Life of Pi

Life of Pi

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Above image by Benjamin Balazs from Pixabay

In 2001 Yann Martel published the book Life of Pi, which became a hit film in 2012. One of the themes in the book claims all religions are true and it is enough to love God. 

At the movie’s beginning, we are introduced to a kind-hearted young man named Piscine Molitor Patel, or (Pi), the son of a zoo-keeper. As a young man, Pi earnestly seeks truth, looks for the good in all things, and decides to become a Christian, Krishna, and Muslim. 

One day, when walking in town with his parents, they run into Pi’s Christian priest, his Muslim imam, and his Hindu pandit. An awkward to say the least, as each in turn claims Pi is a devoted Christian, Muslim, and Hindu follower. Finally, they demand he choose one religion. Pi in his wisdom which surpasses his teachers, says, “Bapu Gandi said, ‘All religions are true.’ I just want to love God.”1

Fast forward, and we find Pi with his family on a cargo ship heading to Canada, but in a storm, the ship sinks, and Pi is stranded in a lifeboat with a hyena, an orangutan, an injured zebra, and a tiger named Richard Parker. Pi and Richard Parker survive on the open sea for seven months until they float to Mexico, where the tiger runs off into the jungle. 

When Pi is rescued, officials interview him on what happened to the ship. An accounting has to be made, and the owners of the ship who have lost a fortune want to know what took place and why the ship was lost. 

Pi shares the story of the animals in the lifeboat and how they survived, but the officials say that is complete nonsense. Pi then offers another version. He recounts the story, but this time the hyena is the ship’s cook, the orangutan is Pi’s mom, the zebra is a crew member, and Pi is the tiger. 

Pi explains the cook cut off the injured leg of the zebra and used the meat to catch fish. In time the cook kills his mother, and Pi, in turn, kills the cook. Pi ends the story with a choice for the interrogators; they are to choose which story they prefer. Pi points out it is irrelevant; they can’t prove one story over the other. The facts of either account can’t be proven, so it does not matter which they one choose. 

The officials choose the story with the animals, and Pi responds, “Thank you. And so it goes with God.”2

The point Martel makes is that, like the two stories that Pi told, it is with religion. No religion has the whole truth, and all are subject to various interpretations and conflicting stories. 

In today’s culture, religious claims are not truth claims, but cultural or preferred flavors and subjective (opinion) claims. In fact, making the claim that your religion is the correct religion is considered intolerant and unloving. However, Paul Gould points out in his book, Cultural Apologetics, “It does not follow that disagreement entails intolerance. We [as Christians] should tolerate-show love and respect to people, not ideas.”3

Unfortunately, in today’s culture, many on the left demand we show respect for their ideas and beliefs. Beliefs such as the right to choose an abortion must be not only tolerated but respected. Yet, I have no respect for that worldview and find it contemptible. Yet I understand and believe those people who hold such views should be respected and loved. Christian philosopher Peter Kreft wrote, “We ought to be egalitarian with people and elitist with ideas.4

Truth claims, by nature, are exclusive. For example, as I write this, it is raining outside my window. That is a truth claim, which correspond to reality and the world as we understand it. Truth claims hold a belief, thought, or statement that harmonizes with reality. 

If I tell my Jr high students 1/2 is an equivalent ratio to 25/50, that is either true or not; there is no in-between. It is not true some of the time or most of the time, nor is it possibly true or potentially true; it is true all of the time. Christians claim that Jesus is divine, but Muslims say Jesus was not divine, both can’t be correct, and both can’t be true. 

((Gould, Paul. “Addressing Barriers.” Cultural Apologetics, 2019, Zondervan, 2019, pg 194″))

In recent years as the gender identity storm has ravaged our cultural landscape, decisions about sexual orientation or gender identity are based entirely on feelings. There is no denying individuals struggle with gender identity, but gender-affirming care, which includes puberty blockers and surgery, were decided on feelings, not facts. Only in the last couple of years have some begun to acknowledge the devastation this has caused a generation. 

Nancy Pearcy pointed out in her book Total Truth the struggle C.S. Lewis had when he abandoned his childhood faith for atheism. Lewis wanted the truth, “He became desperate to find a truth that satisfied the whole person, including his longing for meaning and beauty.”5

The turning point for Lewis came from the most tenacious atheist he knew, who shared how the Gospel accounts were surprisingly good. That is to say, they seemed plausible, possibly true. “All that stuff of mythology about the Dying God. Rum Thing. It almost looks as if it had really happened once.”((Lewis, C.S. Surprised by Joy, Harcourt Brace, 1955, pg 170)) Pearcy explains, “There is no division into contradictory, opposing levels of truth-therefore no division in a person’s inner life either. Christianity fulfills both our reason and our spiritual yearnings.”((Pearcy, Nancy. “Keeping Religion in its Place.” Total Truth, Crossway Books, 2005, pg 121))

Ask yourself if the world we live in is an illusion. Or is it a product of chance, an accident that happened over millions or billions of years? Was God just a human invention, or is there a higher power somehow involved with this theatre we call reality? Who is right in their view of the world and reality, Jesus, George Carlin, or Oprah Winfrey? What you decide matters considerably and will determine how you will live your life. 

When you look at two little white pills, both the same size, color, and weight in grams, you can tell yourself they are basically the same. So on the surface, it really wouldn’t matter which one you choose, but if one was aspirin and the other arsenic, which one you choose will matter greatly. So choose wisely; all religions can’t be true. 


Creative Commons License
Life of Pi by James William Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at https://christianapologetics.blog/.

  1. Martel, Yann. “Chapter 23.” Life of Pi, A Harvest Book, 2003, pg. 66 []
  2. Martel, Yann. “Chapter 23.” Life of Pi, A Harvest Book, 2003, pg. 69 []
  3. Gould, Paul. “Addressing Barriers.” Cultural Apologetics, 2019, Zondervan, 2019, pg 194″ []
  4. Kreeft, Peter. San Francisco, The Snakebit Letters, Ignatius, 1998, pg 94 []
  5. Pearcy, Nancy. “Keeping Religion in its Place.” Total Truth, Crossway Books, 2005, pg 120 []
What Is Your Style?

What Is Your Style?

Reading Time: 9 minutes

Above Image by Mircea – See my collections from Pixabay

I finished a book titled “Contagious Faith” by Mark Mittelberg where is explains five common or natural styles of evangelism Christians have. 

When I first heard of this book on a podcast, I immediately thought of Gary Chapmans 5 Love Languages. Though they don’t correlate in any way, the five styles of evangelism are our go-to natural ways of sharing our faith, just as the various love languages resonate with each of us and are the most natural way we feel loved and secure. 

For most Christians, sharing their faith is daunting, even if they are serious about their beliefs. Besides, churches are full of nominal Christians who, aside from any particular Sunday, never discuss their faith with others. Couple that with their lifestyles, and sometimes, you can’t tell the difference between Christians and non-Christians, myself included. 

Most of us can relate to doing things our own way without giving any consideration to God. Like everyone, I want to live my life my way. I think back 50 years to Frank Sinatra’s hit song, I Did It My Way. My rules, my exceptions to the rules, bend them or break them as needed. 

Thankfully God can use us where we are, new or old Christian, actively sinning or walking in His forgiveness. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you have to clean up your act before God can use you. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10. You will never lead a perfect, sinless life this side of Heaven, and if you are waiting to arrive at that spiritual level of enlightenment before you share your faith, you will have a long wait. 

We all want to do things that count, to make a difference in this world. We want to matter to others and positively impact their lives. In that process of working toward doing things that ‘really’ matter, we often get caught up in the things of this world and forget that the car, boat, motorcycle, house, etc. can’t go with us. Mittelberg points out, “Deep down, we all want our lives to count for things that last. But think about this: the only things in this world that we can take with us into eternity are people.”1

With that in mind, it would be good to know your natural style of evangelism. Mittelberg covers five styles, and I will briefly touch on each one. 

Friendship-Building 

Friendship builders enjoy being around people and, as a rule of thumb, get along with almost everyone. They would much rather hang out with some friends having some coffee, tea, or lunch together than go on a hike by themselves or spend any time alone. 

Some may like large groups of people, mingling in and out of the clusters in a large party. Others who are friendship-builders may prefer a smaller setting and focus on one or two people at a time, but the common denominator is being around others. 

Mittelberg gives the example of Luke 5:29 when Levi held a large banquet for Jesus in his home. People don’t have parties or banquets unless they enjoy being around people. If you read the whole chapter, you will see Jesus calling his first disciples. Simon Peter caught more fish than his boat could hold; Jesus healed a man with leprosy and a paralyzed man. Miracles were happening, and no doubt word was getting out, so when Jesus called Levi to follow Him, Levi did just that. Then he threw a party. Colossians 4:5

Mittelberg encourages those who are friendship-builders to not only start new ones but work on the old ones, something friendship-builders may not do naturally. There is an old saying in teaching circles that says, ‘Students don’t care what you know until they know that you care.’ A wise saying and applicable to this style of evangelism. In time as you develop a relationship, you can bridge the topics of conversations to spiritual ones.

Finally, I should point out you are not becoming someone’s friend so that you can share Jesus with them. Making friends is what this type does naturally. It is not forced, but they genuinely care about others and want to get to know them. Making friends is what they do naturally. 

Selfless-Serving

Those who have this natural style don’t like to be the center of attention, but they are tuned into the needs of others around them. Helping others feeds their soul much like friendship-builders are energized by being around people. Selfless servers are often working in the background and find joy and satisfaction in serving behind the scenes. Mittleberg puts it this way, “…because they are others-centered, they don’t mind serving without a spotlight or any kind of fanfare to keep them motivated. They find joy in simply serving…”2

Serving others and meeting their needs sends the message they are valuable and loved. Mittelberg shared the story of a wealthy Jewish man named Morris and his family that lost everything during Hurricane Harvey when it dropped about 60 inches of rain on Houston, Texas. A mother and her daughter named Grace reached out and began to help this Jewish family. Over the weeks and months, God’s love became evident through this woman and her daughter. The two families became close, and eventually, Morris and his family began to attend church with Grace and her mother and ultimately gave their lives to Christ. 

This kind of selfless serving often ministers to the hardest of hearts. Many of us sometimes serve with the hope of getting something in return, but those who serve selflessly and genuinely, serve others because it brings them joy and satisfaction. They set aside their concerns and worries about the world to help others. Mark 10:43 Philippians 2:3-4

A quality that is inherent to those who serve selflessly is empathy. They are sensitive to the needs of others and understand naturally what their needs may be. Over the years of teaching, I have met several teachers who would fall into this category, most of whom I have found in special education or working with special needs children. 

Often greatness is not measured in what you have but in what you give to others. 

Story-Sharing

Is it easy to share what is going on in your life with others? Do you look forward to telling someone about your day? Those with this style are good at telling stories. They generally are good at communicating and can share details and experiences with others and hold their interest. 

Many of us have a testimony, and Revelation 12:11 says that often spiritual battles are won because of our testimony. Testimonies are powerful, and I think of the 2017 movie, The Case for Christ where Lee Stroble, an atheist, came to believe in Christ due to his investigation of the claims that He rose from the dead.

J. Warner Wallace is another example of an atheist who shares his story in Cold-Case Christianity of being a cold-case homicide detective that decided to use the tools of his trade to bury the absurd claims of gospel accounts. 

Both of those men shared their stories and impacted millions with their experiences, which is one of the positives of the story-sharing approach. We live in a culture that often values experience or feelings over facts. Ben Shapiro wrote, Facts Don’t Care About Your Feelings, a look at American politics and culture, but as our progressive culture evolves, and this is especially true in Gender Ideology, we are finding that feelings don’t care about the facts. 

Aside from the cultural shift, a scriptural example of the story-sharing style is found in John 9, when Jesus healed the blind man. The blind man, who had been healed by Jesus, was brought repeatedly before the religious leaders who did not believe him. He had already explained what happened twice, and even his parents were brought in to testify. He finally says, “I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples too?” John 9:27 After that, the Jewish leaders just insulted him and accused him of being a follower of Jesus. The blind man shot back, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will. Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” John 9:30-33 

The Jewish leaders became angry, insulted him, said he was a sinner (my mom used to tell me once someone insults you, you have won the argument), and threw him out. 

Mittelberg points out that before any of this happened, Jesus’ disciples asked if the sin in the blind man’s life or the sin of his parents caused him to be blind. Back then, when someone was blind, it was believed to be due to sin in their life, but Jesus replied, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. John 9:3 Mittelberg writes, “I believe this included not just the restoration of his sight, but also the testimony this man would be to his fellow countrymen – especially to the religious leaders who were sure to take notice.”3

All of us have a story, a testimony we can share. If you are not a natural storyteller, you can use a simple three-part sequence to share yours. Think of your story in terms of what did you discover, what did you decide, and finally, what difference did that make in your life?

Reason-Giving

1 Peter 3:15 Is the apologists go to verse. People who fall into the reason-giving style of evangelism are often are more interested in what people think than what they feel about something. The montra, facts don’t care about your feelings resonates with the reason givers. Both Lee Strobel and J Warner Wallace are reason givers despite my example of their sharing their stories. So I will state the obvious, most of us will have more than one dominant style of evangelism. 

This is the style that suits me because when I have conversations with people, I always enjoy asking questions, and I am genuinely interested in what they know and why they believe it. 

The need for reason-giving is rising to new levels in our culture today. In 2011 David Kinnaman published You Lost Me looking at why Christians are leaving the church. He found that 59% of young adults leave the church and are no longer involved in any kind of Christian activities. Eight years later, after interviewing thousands, that rose to 64%.4

Another example can be found in the Pew Research Center. In 2012 75% of the U.S. population identified as Christian. Ten years later, 63% of Americans self-identify as Christian.((Smith, Gregory. “About Three-inTen U.S. Adults Are Now Religiously Unaffiliated.” Pew Research Center, pewresearch.org, 14 December 2021, https://www.pewresearch.org/religion/2021/12/14/about-three-in-ten-u-s-adults-are-now-religiously-unaffiliated/))

John Stonestreet points out in his book, A Practical Guide to Culture that kids today are growing up in an information overload environment. “Access and exposure to new ideas are just a billboard, commercial, song lyric, or mouse click away. A questioning and spiritually vulnerable child who might never have encountered atheistic arguments in another day and age may very well come across a Richard Dawkins video on Facebook feed… That’s why it’s more critical than ever that parents, church leaders, and mentors create an environment where kids can ask tough questions and wrestle with controversial topics.”5

Jesus suggested to those who did not believe him to look at His works, His evidence, as reasons to believe He was the Son of God. See John 10:37-38. In other words, believe in what they saw, the miracles that Jesus performed. There are multiple examples of Jesus giving examples and reasons for doubters to believe in Him. 

When John the Baptist was in prison, he sent his disciples to ask Jesus if He was the one or should John be looking for another. Jesus’ response was to perform miracles and give evidence to John’s disciples and then told them to go back to John and report what they had seen and heard. Matthew 11:3-6 

Just remember, the goal is to win people, not arguments. 

Truth Telling

Those who are truth-tellers are often bold, confident, and direct with those they encounter. More often than not, they enjoy the encounter and are not afraid of conflict. They don’t like small talk or beating around the bush but say what they have to say and wait for a reaction. 

Peter was a truth-teller and the Day of Pentecost in Jerusalem is an excellent example. The Jews were questioning the wonders of God and recognized that something supernatural was taking place. Peter stood and addressed the crowd. He was bold and direct, pointing out the miracles Jesus performed and how Jesus was handed over to the leaders and then put to death by nailing Him to a cross. 

Peter went on to explain that death had no hold on Jesus and God raised Him from the dead after three days. Peter quoted Old Testament passages that were references to Jesus and that He was the Lord and Messiah they were all waiting for. Peter ended his message with, “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” Acts 2:36 

Scripture records that God used Peter’s bold truth telling to bring over 3000 to Christ.

Another example was in Acts 4, when Peter and John were brought before the Jewish leaders and told not to talk about Jesus. What was their response? They asked which was right, to do what God tells them or what they tell them? Peter and John explained they couldn’t help but talk about what they had seen and heard. Acts 4:18-20

Someone once said evangelism is simply one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread. Mittelberg writes, “It reminds us that we are not better or smarter or more deserving than the other person – we’re just fortunate enough to have received a great spiritual blessing, along with the privilege of sharing it with others.”((Mittelberg, Mark. “Reached By God To Reach Others.” Contagious Faith, Zondervan Reflective, 2021, pg. 140))

Those with this style can make the mistake of encouraging others to be bold when talking to others when it would make them uncomfortable. Every style has strengths and tools that can be used depending on the individual they are engaging or the situation they encounter. 

Most Christians will gravitate toward one of the styles I mentioned above. Learn what your style is and look for opportunities to use it. Ephesians 3:20-21 Naturally, those will work best because it is the one you are most comfortable with and enjoy using. Would you like to take a quick assessment and see which one is yours? You can take the simple assessment here and see what style fits your personality. 

 

  1. Mittelberg, Mark. “Reached By God To Reach Others.” Contagious Faith, Zondervan Reflective, 2021, pg. 5 []
  2. Mittelberg, Mark. “Reached By God To Reach Others.” Contagious Faith, Zondervan Reflective, 2021, pg. 65 []
  3. Mittelberg, Mark. “Reached By God To Reach Others.” Contagious Faith, Zondervan Reflective, 2021, pgs. 84-86 []
  4. Kinnaman, David. “Church Dropouts Have Risen to 64% But What About Those Who Stay?” Barna, barna.com, 4 September 2019, https://www.barna.com/research/resilient-disciples/ []
  5. Stonestreet, John. Kunkle, Brett. “The Information Age.” A Practical Guide To Culture, David C Cook, 2017, pg. 82 []
Stealing Jesus

Stealing Jesus

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Above Image by Jeff Jacobs from Pixabay

The resurrection story has several theories that you might hear from those who don’t embrace the Christian view. One of the more common ones is the stolen body theory. When you consider the possibilities of who would have stolen his body, it falls into three categories: the Romans, the Jewish authorities, and the disciples. 

The Romans

After the crucifixion, Pilate ordered that Jesus’ tomb be guarded so someone would not steal the body and claim he came back to life. He did this because the chief priests and Pharisees were worried someone would steal his body. They had recalled that Jesus said He would rise again after three days, they shared their concern with Pilate. “Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard. Matthew 27:65 

So the question is, what motive would the Romans have for stealing the body? Indeed, they did not want any more trouble with the Jews than they already had. Besides, after the resurrection claim, the disciples began to preach the Good News boldly and without fear. Obviously, this angered many Jews. The Romans were in charge of keeping peace in Palestine, and had the Romans been the ones to steal the body, they certainly could have produced it. The evidence of the body would have shut up the claims of the disciples.((Story, Dan. The Christian Combat Manual. Chattanooga: AMG, 2007. Print.)) The problem was, the Romans could not produce a body.  

The Jews

What would motivate the Jewish leaders into stealing the body of Jesus? They were the ones who approached Pilate with concerns about someone stealing the body. The Jews were the ones who ensured the tomb was secure with a posted guard. Matthew 27:62-66 The Jewish leaders did not want anyone, least of all the disciples, making claims that Jesus had risen from the dead after three days.  

After the resurrection, many Jews became Christians, and if the chief priests and Pharisees had stolen the body, possibly so the disciples could not steal it first and claim He rose, they would have produced it to end the foolishness of this new cult. 

In Acts 4:1-3, Peter and John were arrested because they claimed Jesus had been resurrected. The elders and chief priests were amazed at how bold yet uneducated Peter and John were but were unable to persuade them to stop announcing the resurrection of Christ. Acts 4:13 

David Limbaugh, author of Jesus On Trial wrote concerning the stolen body theory, “Also, Matthew 28:11-15 relates that the Jews proposed an alternative theory for the empty tomb (“tell the people the disciples stole the body”), which proves they didn’t dispute that it was, in fact, empty.”1

If the body remained in the tomb, then the Jewish leaders would have simply had the Roman guards roll the stone and deliver the body of Jesus as decisive proof that He was still dead. If there was a body, history has not recorded any debate or dispute over the identification of Jesus’ body. Quite the contrary, the discussion revolved around the disappearance of the body, not its identification. 

The Disciples

Many have claimed and still do, that the disciples stole the body to gain power, influence, and celebrity status. Limbaugh wrote, “The disciples had nothing to gain by staging some elaborate hoax in order to start a new religion; in fact, they all faced ridicule, hardship, persecution, and many suffered martyrs’ deaths.”((Limbaugh, David. “Truth, Miracles, and the Resurrection of Christ.” Jesus On Trial, Regnery Publishing, 2014, p.282)) So for some reason, the disciples stole the body of their Lord so they could be beaten, abused, insulted, stoned, beheaded, and crucified.

There have been claims that Romans blamed the disciples, but how would they know? How would he know who took the body if the guard was sleeping? How could the disciples have gotten past him if he was not sleeping? The penalty for either would have been death for the Roman guard. 

We have accounts of Christian martyrs who have died for their faith in Christ over the centuries, but in recent years, we have had evidence of others dying for their faith. For example, the Taliban and the suicide bombers have made headline news hundreds of times since the 911 attacks. They obviously believe and are willing to die for their belief. But there is a significant difference between dying for what you believe to be true, and dying for what you know to be true. 

The disciples knew they did not steal the body and also knew no one else had a reason to. They experienced firsthand evidence in seeing, talking to, and touching their resurrected Lord. Mary Magdalene saw, heard, and touched Christ. John 20:10-18. In Luke 24:36-49 and John 20:19-23, other disciples saw, heard, and touched Christ. In John 20:24-31, eleven apostles saw, heard, and touched Christ.((Geisler, Norman. Turek, Frank. I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist. Wheaton: Crossway 2004, Print.)) These close followers knew their Lord and were willing to die for him. Not for what they believed to be true, but for what they knew to be true. 

William Lane Craig wrote, “One of the most remarkable facts about the early Christian belief in Jesus’ resurrection was that it flourished in the very city where Jesus had been publicly crucified. So long as the people of Jerusalem thought that Jesus’ body was in the tomb, few would have been prepared to believe such nonsense as that Jesus had been raised from the dead.”2 

The burden of proof was on the Romans and the Jewish leaders, and apparently, no one could produce a body because He had risen. Craig continued, “The disciples could not have believed in Jesus’ resurrection if His corpse still lay in the tomb. It would have been wholly un-Jewish, not to say stupid, to believe that a man was raised from the dead when his body was known to be still in the grave.”2 Even if the disciples had boldly professed the resurrection out of ‘blind-faith’ once someone produced the body, this new religion would have died right then and there.  

Finally, in his book, Know What You Believe, Paul Little points out that people will die for many things they believe to be true. I have already pointed out the 911 attacks and the belief of those terrorists but flip the coin. How many people do you know that will die for something they ‘know’ is false?((Little, Paul. Know What You Believe. Downers Grove: IVP Books, 2003. Print.))

The Roman and Jews could not produce the body, but the disciples would have wanted to, if doing so would have saved them from beatings, stonings, and crucifixions. 

Have you talked about the resurrection with your children beyond Easter eggs, ham, and family gatherings? Or the church activities that go beyond children making little paper tombs that represent the empty tomb? How much more impactful would it be if you sat down with your young children and gave them something beyond what seems to be the annual Easter bedtime story and shared the evidence of the resurrection with them?

Since birth, today’s teens and young adults have been saturated with market media. They recognize, but may not be able to articulate, the world’s sales pitch to purchase everything from cereal to shoes. Religion, specifically Christianity, markets ideas as much as Ford selling the F150 and General Mills selling Lucky Charms. So if you don’t want the Christian ideas to end up in the ‘junk mail’ folder or being ‘unfriended,’ you better give them reasons for the sale beyond what is typically offered. 

Jedd Medefind, president of the Christian Alliance for Orphans, wrote, “We must make truth touchable. The Good News must be as tangible as the wood of a cross. Without a visible expression, words like transformation, grace, and radical discipleship will be quickly dismissed as just another hyperbolic sales pitch.”3

The apostles were not adverse to giving reasons or evidence for their faith. 1John 1:1-2 With some guidance, our children can move beyond the Walmart end caps full of colorful eggs and white bunnies to explain why they celebrate what we recognize as the truth of the resurrection to their unchurched or unbelieving peers at school. Go beyond the Easter egg hunt and give them reasons for believing. 

Creative Commons License
Stealing Jesus by James W Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

  1. Limbaugh, David. “Truth, Miracles, and the Resurrection of Christ.” Jesus On Trial, Regnery Publishing, 2014, p.282 []
  2. Craig, William L. On Guard. Colorado Springs: David C Cook Publishing, 2010. Print [] []
  3. Kinnaman, David. You Lost Me – Why Young Christians are Leaving Church. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2011. Print. []
Is it True Science uses Reason and Christianity only has Blind Faith?

Is it True Science uses Reason and Christianity only has Blind Faith?

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Above image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

One thing I am never short of is Facebook posts that denounce Christianity for various reasons. Some posts slam the Christian God, calling Him an unforgiving, genocidal, jealous, racist bully, echoing Richard Dawkins book, The God Delusion.((Dawkins, Richard. The God Delusion. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006, Print.))

Others target scripture suggesting it was written hundreds of years after the life of Christ and is full of errors and contradictions. Again quoting Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion, “To be fair, much of the Bible is not systematically evil but just plain weird, as you would expect of a chaotically cobbled-together anthology of disjointed documents, composed, revised, translated, distorted and ‘improved’ by hundreds of anonymous authors, editors and copyists, unknown to us and mostly unknown to each other, spanning nine centuries.”1

Some even question if Christ was a real person, and many believe He was not an authentic historical figure. Frank Zindler, former director of the American Atheists gives us a glimpse at this, “So much for the evidence purporting to prove that Jesus was a historical figure. We have not, of course, proved that Jesus did not exist. We have only showed that all evidence alleged to support such a claim is without substance…”((Zindler, Frank. “Did Jesus Exist?” American Atheists, ND, https://www.atheists.org/activism/resources/did-jesus-exist/))

Then you have those who target the hypocritical behavior of Christians. For example, some who think they are quoting Gandhi write, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” which is not an actual quote from Gandi, but it was taken from another Indian philosopher. Nevertheless, the point is well made, Christians often don’t act like Christ despite wanting to and being told to be imitators of Him in scripture. 1 Corinthians 11:1 I certainly can relate to that, and most believers, if they are honest, will say the same.

Finally, others take a much broader path and paint most, if not all religions as foolishness and the cause of countless wars and misery.

These claims can be addressed and have been, but my focus in this post is the claim that science depends on reason and evidence while Christianity doesn’t.

Is the assertion true that Christianity is void or reason and evidence? Are Christians wishing on a star, following their heart, taking leaps of faith, or is their faith simply blind?

Let’s take a look at some examples in scripture. Luke states that his sources were ‘eye-witnesses,’ and he claims to have carefully investigated everything and is sharing them with Theophilus so he would be certain of the claims of the new Christians. Luke 1:1-4

In 1 Cor. 15:6, Paul practically dares anyone to check out his story. In I Corinthians 15, Paul lists six groups or specific individuals who were eyewitnesses of the resurrected Christ. Peter, The twelve, the 500, James (younger brother of Jesus), all the apostles, and finally Paul himself.

Most of these eyewitnesses endured persecution, imprisonment, torture, and finally, death. Persecution was the norm, and it certainly was not something that would compel others to sacrifice their livelihood or life for what they profess. Yet, despite their willingness to lose everything, that does not validate their belief. I think of the 911 terrorists and their belief that 72 virgins awaited them in the afterlife. Yet what is so remarkable about the early Christian martyrs is not what they believed, but what they saw; the risen Christ. The early Christian martyrs died not for what they thought to be true but what they saw to be true. 

A story shared by Lee Strobel may help illustrate my point. In 1963 Addie Mae Collins was one of four African-American girls murdered in a church bombing by racists. She was buried in Birmingham, Alabama, and for years her family returned to visit her gravesite and leave flowers. Finally, in 1998 they made the decision to exhume Addie Mae so she could be reburied at another cemetery. However, when the workers began to dig, they discovered the grave was empty. The family was understandably shocked, and several possible explanations were considered as officials started to investigate what happened, but no one ever suggested was that Addie Mae was resurrected. Why? Because an empty grave does not constitute a resurrection. Eyewitnesses do that.

Other religions begin with someone having a private encounter or vision they share with others, not Christianity. We find another example in 2 Peter 1:16, where Peter explains they were eyewitnesses to Jesus Christ and His majesty. In addition, at the end of John, he explains the signs done by Christ in front of witnesses was so they might believe that he was the Son of God. John 20:30-31. Scripture is full of examples that rule out the impression that our faith requires giant leaps or blind loyalty. Neither does Christ Himself expect that of us.

For example, when John the Baptist was in prison and struggling with doubts, so he sent his disciples to Jesus to ask Him if He was the one they were waiting for. How did Jesus respond? He promptly healed the lame and cured the blind. He then told them to return to John and report what they witnessed. Luke 7:19-22 In fact, you will find that the Gospel of Luke holds most of the eyewitness details found in the New Testament.

Classical scholar Colin Hemer fact-checked the book of Acts (written by Luke) and found 84 facts confirmed by historical and archaeological research.((Geisler, Norman. Turek, Frank. I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist. Wheaton: Crossway, 2004, Print.)) Believing without evidence is what we call blind faith and nowhere in scripture are believers called to that kind of faith. John 14:9-11

The above examples are from scripture, but Christians are not limited to those examples to build their faith. Believers can find substantial evidence within the sciences. Just don’t expect science to answer all your questions. The fact is, science cannot answer all our questions and never will be able to.

Suppose my daughter-in-law Annie baked a cake. If we were to ship it to a lab for analysis, we would learn much about the cake. The biochemists could tell us what elements are within the cake. Mathematicians will spell out the weight, volume, and detailed dimensions of the cake. Physicists can break down the fundamental particles and explain what temperatures she baked it. But not one of them, or anyone in the scientific community could tell us why the cake was made; only Annie could answer that question. Natural sciences will answer questions about the structure and elements of the cake, but they could never answer any ‘why’ questions.

When you think about it, the laws of nature help us describe the universe, but they explain nothing. The fact that we have laws that govern our universe is one of those why questions that can’t be answered except by the one who made the laws. One of the first questions of the year I would ask my algebra students in Jr. High was, “Is mathematics invented or discovered?” I would leave them to ponder that throughout the year.

Richard Feynman, a Nobel Laureate in physics, wrote, “…the fact that there are rules at all to be checked is a kind of miracle; that it is possible to find a rule, like the inverse-square law of gravitation, is some sort of miracle.”((Lennox, John. Can Science Explain Everything? Oxford: The Good Book Company, 2019, Print.))

Those most critical of the Christian faith often don’t ever set foot in a church, let alone read or examine scripture. They don’t study the words of Jesus and try to apply the teaching to themselves, or how His words could apply to neighbors, friends, family, etc. It is so much easier to point out the faults and shortcomings of others than to take a hard look at ourselves and compare how we live our life to the commands of Jesus. The operative word is ‘try’ because we all fall short. Someone once said the church is a hospital for sinners, not a sanctuary for saints. We are all more comfortable playing the armchair general, pointing out the mistakes of those in the trenches and how they are delinquent in living a life like Jesus than applying His teachings to our own conduct.

Anthony Flew was a lifetime philosopher and atheist. Then in 2003, late in his life, he converted to a belief in God. He said he had to go where the evidence leads, and it was the complexity of DNA that was the deciding factor for Flew. John Lennox wrote concerning the idea of following evidence where it leads, “…there are situations where we shouldn’t just give up if explanations in terms of natural processes don’t work; we should be prepared to follow the evidence where it leads, even if that involves a supernatural dimension.”((Lennox, John. Can Science Explain Everything? Oxford: The Good Book Company, 2019, Print.)) But not all scientists adhere to that because of their prejudice to a concept of a being beyond the natural.

Richard Lewontin, who is a geneticist from Harvard, displays this attitude perfectly when he wrote, “Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs…in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment…to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counterintuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute for we cannot allow a Divine foot in the door.”((Lennox, John. Can Science Explain Everything? Oxford: The Good Book Company, 2019, Print.))

Christians should never be afraid of science and what we can learn from it. The things that we learn about our universe, from the microscopic to the telescope, are often confirmed by the Bible when researched carefully. Science cannot answer all the questions we might have, but neither should the Bible be used as a science book. As we investigate our world, both science and theology should be used to complement and confirm how best we should live.

The Bible tells us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go. – Galileo

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Is it True Science uses Reason and Christianity only has Blind Faith by James W Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

  1. Dawkins, Richard. The God Delusion. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006, Print. []
Your Best Life Now – Part III

Your Best Life Now – Part III

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Part I   Part II

In his best-selling book, ‘Your Best Life Now,’ Joel Osteen addressed the necessity of faith to prosper. He shared that one fellow told him that God will bless who He wants to bless. Osteen wrote, “Unfortunately, that’s just the opposite of how God operates. God works by faith. You must believe first, then you’ll receive. Maybe you’ve been waiting on God to make a move, but God is waiting on you to stretch your faith. Make room in your own thinking, and then you’ll start to experience some of His supernatural increase.”((Osteen, Joel. “God Has More Instore” Your Best Life Now, Warner Faith, 2004, p33)) In the context of needing faith to prosper, I have some scripture to consider. Remember when Jesus told Peter to go fishing to get the temple tax? Did Peter need faith for that? Matthew 17:24-27 Or the man lowered through the roof by his friends. There was no mention of his faith healing him. Luke 5:17-26 One more example is the man healed by the pool of Bethesda, and he did not even know who Jesus was. John 5:1-15

The prosperity gospel is a theodicy. What is a theodicy? It is an explanation for the problem of evil. Why are a few wildly wealthy, and the rest are poor or drone through life in a middle-income bracket? Because the rest don’t give enough, trusting in God. Why are some stuck working at McDonald’s and not C.O.’s at large cooperations making a six-figure income? Because they lack obedience. Why do some have infants die in their cribs, and others seem to lead blessed lives without a loss, struggle, or illness in their family? They don’t express a Godly joy in all circumstances or have hidden sin that hinders healing in their family.

The prosperity gospel takes a snapshot of the world and draws lines to the hardships, illnesses, deaths, tragedies, and losses we experience. Connecting on the other end of those lines is lack of faith, greed, disobedience, and lack of joy. Those lacks are on our backs; they are our fault because an all-loving God would not want any to suffer. We don’t have because we don’t do; that’s what the prosperity gospel teaches. For example, verses like Mark 11:24 “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” (NIV) at face value seem to support prosperity teaching. But John makes it clear, 1John 5:14-15 if we ask according to His will, He will hear us. According to His will, not ours.

We don’t dictate to God how he is to manage His creation. In Prosperity Theology, the created become the creators. They create health, wealth, and prosperity according to their desires with no thought to God’s sovereign will. Paul recognized this, 2 Corinthians 12:7-9. Nevertheless, these preachers pluck scripture out of context and manipulate others to become rich or influential. 

Theologians and biblical scholars practice exegesis, which means drawing meaning from the text. Scholars look at the context, who it is written to, and the author’s intent. On the other hand, prosperity gospel preachers perform eisegesis; they don’t draw out meaning but draw in meaning using their own subjective sense completely unsupported by the text.

The Word of Faith, Health and Wealth, Name It and Claim It, Prosperity Gospel preachers all promise God’s generosity benevolence and here and now. They say God does not want us to be broke, ill, or experience suffering. John 10:10 “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” is another verse they will use to support their teachings. But if you read John 10 Jesus is talking about being a gate, a good shepherd, and laying down his life so his followers will have everlasting life. It is not about gaining wealth here on earth. One blogger wrote, “Jesus did say, ‘I came so that they may have life and have it in abundance’ John 10:10. In context, though, Jesus is contrasting himself with false teachers who are like a thief who ‘comes only to steal and to kill and destroy.’ If we take this literally, Jesus is saying that instead of taking from our homes and treasuries, he will fill them with abundance. However, should we read this verse literally? Is it possible Jesus is using figurative language to communicate spiritual truth?” It should be obvious Jesus is not talking about prosperity here and now.((Tamfu, Dieudonne. “The Gods of the Prosperity Gospel.” Desiring God, desiringgod.org, 4 Feb. 2020, https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/the-gods-of-the-prosperity-gospel))

James 4:2 is a common verse used by the Name It and Claim It crowd. “You do not have because you do not ask God.” (NIV) Of course, they leave out the first half of the verse, “You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight.” What I have NEVER heard any word of faith believer is the next verse, James 4:3. The very next verse places a condition on what we ask for. “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

Jeremiah 29:11 is probably the most misapplied verse I hear Christians toss out to those struggling. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Well-meaning Christians use it to encourage, promise that good news is around the corner and that everything will work out. Just a little exegesis and you will see that this was a letter to the exiles in Babylon, and it would be another 70 years before they would return home to Israel.

Malachi 3:10 “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.” Whoot! What a promise! Again, read that in context. Who was the author, who was he writing or speaking to, and why? This historical situation had to do with the Israelites not giving enough to the national storehouses, which were used to feed the priests of Israel. Because the priests were lacking, they had to take up farming instead of performing their priestly duties. Nehemia 13:10-13 So God was encouraging the Israelites to test Him by giving.

In a TIME poll, nearly 20% of Christians consider themselves part of the prosperity gospel movement. Over 60% believe that God wants you to be wealthy. And sadly, almost 1/3 of Christians polled believe if you give your money to God, He will bless you with more money.((Van Biema, David. Chu, Jeff. “Does God Want You To Be Rich?” Time Magazine, content.time.com, Sept. 10, 2006, http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1533448-2,00.html)) As John Piper put it, the prosperity gospel “elevates the gifts above the Giver.” He went on to say, “God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in Him, in the midst of loss, not prosperity.”((Piper, John. MatthiasLot, “John Piper and the Prosperity Gospel” Online video clip. Youtube, 5 Dec. 2007. Web. 16. Oct. 2021 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PTc_FoELt8s))

Did Paul ever name it and claim it? Show me one, just one verse that Paul tells us to use to become wealthy or change our circumstances. What Paul did was pray and ask for prayer. Paul asked every single church he planted for prayer. He suffered physically throughout his ministry and was imprisoned multiple times, 2 Corinthians 11:22-28, yet he recognized the value of what he was doing reached beyond any earthy material gain or wealth. Philippians 3:4-8 As my pastor Mike Torok said one Sunday morning, “God does not just open us up and pour in spiritual maturity. Rather He works it in, like molding clay.”

In fact, Paul did not want to be identified as someone who did not work for his own provision. He provided for his own needs and did not expect others to provide for them. 2 Thessalonians 3:8-9

The prosperity gospel is not something Christians can just disagree on; it would not fall into an ‘in-house debate.’ Instead, the prosperity gospel undermines and compromises the Gospel, which is the reason Jesus came, to let us know He has a rescue plan. He did not come to make us happy and healthy, to remove all the burdens and tragedies of the life we experience here on earth; he came to save us because we are incapable of saving ourselves.

I see the prosperity gospel as cancer or a virus, and the preachers who promote it are super spreaders. People want to believe it’s true because it is a convenient formula. Or they find themselves in desperate situations and give their money away to these impostors who pose as men of God who hear from God regularly in dreams, visions, or the Holy Spirit moves them to speak.

I think of the Hindu beliefs of reincarnation. Suppose you were born into a poor family with no hope to rise out of your desperate circumstances; Hindus believe it’s because you were a horrible person in your previous life. The prosperity gospel has a similar theme but removes the boundary of various lives in the Hindu religion. If you are poor or suffering, it is because, right now, you don’t have enough faith, obedience, trust, or joy. Your misery is on you because you are not doing what these pastors tell you to do.

In the final chapter of Hebrews, the author sums up his council, Hebrews 13:5-6 “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.'” (NIV) It is crystal clear wealth is not inherently evil unless you pursue it and make it a priority. In Matthew 6:24, He explains, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (NIV)

Finally, in Mark 10:17-25, Jesus speaks with a rich young ruler who desires eternal life. Jesus lists the commandments and the man proudly announces he has kept them all since he was young. Jesus recognized what was hindering this young ruler and called him out. “Jesus looked at him and loved him. ‘One thing you lack,’ he said. ‘Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.'” The young man walked away disheartened because of his love of money. How many prosperity gospel teachers would walk away from Jesus as this young man did?

God will never owe us because we fill our heavenly bank accounts with faith. Unfortunately, the prosperity gospel leads many Christians to a spiritual entitlement mentality. Our gratitude, joy, and thankfulness should be grounded in the person of Christ and what He has done for us, not in a change of circumstances we dictate to God.

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