter; those will come naturally. I don’t read the word to feel good; I read the word to understand God. 

If you read the word, flipping through the pages to find something that will confirm a desire you have been praying about or to find a passage that jumps out at you, and you take it as a sign from God, you are going about it all wrong. This method is a favorite pass time of many Christians, but it is seriously flawed. 

It could be Dr. Ellis is pointing out you attract more flies with honey rather than a fly swatter. I get that; nevertheless, The Passion Translation is not something I will read or recommend to new or even experienced Christians. 

Another blogger Margaret Mowczko believes this newer interpretation of John 15:2 is more appealing to this generation but questions if that is true.

She explains, “The main reason is a reluctance, even a ‘terror’ as someone told me, of accepting the idea that a branch may be removed from the Vine―cut off from Jesus―due to a lack of productivity. And this removal appears to go against the theology of eternal security, or ‘once saved, always saved.'((Mowczko, Margaret. “Are the branches lifted up or taken away in John 15:2a?” Marg Mowczko Exploring the biblical theology of Christian egalitarianism, margmowczko.com, September 1, 2022. https://margmowczko.com/takes-away-or-lifts-up-branches-john-15/))

She continues, “… Jesus’s statements about the unproductive branches, and similar statements in the Gospels, were deliberately designed to be startling and sobering so that hearers would pay attention and assess their hearts and their actions.”((Mowczko, Margaret. “Are the branches lifted up or taken away in John 15:2a?” Marg Mowczko Exploring the biblical theology of Christian egalitarianism, margmowczko.com, September 1, 2022. https://margmowczko.com/takes-away-or-lifts-up-branches-john-15/)) She rightfully points out that Jesus often used hyperbole to shock and get the attention of his listeners. She feels He intended to provoke an action, not to be a statement on the doctrine of salvation, once saved, always saved. 

He Is More Than Love

I think of the popular Christian artist and musician Zach Williams, whose music I thoroughly enjoy, but he has a line in his popular song, Heart of God, that is misleading. “There’s only love in the heart of God.” So many Christians can’t fathom a God or don’t want to consider a God that has other characteristics. Characteristics which make some Christians uncomfortable. 

They certainly don’t want to think of a God with righteous anger, jealousy, wrath, or vengeance. Or a God that demands us to hate. Psalm 97:10 So many Christians have this ‘Precious Moments Figurine‘ picture of God, sugar and spice and everything nice. Yet, Scripture makes it quite clear it is terrifying to fall into the hands of our living God. Hebrews 10:31

Yes, He is loving, 1 John 3:1, but he has other attributes. 

  • He is giving John 3:16 
  • He is caring Matthew 6:26 
  • He is merciful Ephesians 2:4-5 
  • He is righteous Psalm 145:17 
  • He is just Psalm 89:14

Thankfully, the righteousness and justice He has, and demands we have, He provides through His Son Jesus. Because, without Jesus, this does not end well. Matthew 25:41. Ya, you never hear love songs about the goats and the roasting they receive. 

Brian Simmons describes his Passion Translation as a ‘heart-level’ translation (whatever that means) using Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic manuscripts,’ which ‘expresses God’s fiery heart of love, merging emotion and life-changing truth, and unfolds the deep mysteries of the Scriptures in the love language of God.'((“Bible Gateway Removes the Passion Bible Translation from Its Site – Premier Christian News: Headlines, Breaking News, Comment & Analysis.” Premier Christian News, Premier Christian News, February 10 2022, https://premierchristian.news/en/news/article/bible-gateway-removes-the-passion-bible-translation-from-its-site.))

This supposed translation is backed by several Christian leaders, including Bill Johnson of Bethel Church and Hillsong’s Bobbie Houston. Some compare it to the Message Bible, but the numerous additions, subtractions, and alterations without explanations should steer thoughtful Christians away from this reading.((“Bible Gateway Removes the Passion Bible Translation from Its Site – Premier Christian News: Headlines, Breaking News, Comment & Analysis.” Premier Christian News, Premier Christian News, February 10, 2022, https://premierchristian.news/en/news/article/bible-gateway-removes-the-passion-bible-translation-from-its-site.))

Should you read The Passion Translation? I’m not. If you do, never use it as a main course. Instead, it would be best to question what you read by comparing it to other solid and reliable translations. 

Brian Simmon’s intentions may have been honorable initially, but he has taken an artistic license with Scripture that all Christians should be critical of. His supposed ‘heart-level’ translation often appeals to those driven by feelings and emotions. Some think if the feelings are absent, then something is wrong, yet that can be part of a Christian’s walk. Psalm 13:1 Psalm 83:1 Job 30:20

Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance. – George Bernard Shaw

The plea of good intentions is not one that can be allowed to have much weight in passing of historical judgment upon a man whose wrong-headedness and distorted way of looking at things produce, or helped to produce, such incalculable evil – Theodore Roosevelt

To summarize my main points in all three posts:

  • Brian Simmons does not have a ‘real’ doctorate from an accredited university. 
  • The early translations of his Passion Translations were by Simmons alone. It was only after many theologians were publicly critical of his work that he added some other translators. 
  • Most modern, actual translations, have over 100 PhDs as contributors, editors, and authors. For example, my ESV has over 120 Ph.Ds. contributors listed, all from accredited universities. 
  • Simmons relied primarily on Aramaic, not Greek.((Rydelnik, Michael. “The Problems with the Passion Translation.” Dr. Michael Rydelnik, michaelrydelnik.org, 14 January 2023, 18 March 2023. https://www.michaelrydelnik.org/the-problems-with-the-passion-translation/))
  • It is abundantly clear Simmons adds words and phrases that are not in the original text. 
  • Simmons had visits 1 & 2 from Jesus himself, then visions where he visited heaven’s library where Jesus promised him a book of the Bible (John 22) that he alone would receive and have knowledge of to share with others. 
  • Simmons has never offered any explanation for the changes in his new editions. Nor will he sit in the ‘hot seat’ and be interviewed by serious and legitimate theologians that are critical of his work. 
  • Bible Gateway is no longer using The Passion Translation. 
  • Littered with words and phrases, The Passion Translation amplifies emotions and feelings to appeal to those in the NAR circles and those chasing the next experience.

What do you aim for when reading Scripture? Do you have a purpose or objective? What is your intent? Is it to know and understand God in a more accurate and truthful way? I would hope so. If that is the case, I would ask, would you purchase an inaccurate gun if you wanted to do some target shooting? Of course not; you would want a weapon that was as accurate as possible. So why would you then purchase and read a supposed translation that was highly inaccurate and often gives you a false picture of God, his disciples, and their world 2000 years ago? Put away your Passion Translation and aim true. 

I suggest you read these reviews of The Passion Translation: 
The Gospel Coalition  
Dr. Lionel Windsor’s 
Alisa Childers 
Dr. Michael Rydelnik
Holly Pivec’s

Full Interview with Sid Roth

Recommended Books:
A New Apostolic Reformation
God’s Super-Apostles 

Creative Commons License
Stop! Consider What Is Wrong With The Passion Translation – Part III by James W Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at https://christianapologetics.blog/stop-consider-what-is-wrong-with-the-passion-translation-part-iii/.

Stop! Consider What Is Wrong With The Passion Translation – Part III

Stop! Consider What Is Wrong With The Passion Translation – Part II

Reading Time: 6 minutes
The above image by Smiling Pixell from Pixabay

In Part I, I touched on the background of Brian Simmons and what goes into reliable translations. Below I will give you specific examples of The Passion Translation (TPT) compared to the New International Version (NIV), New American Standard Bible (NASB), or the King James Version (KJV), so you can decide for yourself. 

Comparing Translations

Ephesians 6:10.

The NIV saysFinally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.

The NASB saysFinally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.

The KJV saysFinally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.

TPT says: Now my beloved ones, I have saved these most important truths for last: Be supernaturally infused with strength through your life-union with the Lord Jesus. Stand victorious with the force of his explosive power flowing in and through you.((Simmons, Brian. “Psalm 57.” The Passion Translation 2020 Edition, BroadStreet Publishing, 2020, p.525))

Andrew Shead, head of the Old Testament department at Moore Theological College, holds a Ph.D. at Cambridge and has earned a Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Theology, and Masters of Theology, says, “Brian Simmons has made a new translation of the Psalms (and now the whole New Testament) which aims to ‘re-introduce the passion and fire of the Bible to the English reader.’ He achieves this by abandoning all interest in textual accuracy, playing fast and loose with the original languages, and inserting so much new material into the text that it is at least 50% longer than the original. The result is a strongly sectarian translation that no longer counts as Scripture; by masquerading as a Bible it threatens to bind entire churches in thrall to a false god.”((Shead, Andrew, G. “Burning Scripture with Passion: A Review of The Psalms (The Passion Translation).” The Gospel Coalition, thegospelcoalition.org, April 2018, https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/themelios/article/burning-scripture-with-passion-a-review-of-the-psalms-passion-translation/))

Psalm 57:1

The NIV saysHave mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me, for in you I take refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.

The NASB saysBe gracious to me, O God, be gracious to me, For my soul takes refuge in You; And in the shadow of Your wings I will take refuge Until destruction passes by.

The KJV saysBe merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me: for my soul trusteth in thee: yea, in the shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge, until these calamities be overpast.

TPT saysPlease, God, show me mercy! Open your grace-fountain for me, for you are my soul’s true shelter. I will hide beneath the shadow of your embrace, under the wings of your cherubim, until this terrible trouble is past. 

You use a hyphen to form a compound adjective before a noun. After researching, 

mechon-mamre.org and www.chabad.org

I don’t see anything relating to a grace-fountain. Nor do I see cherubim in the text. 

Brian Simmons may have good intentions (frankly, I find that dubious), but his methods are questionable, to put it mildly. The Passion Translation is not a translation you can trust, consider reliable, or be faithful to the author’s intent to share the word of God. 

Galatians 2:19

The NIV says: For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God.

The NASB says: For through the Law I died to the law, so that I might live to God.

The KJV says: For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God.

TPT says: For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God [in heaven’s freedom]1 Note the updated version has changed by dropping, “in heaven’s freedom.” No explanation in the footnotes as to why this newer version has changed. 

Dr. Andrew Wilson, who has ‘real‘ degrees in theology and history from Cambridge, wrote concerning the early editions of The Passion Translation, “…in Galatians 2:19, hina theō zēsō, which simply means ‘that I might live for God’, has been ‘translated’ as ‘so that I can live for God in heaven’s freedom’. To be clear: there is no indication whatsoever in the Greek of that sentence, or the rest of the chapter, that either heaven or its freedom are in view in this text.”2

Wilson continued to explain TPT is not a translation. He said Simmons is adding to Scripture and pointed out what Revelation 22:18-19 has to say about Christians who do this. 

Mark 1:15

The NIV says: “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

The NASB says: and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

The KJV says: And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.

TPT says“At last the fulfillment of the age has come! It is time for the realm of God’s kingdom to be experienced in fullness! Turn your lives back to God and put your trust in the hope-filled gospel!”

It is clear that Simmons is adding to the original words of Scripture. 

According to Got Questions, “The additions in The Passion Translation are justified with the claim that this translation ‘enhances [the Bible’s] meaning by going beyond a literal translation to magnifying God’s original message.'”3

No Explanations

Psalm 18:1

The NIV saysI love you, Lord, my strength.

The NASB saysI love you, O Lord, my strength.

The KJV saysI will love thee, O Lord, my strength.

TPT saysLord, I passionately love you. I want to embrace you, for now you’ve become my power!

Simmons has made many changes to his first and subsequent editions but has yet to offer any explanations. Consequently, you will find nothing in his footnotes or any online explanations of these changes. 

Dr. Shead also writes, “Simmons seems as uninterested in linguistic accuracy as he is in textual accuracy. He searches the dictionary, and sometimes apparently his imagination, for ways to insert new ideas that happen to align with his goals, regardless of their truthfulness.”4

Athanasius, born around 300 AD and an early defender/apologist of orthodox Christianity, wrote a warning about what Simmons does in his Passion Translation, “There is, however, one word of warning needed. No one must allow himself to be persuaded, by any arguments whatever, to decorate the Psalms with extraneous matter or make alterations in their order or change the words themselves.”5

In their book, God’s Super-Apostles, Douglas Geivet, a legitimate professor at Biola University, and Holly Pivic point out The Passion Translation completely rewords verses making them appear to support the New Apolostic Reformation (NAR). For example, in the Passion Translation, Galatians 6:6 says there is a transference of anointing between teachers, prophets, and their followers. It says, “And those who are taught the Word will receive an impartation from their teacher; a transference of anointing takes place between them.”6 This is just one example of a translation Simmons used to correlate with the NAR doctrine where this ‘transference of anointing’ is taught and endorsed. 

“Unfortunately, The Passion Translation (TPT) shows little understanding, either of the process of textual criticism, or of the textual sources themselves.”4

Christians are often sucked in by the experience and led down a path that leads away from the truth. Words like supernatural, explosive, power, flowing, infused, union, victorious, force, grace-fountain, embrace, soul-shelter, experience, and fullness, are littered like breadcrumbs for the wayward traveler to follow. The Passion Translation often resonates with the Christian seeking the ‘next experience,’ but they are being misled. Thinking they have found a way home and a path that sings to their soul, but instead, the course is twisted, and the song is deceptive.

1 John 4:1

2 Peter 1:20-21

Discernment is not a matter of simply telling the difference between right and wrong; rather it is telling the difference between right and almost right. – Charles Spurgeon

This is a time when all of God’s people need to keep their eyes and their Bibles wide open. We must ask God for discernment as never before. – David Jeremiah

 

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  1. Simmons, Brian. “Psalm 57.” The Passion Translation 2020 Edition, BroadStreet Publishing, 2020, p.503 []
  2. Wilson, Andrew. “What’s Wrong With The Passion ‘Translation’?” Think Theology, thinktheology.co.uk, 6 Wednesday, 2016, https://thinktheology.co.uk/blog/article/whats_wrong_with_the_passion_translation []
  3. “What is the Passion Translation of the Bible?” GotQuestions.org. https://www.gotquestions.org/Passion-Translation.html []
  4. Shead, Andrew, G. “Burning Scripture with Passion: A Review of The Psalms (The Passion Translation).” The Gospel Coalition, thegospelcoalition.org, April 2018, https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/themelios/article/burning-scripture-with-passion-a-review-of-the-psalms-passion-translation/ [] []
  5. ‘The Letter of St. Athanasius to Marcellinus on the Interpretation of the Psalms,’ in St. Athanasius on the Incarnation: The Treatise de incarnatione verbi Dei, ed. and trans. A Religious of CSMV, 2nd ed. (London: Mowbray, 1953), 116. []
  6. Geivett, Douglas. Pivec, Holly. “NAR Prophets vs. Prophets in the Bible.” God’s Super-Apostles, Weaver Book, 2014. []
Stop! Consider What Is Wrong With The Passion Translation – Part III

Stop! Consider What Is Wrong With The Passion Translation – Part I

Reading Time: 5 minutes

The above image by Smiling Pixell from Pixabay

Brian Simmons is the founder of Stairway Ministries in Wichita, Kansas, and also an ‘apostle’ under the apostle Che’ Ahn with Harvest International Ministry. And you thought there were only 12 apostles. Simmons also worked for eight years in Panama as a church planter and Bible Translator, but is now the lead translator and author of the Passion Translation.((Pivec, Holly. “Important facts about The Passion Translation.” Holly Pivec, hollypivec.com, 23 June 2018, https://www.hollypivec.com/blog/2018/06/important-facts-about-the-passion-translation/7962))

Presently Simmons has translated the entire New Testament along with Psalms, Proverbs, and Son of Songs. He earned his doctorate with the Wagner Leadership Institute specializing in prayer. That’s who I want to pray for me! However, I’ll point out the Wagner Leadership Institute (now called Wagner University) is not an accredited seminary or Bible college that offers academic courses on the Bible or Theology. But this so-called university teaches courses on being apostles, prophets, and miracle workers. That is a red flag for me!((Pivec, Holly. “Important facts about The Passion Translation.” Holly Pivec, hollypivec.com, 23 June 2018, https://www.hollypivec.com/blog/2018/06/important-facts-about-the-passion-translation/7962))

A God-Given Mission

This duty, mission, and assignment to write the Passion Translation, he claims, came directly from God. View this 40-second clip where he claims on the Sid Roth show that Jesus commissioned him to write the Passion Translation.  That should raise some concerns. 

Brian Simmons said, “Jesus Christ came into my room. He breathed on me. And he spoke to me and said, ‘I’m commissioning you to translate the Bible into the translation project I am giving you to do.’ And he promised he would help me, and he promised me he would give me secrets of the Hebrew language. And I felt downloads coming; instantly I received downloads. It was like I got a chip put inside of me. I got a connection inside of me to hear him better. To understand the scriptures better, and hopefully to translate.”((Alisa Childers. “3 Things Christians Should Know About The Passion Translation.” Online video clip. Alisa Childers, 25 October 2020. Web. 24 February 2023.))

In the same interview, Simmons claims that Jesus showed him a new book of the Bible titled John 22. I can only imagine when he and his team of experts have completed translating the Bible, they will then be adding the new book to Scripture, which has been ‘endorsed’ by Jesus himself. Revelation 22:18-19

For the full 30-minute interview with Sid Roth, go here

Adding To Scripture

It is not a translation, and to suggest it, is misleading. When scholars work on translating, they convey the information as best they can to the original meaning. Some translations work toward accurate word-for-word translations (KJV or the NASB). In contrast, others work toward a thought-for-thought and look to share the sense of what the author wanted to communicate in the current language and culture (NIV).

Another point, the Passion Translation inserts and adds words, ideas, and concepts that have no attachment to the original Greek. Brian Simmons, the author of the Passion Translation, inserts the footnote, “implied by the context.” throughout his translation to cover his bases.((Wilson, Andrew. “What’s Wrong With The Passion ‘Translation’?” Think Theology, thinktheology.co.uk, 6 Wednesday, 2016, https://thinktheology.co.uk/blog/article/whats_wrong_with_the_passion_translation))

The NIV translation took over ten years and had over 100 scholars to complete. “…another team of five Bible scholars reviewed their work, carefully comparing it to the original biblical text and assessing its readability. From there, each book [of the Bible] went to a general committee of 8 to 12 scholars. As part of the final review, outside critics gave feedback. Samples were tested with pastors, students, and laypeople. Perhaps no other Bible translation has gone through a more thorough process to ensure accuracy and readability.”((“About The NIV.” The NIV Bible, thenivbible.com, 2023, https://www.thenivbible.com/about-the-niv/history-of-the-niv/))

The Passion Translation has Brian Simmons and his “team” of experts. 

Legitimate Translations

Textual criticism is the process used by scholars to determine what the original manuscripts of the Bible said. The standard among scholars is to use the earliest or most reliable manuscripts when translating Scripture. Sometimes the earliest may not be the most reliable, but those who study textual criticism understand what is needed to properly translate the passages because of their expertise and experience. 

Simmons claims the New Testament may have been written in Aramaic and not in Greek. So much of what Simmons translates is from Aramaic rather than the earlier and more reliable Greek manuscripts. In fact, the earliest Aramaic texts date 500 A.D., while Greek manuscripts date from the first century A.D. Dr. Lional Winsor wrote, “Aramaic was a language spoken in the Eastern Medeterrian. It was common in Seria, Judia, etc. Jesus probably spoke it, and Paul probably knew it too. But nobody thinks that Paul actually wrote Romans in Aramaic. Why would he? Very few people in Rome would have understood it.”((Alisa Childers. “3 Things Christians Should Know About The Passion Translation.” Online video clip. Alisa Childers, 25 October 2020. Web. 24 February 2023.))

Simmons has received substantial criticism from respected scholars and theologians concerning his ‘Passion Translation’ and has revised some of his verses. For example, later editions of Galatians 6:6 leave out the ‘transference of anointing.’ Yet, Simmons needs to explain his rewording of multiple passages in such a significant way. Such revisions would at least garner some explanation to his readers, but Simmons offers no justification. 

Is It a Translation?

I know several people who read The Passion Translation, but thankfully, I don’t know anyone who considers it their primary source for Biblical study. I would not recommend it to anyone; if asked, I would suggest they set it aside for a more accurate translation of God’s word. 

Despite the title of ‘The Passion Translation,’ it is not a translation; Simmons admitted he was not a scholar of the original languages.((Geivett, Douglas. Pivec, Holly. “NAR Prophets vs. Prophets in the Bible.” God’s Super-Apostles, Weaver Book, 2014.)) So I have to ask, how are you translating if you are not skilled in the languages? Like his revisions, he offers no reasons and Simmons removed this quoted admission on Amazon. Still, the authors of God’s Super-Apostles have a copy of his admission in their possession. And why have subsequent editions of The Passion Translation yet to include any footnotes regarding the changes in the text? And there have been numerous, which I will point out in Part II. 

As a result, in 2022 Biblegateway.com removed the ‘Passion Translation.’ Biblegateway has over a million monthly visits and is the number one site visited when referencing the Bible. That should tell you something. Bible scholars, including those who translated the NIV, use a more rigorous standard. A new version must closely adhere to its source’s wording, syntax, and structure. Critics of The Passion Translation say it doesn’t meet those standards and functions as a paraphrase while presenting itself as a translation.((Shellnutt, Kate. “Bible Gateway Removes The Passion Translation.” Christianity Today, christianitytoday.com, 9 February 2022, https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2022/february/passion-translation-tpt-bible-gateway-remove-charismatic-pa.html))

Despite the severe shortcomings of The Passion Translation, it is endorsed by Bill Johnson, Michael W. Smith, John Bevere, and a host of others within the New Apostolic Reformation circles. If you read The Passion Translation, you should be aware it is not a translation, despite claims it is. In Part II, I will give you multiple examples of his translations which should raise some red flags if the above information has not. 

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Have You Been Blessed?

Have You Been Blessed?

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Above image by Марина from Pixabay

The value of Bitcoin today is just shy of $19,000. However, in November of 2021, it was nearly $70,000. If someone sold a few Bitcoin then I am sure they felt blessed. 

In 2010 Martina McBride wrote the song ‘Blessed‘, which included the following lyrics, “I get kissed by the sun each morning…, I get to hear my children laughing. I thank God for all I’ve been given…I have been blessed with so much more than I deserve…”

Her lyrics adopt the world’s view on blessings. If you are blessed, you are happy, healthy, understood, appreciated, loved, admired, athletic, and wealthy, but is this the biblical view on blessings? 

The Beatitudes

Take a look at the Beatitudes which means blessedness. 

Blessed are the poor in spirit…

Blessed are those who mourn…

Blessed are the meek…

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness…

Blessed are the merciful…

Blessed are the pure in heart…

Blessed are the peacemakers…

Blessed are those who are persecuted…

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you…((Kim, Jay. “Joy Instead of Comparison.” Analog Christian, Intervarsity Press, 2022, p. 42))

Blessed are those who are persecuted? Blessed are those who mourn? That does not sound like a blessing to me. 

Nevertheless, I have had several experiences in the last few years that, at first glance, were not something I would have called a blessing. Some things are impossible to change, short of a miracle, but now I see many of them were a blessing despite the pain and anguish. I have heard the same from many friends who have navigated difficult times and loss but then expressed and shared the blessing from it.  

Those Blessed Get The Girl

Another songwriter, Thomas Rhett wrote these words in 2019 to his song ‘Blessed.’

“Watching you spin in that dress

Making my heart beat out my chest

I can’t count the times I’ve heard

People say I’m lucky

But lucky ain’t the word, oh, I’m blessed”

Rhett sings about a girl in his life that looks good, spinning in a dress, and he equates that to being blessed. Like Rhett, most believe our life’s circumstances determine how blessed or happy we are. Consequently, we spend a lot of time and money working toward that goal of being happy, and when we are happy, we are also blessed. They go hand in hand. 

At times it seems God is dropping these nuggets of happiness in our life to show that He loves us and wants to bless us. But finding the right spouse, having a good job, health and wealth does not necessarily mean you are blessed.

Jay Kim wrote “Analog Christian” and reflected on what it means to be blessed and how the world and many Christians confuse being blessed with being happy and often use them synonymously. 

Kim pointed out that there are more than 140,000,000 Instagram posts with the hashtag “blessed” and it is no surprise that almost all are of attractive people smiling with some beautiful backdrops. 

Indeed, God does bless us in those ways, but is that the only meaning of being blessed? Could it mean something more profound that can’t be seen on the surface? For example, have you ever experienced a blessing that came from difficult circumstances or tragedy in your life? 

Kim quoted theologian Rodney Reeves, “We often operate with the presumption that blessings are meant for our happiness. But Jesus didn’t see it that way at all; blessings are more important than that.”1

Types Of Blessings

You will find three types of blessings in scripture.

  • God to Man
  • Man to God
  • Man to Man

In Genesis 1:28, you will find the first appearance of blessing. “God blessed them and God said to them, “Be fertile and increase, fill the earth and master it.” Much more could be said, but one reoccurring theme of blessings is previously barren women having children. So fertility should be considered a blessing from God, not a characteristic of nature. 

Blessings of man to God take the form of praise to God. For example, thanking Him for events that have taken place. In the Psalms, you will read, “May God be blessed.” or some form of that adoration. Psalm 66:20, for example, you will find this type of blessing commonly in Psalms and Proverbs. It should be noted that man does not, or should not bless God to prompt further blessings, but to simply thank Him for what he has already done. 

Finally, man to man blessings can often be a greeting, salutation, or at the end of a meeting when someone may wish or pray that God will bless them as He does others. In Genesis, you will find scenes when an aging father blessed his children, a common practice in the Near East. These types of blessings were often considered binding wills for the surviving children. 

Mercy and Grace

A blessing is not the result of accumulating material things, nor is it defined as health with flawless white teeth (Joel Osteen comes to mind) or wealth with the latest 2022 eighty-grand F-150 with all the bells and whistles. Instead, it’s God’s divine favor that comes in the form of God’s protection and provisions. But more than that, God’s blessing comes in the form of His everlasting divine mercy and grace. If not for what His Son had done for us, the free gift of salvation, all the health and wealth would add up to nothing, just ashes, and dust. 

In difficult times I remind myself of this. Some things in my life I have no control over and can’t change. I have to accept the way things are and be thankful despite the proverbial thorn in my side. 

When life is demanding and challenging, I make a habit of counting my blessings the moment I wake up. I thank God for not only what I have, but what I have lost. You may not see the reasons for your circumstances, but ultimately you will, and He promises we will be comforted. 

Revelation 21:4 “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 

Philippians 4:11-13 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.


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  1. Reeves, Rodney, Matthew, The Story of God Commentary, MI. Grand Rapids, Zondervan Academic 2017, pg 143 []
Can You Defend What You Believe?

Can You Defend What You Believe?

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Swordplay

Many years ago, when I was in college, I took some fencing classes. No, not courses that teach you how to string barbed wire across your property, but lessons that instruct on swordplay. The class started with the foil, expanded to an epee, and finally, the saber. With some martial arts experience under my belt, I felt I had a slight advantage over some other beginning students. 

Several months down the road, I participated in a local college tournament and earned 2nd place after losing to a young woman in her late 20s. I had a 6-inch reach advantage over her and was as fast as she was, but she had more experience and knew some techniques I was unprepared for. 

I remember being frustrated because I could not score on her, and in my frustration, I moved in closer to press the attack, which is when she would often score. Finally, a few minutes later, she won the match.

Fleche

Fleche is a fencing term that is an explosive attack, ideally unexpected, to take your opponent off guard. So often, in conversations, we give away our advantages by making statements or claims we might have difficulty backing up if we don’t have the knowledge, background, or experience. So many Christians feel the pressure to be bold and evangelize their faith and are called to do so, but the truth is they hope no one will ask them any difficult questions they can’t answer. Then when questions start flying, they’re at a loss on what to say or how to respond. 

It should be obvious you don’t want to make any claims you can’t back up. 

Understandably, most Christians are not vocal about their faith for fear of offending or sounding silly when they can’t explain why they believe what they believe. 

Years ago, a co-worker Jennifer, who knows I enjoy blogging on apologetics and wrestling with tough questions, asked me about the crucifixion. She explained that someone asked her why Jesus was buried in a tomb. When the Romans crucified someone, they were thrown into an open grave or pit. In other words, why was Jesus so special? What made him an exception? What a good question; it does sound somewhat contrived, this whole placed-in-a-tomb-story followed by a resurrection claim.

Listen and Clarify

My initial response to her was to ask how he (her friend) knew that no one was buried in a tomb after being crucified? How did he come to that conclusion? That places the burden of proof on him, not because you are trying to avoid having to respond or that you don’t know the answer, but because you honestly want to know. 

We can’t expect to know all the answers to questions skeptics may ask, and it is essential to be honest when asked something you can’t answer. If you don’t know the answer, tell them. At the same time, when you ask someone how they came to that conclusion or what evidence they have for their reasoning, you may learn something in return. They may have good reasons for their claims, and you want to hear them. What is wrong with hearing their reasons? Nothing, and at worse, you will learn something. Not only from them, but if you then go home and research an answer, you will be better prepared to respond the next time someone asks you.

I had not heard that particular push-back before, and other than pointing out that Joseph of Arimathea was wealthy and a follower of Jesus who asked for his body so he could put Jesus in a tomb, Matthew 27:57, I would not have had anything else to add. So I went home and began my research for a blog post. What I found out surprised me, and maybe it will surprise you, too.

Crucifixions

History is unclear on who invented the crucifixion, but most historians believe it was the Persians. Romans crucified enemies for about 600 years, from 300 B.C. until the Roman emperor Constantine outlawed them in 337 A.D. One of the more famous accounts would be the slave uprising led by Spartacus in 73 B.C. After overpowering the Roman guards, the gladiators and slaves escaped from a gladiator school in Capua. The slave army expanded while pillaging the countryside and won several battles against the Romans until Spartacus and his army were trapped between two Roman legions with a 3rd soon to arrive. In 71 B.C., Spartacus and his army were defeated. Of those captured (over 6000) were crucified along the road from Capua to Rome, over 100 miles in length.((Czeck, Kenneth P. “Ancient History: Spartacus and the Slave Rebellion.” HistoryNet, historynet.com, n.d., http://www.historynet.com/spartacus.htm))

The ancient historian Josephus has multiple accounts of crucifixions; for example, Alexander Jannaeus, the Maccabean king, crucified hundreds while dining with his concubines. Varus, a Roman commander in Syria, crucified over 2000 Jews. Josephus even reported that during the siege of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., the Romans crucified up to 500 Jews a day until they ran out of timber in the surrounding countryside.((Josephus, Flavius. The Antiquities of the Jews. Trans. William Whiston. Blacksburg: Unabridged Books, 2011. Print.))

With crucifixion such a common practice for centuries, you would expect there to be an overflowing amount of skeletal evidence for this practice. But unfortunately, besides the multiple ancient historical accounts (Josephus is only one of many), we only have one archaeological piece of evidence, which happens to have been found in a tomb.

His name was Yehohanan, a young man in his mid-twenties who, around the time of Christ, did something to offend the Romans. For this offense, he was crucified. Because he was from a wealthy family, he was placed in a tomb, and after a year his bones were gathered together and then placed in a stone box called an ossuary. Two thousand years later, in 1968, a Jewish archeologist made the discovery, which is now on display in a museum in Israel.((Friedman, Matti, “In a stone box, the only trace of crucifixion.” The Times of Israel, timesofisrael.com, 26 March 2012, http://www.timesofisrael.com/in-a-stone-box-a-rare-trace-of-crucifixion/))

Why is there little Evidence for the Crucifixions?

The reasons for the lack of evidence are not necessarily apparent at first but substantial when you give it some consideration. First, nearly all crucified were not placed in a tomb but tossed into an open grave or left for animals to devour.

Second, it is a Jewish custom not to leave someone hanging up overnight, and often the bodies were taken down after several hours by the Jews. Deuteronomy 21:22-23. The bones would be scattered over time with little evidence remaining, and often they were criminals (at least in the view of Romans) and were not placed in tombs.

Third, injuries were often through soft tissue, not piercing bones, but if the bones were damaged, it would be difficult to tell from damage animals may have caused by gnawing on the bones. And not all who were crucified were nailed; some were just tied to the cross. 

Finally, crucifixion nails were considered magical or held special healing properties and were often collected when found. Consequently, the hardiest, longest-lasting evidence was often removed from the location of the crucifixion. The wooden crosses and the victims themselves would not last centuries, unlike the nails used.((Killgrove, Kristina. “This Bone Is The Only Skeletal Evidence For Crucifixion In The Ancient World.” Forbes, forbes.com, 8 December 2015, http://www.forbes.com/sites/kristinakillgrove/2015/12/08/this-bone-provides-the-only-skeletal-evidence-for-crucifixion-in-the-ancient-world/#10012eee403c))

I find it ironic that the claim, “No one crucified was ever buried in a tomb,” is not only false but the ‘only’ physical evidence we have for the ancient practice of crucifixion was found in a tomb of someone who was crucified.

Why Apologetics?

What you just read is an example of apologetics in action. Do you know what apologetics is? Apologetics is not apologizing for your faith – it is defending your faith. It stems from the Greek word apologia and means a verbal defense. Christians should be able to defend verbally why they are a Christian.

If someone asks you why you are a believer, can you give them reasons or evidence? Unfortunately, many Christians pull the experiential card, often based on feelings, emotions, and first-person experiences. Not to say those shared experiences don’t move others, but even the Mormons speak of a ‘burning in the bosom’ as a confirmation of their faith. If that is all two opposing views can offer, they seem to cancel one another out in my opinion. 

Why should a church engage in apologetics? Why should pastors teach apologetics? Why should youth groups be exposed to apologetics? There are several reasons:

  • 1 Peter 3:15
  • It builds the faith of believers. 
  • It feeds certain congregation members who may be more evidentially minded in their faith.
  • It prepares youth to hear arguments, reasoning, and conclusions counter to their faith. The first time they listen to claims counter to their belief should be before they move away.
  • Those who are confident in their answers are more willing to engage the culture and move beyond their comfort zone of fellow believers in conversation.

Your Style of Evangelism

I recently finished a book titled “Contagious Faith” by Mark Mittelberg. Mittelberg describes five styles of evangelism, and most of us favor one or two of the styles he describes. Not all of us are bible-thumping street evangelists, and to push some in that direction when it is not their natural style of evangelism can be a massive turn-off to sharing their faith. 

Mittelberg also recognizes it is not just a matter of having answers but a spiritual battle. “You see, helping people come to Christ is not just a matter of giving them good information or answers to their questions and objections. Neither is it just about being passionate or persuasive-though all of these can be important. It is, at bottom, a spiritual struggle that is being fought at an unseen level…”1

I recommend Contagious Faith for anyone curious about their natural style of sharing the good news. But no matter what your style of evangelism is, knowing what you believe and why you believe it is essential. 

Whether or not you want to admit it, you are walking the streets with a sword hanging from your hip. You are walking by others who are also armed. These swords are not called foils, epee’s, or sabers but by the more familiar names of explanation, ideas, reasons, evidence, justifications, beliefs, assertions, faith, and truth. 

When someone makes a truth claim, and you cross swords, you have two choices and only two choices. Learn from the experience, sharpen your skills, or remain the same; no better swordsman than you were before you engaged them. Which kind will you be?

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Can You Defend What You Believe? by James W Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

  1. Mittelberg, Mark. “Reached by God to Reach Others.” Contagious Faith, Grand Rapids, Zondervan Reflective, 2021 pg16 []

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