The Benefit of Doubt

The following is an excerpt from the new book, Answering the Toughest Questions About God and the Bible by Bruce Bickel and Stan Jantz.

God isn’t surprised when people doubt him. It doesn’t even bother him. How do we know this? Because of the way Jesus treated one of his disciples, famously (or infamously) known as Doubting Thomas. Jesus had been crucified, was dead and buried. But he rose again and appeared to more then five hundred people, including his disciples—except for one.

It seems Thomas was missing when Jesus first appeared to his followers, and even though his colleagues told Thomas about the risen Lord, he refused to believe. “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe” (John 20:25). Talk about a tough sell!

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Made for Another World

Another mass shooting has occurred, unleashing unspeakable grief on the victims’ families, profound sadness for the rest of us, confusion and anger for our nation. Frustration, too. Why does this keep happening? There’s a quick answer, at least for Christians, though it’s not very emotionally satisfying: broken humanity, immersed in wickedness, does bad stuff. C.S. Lewis, in his classic book The Problem of Pain, makes this point when he writes,

When souls become wicked they will certainly use this possibility to hurt one another; and this, perhaps, accounts for four-fifths of the sufferings of men. It is men, not God, who have produced racks, whips, prisons, slavery, guns, bayonets, and bombs; it is by human avarice or human stupidity, not by the churlishness of nature, that we have poverty and overwork.
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In Between the Best and Worst

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

Charles Dickens’ first line in his classic A Tale of Two Cities is one of the most famous in all of literature for a very good reason. Every person in every era in every part of the world knows what it means, even if they’ve never read the book (which applies to just about everybody, including us).

Not only is the line true, it’s disquieting. It’s one of those universal truths you acknowledge but wish were not the case: The relentless parade of human achievement that makes our lives better and longer is offset at every turn by the ongoing plight of human misery. Often, the contrast comes in a moment.

Something very good happens to you, and then you check your phone to scan the headlines and a picture of a two-year-old Syrian refugee laying face down on a beach slaps you across the face and makes your heart ache. And once again you are reminded of Dickens’ famous first line.

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Why the Resurrection Matters

Sorry to rain on your Easter parade, but most people in the world don’t believe Jesus rose from the dead. That shouldn’t surprise you since less than a third of the people living today claim to be Christians. But even among self-proclaimed Christians, the number of Jesus-rose-from-the-dead believers is shrinking.

With packed churches on Easter and the proliferation of Christian apologetics books (The Case for Jesus anyone?), you would think a growing number of people would be convinced that Jesus is alive. But just the opposite seems to be true. I have a theory as to why this is, but I’m saving it for the last couple of paragraphs (feel free to read ahead if you’re short on time).

Actually, doubts about the resurrection have been around since that first Easter morning. Current day agnostics like Bart Ehrman, the fundamentalist Bible college student turned agnostic professor of religion, may think they have developed an original “Jesus is not God and He didn’t rise from the dead” shtick, but they’re wrong. These scholar/skeptic types who badly want to keep Jesus in the grave are following a 2,000-year-old narrative.

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Home for Christmas

Few words better capture the emotion and the attraction of Christmas than home. The simply lyrics form the song, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”—originally written from the perspective of World War II soldiers—instantly inspire longing for that place in our memories (or in our dreams) where the warmth of family and the joys of the year’s most wonderful time of year come together.

The reason home has such universal appeal is simple. Home is the primary place where we are known and loved. There are no sweeter words than those you utter at the end of a long journey, especially at Christmastime: “I’m finally home.”

Yet for all its warmth and familiarity, there can be something disconcerting about home, and it’s not just the heated discussions that sometimes erupt, or the cruel words that occasionally slip out not long after we arrive. For all the charms and joys of home, something isn’t quite right. There’s a flaw that none of us have ever been able to fix. No matter how beautiful it is to go home, it’s never a place where we feel completely settled or at rest.

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Heaven & Hell: How the death of Osama Bin Laden creates problems for Bell and Hawking (Part 2)

In my previous blog I suggested that the death of Osama Bin Laden posed some significant theological problems from two differing points of view claimed in popular culture.  The one is of Pastor Rob Bell who claimed in his latest book Love Wins, that there is a hell, but God may be so gracious as to save people out of hell after they are placed there.  Stephen Hawking takes an opposite approach for he claimed last month that there is no heaven, that humanity is no more than a computer that fails, saying, “There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”  The basic point I was making is that Bell and Hawking’s views on the afterlife are incompatible with C.S. Lewis’ understanding of moral law, the Law of Human Nature.  I also argued that those two views were not only incompatible with Lewis, but the Bible as well.  Here I would like to propose how this negative stance, does have a positive outcome.

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Heaven & Hell: How the death of Osama Bin Laden creates problems for Bell & Hawking (Part 1)

Last month the U.S. Navy Seals killed Osama Bin Laden, the world’s most wanted terrorist.  A man promoting an ideology of death and destruction through his acts and plots of terror was met with praise at his death.  People throughout the media world were praising the job of Seal Team 6, and condemning Bin Laden to hell.  This occurred throughout various media outlets like talk show host Sean Hannity, as well as comics like Jimmy Kimmel, who declared Osama Bin Laden in hell.  They were not the only ones who espoused this, but there wasn’t a large outcry against such declaration.  Why?

I believe the reason is because of what C.S. Lewis refers to as the Law of Human Nature.  This Law of Human Nature is a moral law which he sums up as “human beings, all over the earth, have this curious idea that they ought to behave in a certain way, and cannot really get rid of it.  Secondly, that they do not in fact behave in that way.”(C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity,19)

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A Distinctly Christian Marriage

It’s almost June, the month where Bridal magazines fly off the shelf and thousands will show up on our shores, a few friends in tow to have their long dreamed of wedding on the beach in.

I could make a lot of money just by performing wedding ceremonies for these people. After all, I live near the major tourist destination on Kauai and the inherent romantic beauty of the place begs to be enfolded into vows.

In fact, in the twenty years I have been performing weddings (that, I ask no fee for I might add) I have only done two inside of a church building, all the rest were on the beach or in some lush outside location.

To get into the economic gush all I would need to do is to make sure that I was on the list of the hotels and wedding planners, set a “price of paradise” going rate and ba-boom! my kid’s college tuitions would be paid for.

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Do You Believe in Miracles?

Miracles in the Bible—especially the miracle of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead—are a problem for many people. To those who operate within a worldview of naturalism , a miracle is a violation of natural law (naturalism by definition excludes the supernatural). They don’t believe in miracles of any kind, most of all the resurrection.

The historical records of people seeing Jesus after the resurrection are meaningless to naturalists, because the events happened so long ago during a time when people were more prone to believe myths and fables. Of course, naturalists don’t have a problem believing in the existence of Julius Caesar, probably because he never performed any miracles.

Deists don’t go much for miracles either. Thomas Jefferson famously removed all the miracles from the New Testament and published what is known as The Jefferson Bible, or The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth. His goal was to present Jesus as a great moral teacher, without the miracles or the resurrection.

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Giving-up on Chastity

We may, indeed, be sure that perfect chastity—like perfect charity—will not be attained by any merely human efforts. You must ask for God’s help. Even when you have done so, it may seem to you for a long time that no help, or less help than you need, is being given. Never mind. After each failure, ask forgiveness, pick yourself up, and try again. Very often what God first helps us towards is not the virtue itself but just this power of always trying again. For however important chastity (or courage, or truthfulness, or any other virtue) may be, this process trains us in habits of the soul which are more important still. It cures our illusions about ourselves and teaches us to depend on God. We learn, on the one hand, that we cannot trust ourselves even in our best moments, and, on the other hand, that we need not despair even in our worst, for our failures are forgiven. C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, p. 93-94

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