Book Review of The Case For Christ: Daily Moment of Truth

Jesus said that we must love him with all of our minds, heart, soul, and strength (Matthew 22:37).  There are many devotionals out there that focus on loving Jesus with heart and soul, but very few address loving him with our minds.  The Case For Christ: Daily Moment of Truth by Lee Strobel and Mark Mittelberg is one that fills the void, and does so very effectively.

I have little doubt that you have either read other work by Lee Strobel, or seen the popular film The Case For Christ.  This devotional follows a similar format, and examines why we are here.  It does so in very general terms at first then moves into more advanced apologetics content.  Each apologetics devotional is only around two pages long.  As a result, topics are only discussed very briefly.  It would behoove the ready to look into longer works that go into detail regarding these more complex subject.  The book is 360 pages long and includes subjects such as science meeting scripture, reincarnation, the divinity of Christ, and historical evidences for the faith.  There is very little uncovered, and wets the appetite of these subjects.

This book is good if you are wanting a brief 5-6 minute overview of scripture and apologetics content.  IF you are looking for an in depth explanation about the proofs of the resurrection this is not the book, and this is not the intent or design of the book.  It is meant to strengthen one’s faith with basic apologetics that will assist in one defending Christianity.  With that is does a pretty good job.  4/5 stars.

[Note:  This book was provided free of charge from Zondervan in exchange for an honest review.]

Advertisements

Guest Post: How Can God Die On The Cross?

Today’s post is a guest article written by Catholic Apologist Eric Shearer.  Eric has a blog titled On This Rock Apologetics.  He is doing great work for the church and you will be richly blessed by his writing.  So go on over and give him a follow.  Enjoy the article!

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

Not long ago, I was talking with someone about how Jesus is both God and man. I explained how the Bible affirms this, especially in the beginning of John’s gospel: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:1,14).

“Jesus cannot be God because Jesus died on the cross,” the man retorted, “and God cannot die.”

Have you ever found yourself pondering this dilemma? Something just doesn’t sound right when we say that God died. It’s as if we are saying that while Jesus was in the tomb for three days the world was without God.

But a world without God would be impossible. Existence is one of God’s attributes. Recall what God said to Moses when asked about His name: “I am who am” (Ex 3:14, Douay-Reims translation). St. Thomas Aquinas even described God as “Him who is subsisting being itself”.1 Existing isn’t just something God does, it’s something He is.

Even more, our existence depends on His. It’s in God that “we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). If God stopped existing (even for a moment), creation itself would know about it. It wouldn’t be pretty…

So how do we explain that God died on the cross? We’ll need to investigate two questions: What is man? And what is death? Let’s begin.

 

What is Man?

Man is like an Oreo. An Oreo is made of chocolate cookies and white frosting. Take away one of those two components and you don’t have an Oreo anymore.

Similarly, man is composed of both body and spirit. That is, he has both a material component (his body), as well as a spiritual component (his spirit). Take one away and he isn’t complete.

Consider the second creation account in Genesis 2. We read that, “the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.” And after this, “the man became a living being” (Gen 2:7). First God forms man’s body, then he infused in that body the breath of life, a spirit. And it wasn’t until both came together that the first man was complete.

So man is a fusion of both body and spirit. Commenting on this, Frank Sheed said that, “only in man spirit is united with a body, animates the body, makes it to be a living body.”2

So when Jesus took on flesh, He took on a human body, and His divine nature was coupled with a human nature. (For those of you who like big words, this union is what theologians call the Hypostatic Union).

It can be difficult to imagine the God of the universe taking on a human nature. And it can be even more tempting to reduce His humanity to a more comfortable and “bitesize” understanding. But make no mistake, He was (and is) just as much human as we are, similar in all ways except sin. He experienced anger (Matt 21:12-13), sadness (John 11:35), temptation (Matt 4:1-11), and yes, even death (Matt 27:50).

So when we say that Jesus died, we mean it. His death was as real as any other human’s death.

Now that we’ve looked at what a human is, we can move on to what death is.

 

What is Death?

When we talk about death, it’s easy to be nearsighted. We tend to think of it as “The End” (roll the credits). And understandably so, since death marks the end of our earthly lives, and it’s a tragic event for everyone. But that view of death ignores all mention of an afterlife.

As Christians, we don’t see death as the end. It’s a comma, not a period. Consider St. Paul when he said, “For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain… my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better” (Phil 1:21,23). Though it seems like the end, death only marks a transition from this life into the next.

Death is when our spirit leaves our body, ending our time on Earth. Our spirit passes into the afterlife. Our bodies, on the other hand, remain on earth, lifeless. As it is written, “the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it” (Eccl 12:7). Frank Sheed describes death in these words:

A point comes—suddenly if there is violence, or by slow wearing—when the body can no longer respond to the life-giving energy of the soul. That, precisely, is death. The body unvivified, falls away into its elements. But the soul does not die with the body. Why should it? As a spirit it does not depend for its life upon the body: matter cannot give life to spirit.3

So death isn’t the end. Though separated from the body, the spirit lives on.

Now that we’ve defined what man and death are, we’re finally ready to come back to our original dilemma.

 

Did God Die?

Yes, God did die. Jesus Christ, the second person of the Holy Trinity was tortured to death at the hands of Roman soldiers. Nailed to the wood of the cross, moments before His death, He cried out, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Then, Luke tells us, Jesus “breathed his last” (Luke 23:46).

Jesus’ death on the cross was just as real as any other human death. When His body could no longer sustain life, His spirit departed the material world, leaving His body lifeless. But does this pose any problem for a Christian? Does this sound like a dilemma?

Of course not. The world was not without God for three days. Jesus lived on, in spite of His separation from His body. Dying in no way blotted Jesus out from existence. It only separated Him from His body, causing Him to depart from this world.

So if anyone ever objects that Jesus can’t be God because Jesus died, simply explain that death only separates the spirit from the body, and that in no way poses a dilemma for a Christian. God came that He might redeem us through His death on the cross. And redeem us He did.

Image result for jesus on the cross

 

Sources

[1] Summa Theologiae I, Q 4, Art 2,
www.newadvent.org/summa/

[2] Sheed, F. J. Theology for Beginners, 1981, p. 10.

[3] Sheed, F. J. “Life After Death.” Theology and Sanity,
http://www.ecatholic2000.com/sheed/untitled-31.shtml

Mystery and Sacraments

When one begins to study sacred scripture the idea of mystery becomes very apparent.  The New Testament and Septuagint speak of the Greek word Mysterion.  When St. Jerome was translating the Hebrew and Greek manuscripts into what would be the Latin Vulgate, he used the word sacramentum, or sacrament in English. In fact, the sacraments are celebrations of the mysteries of God. The Old Testament has no shortages of these mysteries that give us clues of the nature of God and the sacred mysteries.  This paper will seek to define mysterion, give examples of how these mysteries help reveal God’s identity, the role of ritual and sacrifice, and how God chooses to communicate with His people.

The word mystery is an anomaly of sorts.  In some circles it is something that is not to be questions, but to be accepted.  To others it is an invitation to explore, learn, and grow.  At most basic level a mystery is something hidden, and the information needed to understand is not available.  When it comes to God it is the opposite.  God is not some cosmic force that wants to remain hidden from us.  He was us to know Him, and he wants to be known by us.  We come to know these mysteries of God through our senses, reason, and faith.

It is through our physical senses that we get to know the word around us.  We learn what things smell like, we can see, hear, and see that this amazing world came from something.  Science tells us that everything has an origin and cannot come from nothing.  It is in this way that our senses testify to the existence of a creator.  Secondly, we come to know these mysteries through the uses of our reason.  We come to knowledge of the meaning and purpose of creation, even the creation of our own human lives, through our ability to reason.  Through reason we enter into relationship with God.  Lastly, the third way we understand the mysteries is through faith.  The utilization of faith informs reason and is necessary for a personal relationship with God.

In the Old Testament there are many examples of how these mysteries reveal God’s identity, his relationship with humanity, and the nature and destiny of humanity.  God’s identity is perhaps one of the biggest mysteries of all because he is transcendent and outside of time.  We get a clue in the book of Exodus when God and Moses are interacting.  The passage in question is Exodus 3:14 when Moses asks for God’s name, and God relies “This is what you shall tell the Israelites I AM sent me to you” (NAB).  He also has power over creation as he can calm the storms and cause beasts to retreat. This reveals a God who is creator or all and nothing is above him.  This has huge implications when it comes to God’s relationship with humanity.  God is not inaccessible and not wanting to be discovered, but quite the contrary.  Humanity was made in the image of him who is existence itself.  We read this in Genesis 1:27 which states, “God created man in his image; I the divine image he created him; male and female he created them” (NAB).  This shows that we were made to be in relationship with God.  When we are in proper relationship we are that image of the divine creator, but when we sin and reject him we die.  We have turned our back on God as is seen in Genesis 3:19. The nature and destiny of humanity is to live.  God created man in his image, and he uses our physical senses to make him.  He uses all means or creation, including the human body, to make himself known.

Within the Old Testament there are also many lessons regarding the priesthood and the role of ritual sacrifice and offerings.  Regarding the priesthood, it is vital to understand that it is God who chooses and calls an individual to the priesthood.  It is through the priesthood that pleasing sacrifices are offered to God to maintain the Abrahamic and Noahic covenants.  In Numbers chapter 16 Moses describes the corrupt priests Korah who stood against Moses and Aaron.  Not everyone has a claim to the priesthood because it is God who calls him.  Scripture states this very clearly in Numbers 16:5 when Moses states, “May the Lord make known tomorrow morning who belongs to him and who is the holy one and whom he will have draw near to him!” (NAB).  Later is verse 10 Moses states that it is God who allows the priests to approach him, and all the evil priests of Korah were destroyed.  In Genesis 8:20 Noah offered a burnt offering for the Lord made a covenant to never destroy the Earth by flood.  Likewise Abraham, then known as Abram, built an altar and offered a burnt offering to God and God made a covenant with him.  This shows that ritual and sacrifice are important ways in which God communicates with his people through his priesthood.

In the Old Testament God also uses special ways to communicate with his people.  One such example is with Moses in the book of Exodus.  In Exodus 3:3 God uses the burning bush to communicate with Moses.  Moses was intrigued by the site of a bush that was on fire but was not being destroyed.  When Moses approached God told him to take his sandals off because it was holy ground.  Another example with Moses is seen in Exodus 4:1-4.  Moses was balking at the mission that God gave him to do.  God told Moses to throw down the staff that he gave him, and the staff turned into a snake.  God then told him to pick it up by the tail, and it turned back inti a staff.  This got the attention if Moses, and Moses returned to Egypt to confront Pharaoh.  Another example of God communicating with his people is the prophet Daniel.  In Daniel chapter 2:19-23 God communicated with Daniel in a dream.  In fact, there are many times in sacred scripture where God communicates through dreams.  One has to be in close relationship with God to discern if it is truly God speaking.

Image result for sacrament

Works Cited

Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2 ed.  New York:  Doubleday, 2003.  Print.

Holy Bible, New American Bible

Newman’s Development Hypothesis

After reading Cardinal Newman’s “The Development of Ideas” I came to the conclusion that ideas and doctrine do not just come about.  They started from an idea that was debated, was allowed to germinate, and must be allowed to mature.  This can only be done through debate and reason.  What is interesting is that this work was the turning point of Newman to Catholicism.  As many do he started as an evangelical, then Anglican, and finally seeing the ideas and doctrines that had matured, became a great asset to the Catholic Church.

Newman explains that at first man will have an idea, but will not be sure how to explain.  He may seem like a babbling fool unable to make a coherent point about the idea.  However over time something will be brought to light that will move the idea forward.  This new fact will be debated and judged by many, and after a time there will be something definite that comes from it.  Over time there may even be various views on the same subject, but there will be a definite teaching that came from the original idea.  History will show that great teachings of history can be boiled down to its original idea and this helps us understand it all the more.

This process, especially in terms of doctrine, can take a lot of time to develop.  It has been shaped and formed from many brilliant people with their own take on it.  We all have different experiences and an idea may mean something different to different people.  The ideas that came from the great councils of our church are great examples of this.  All the Bishops gathered together with their own input, and the Holy Spirit guided them in defining doctrine.  There was much debate and everyone learned from another.

Image result for cardinal newman

Works Cited

http://www.newmanreader.org/works/development/index.html

The Importance of the Resurrection

Every Easter we celebrate the resurrection of Christ.  It is the foundation of our faith, and without the resurrection are faith is futile (1 Corinthians 15:14).  Beyond proving that Jesus is the Christ, what does the resurrection prove?  The resurrection is about much more than the eyewitness accounts of the Apostles seeing the risen Jesus.  It is also about the new life that is present in every believer throughout time.

We have finite minds, and it is hard for us to grasp the miracle that is the resurrection.  Jesus is a divine being, and as a divine being he resurrected from the dead to prove who he was.  Though theologically true, this view leads to a somewhat simplistic understanding of the event.  The resurrection can also be seen in the transformation of the believer.  It is about the new life in Christ and not what the ocular vision of the disciples has perceived.  Saint Paul also echo this sentiment in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation:  everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new” (NRSV).

The resurrection is a religious experience of one who has come to faith in Christ, and is much more than something that happened to those who physically encountered the risen Christ.  According to Scholars such as Luke Johnson this is a common theme in the Pauline Corpus.  Regarding this Dr. Johnson writes, “The resurrection experience, in Paul’s letters, is not something that happens to Jesus alone” (Johnson 25).  Every Christian with a genuine faith in Christ experiences the resurrection in a special way through baptism.  Through the sacrament of baptism original sin is wiped away, and we are raised in the newness of life.

Within the context of introducing the resurrection to Christian audience there are a couple of things to keep in mind.  From an apologetics standpoint, it is important to know the reasoning as to why the resurrection is the foundation of the faith.  One can go into the martyrdom of the early church because they were attesting to the resurrection.  People do not die for a lie.

Secondly, it is more important to assist the audience in learning to relate to the resurrection in a deeper way.  A way that is more personal, and something that they can share.  Everyone has something deep in the recesses of their mind that they are ashamed of.  It may be an addiction, adultery, or a gambling problem.  These things are destructive, but when one comes to faith those things are in the past.  They still may struggle, but through Christ they are resurrected and forgiven for those things that they have done.  Those types of experiences are the modern-day equivalent of the disciples physically seeing the resurrected Jesus.  Our former selves are dead and gone, but we were resurrected spiritually into a new creation.  The disciples’ experience of Jesus raised and exalted is the difference between their faith in the gospel.

Image result for resurrection

Works Cited

Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version

Johnson, Luke Timothy. “How Jesus Became GodCommonweal. 2/3/2015. Web. 22 Feb. 2015.

 

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑