A few days ago a pair of Dutch comedians, Sacha Harland and Alexander Spoor, decided to perform the sort of lame prank that is guaranteed to pull internet views. They wrapped a Bible with a cover reading “Holy Quran” and then read excerpts to random people in the streets to get a reaction.
The Age newspaper had an article on it, Patheos had a post about it on The Friendly Atheist, it’s been featured far and wide. It has over a million views on Youtube.
The creators explained the experiment thus:
“Muslims have been accused of following a faith that has no place in our Western culture. What about Christianity? A religion that has influenced our culture greatly.”
Society changes, but the Bible doesn’t. So how can the Bible have anything relevant to say that can guide our lives in this 21st century, interconnected, post-modern world? And if we just reinterpret it to suit our changing social context, what is the point?
Often, when someone experiences a personal setback, the “encouragement” given to them by well-meaning Christians is: “Don’t worry, God has a plan for your life,” or, “It’s all part of God’s special plan for you.”
God certainly has a deep desire for you to be reconciled to him, but usually when people talk about “God’s plan for my life” they mean that there are very specific, very human milestones that God has laid out for them to reach and achieve during their time on this Earth. And I don’t think that idea is Biblically grounded.
The essential element of Christianity is a personal relationship with Jesus. Last week I participated in a study of Mark 7, and was reminded just how personal Jesus’ interactions with people were during his ministry on Earth.
There are three major segments to Mark 7, and at first glance they don’t seem to have too much in common (at least, they didn’t to me). I strongly encourage you to read the whole chapter yourself (use BibleGateway if you don’t have a Bible handy), but I’ll give a brief overview of each section:
I really think that those who endorse a “plain reading”, strictly literalist interpretation of the Bible are missing out on some of the most awesome stuff that God has given us the Scripture. Let me give a bit of background to explain what I mean:
I was recently asked to preach on Mark 13, in which Jesus describes the end times (and also some more imminent times). It’s a complex chapter and I’m not going to try and unpack all of it here, but I was particularly struck by his description of the Temple desecration. Jesus starts by saying that the Temple will be destroyed, torn apart block by block, and also says that the fulfillment of this prophecy will give the listeners confidence in what he tells them about the end times. The destruction of the Temple will happen soon, in the lifetimes of his listeners, and then they will know that what he says about his second coming is also true.
So why do I say that this is a challenge to a literalist reading of Scripture? Well, let’s look at what Jesus says. He warns the listeners to flee from the destruction, and he does it using these words:
Hard to believe that in such an intellectually advanced age there are still some who cling tenaciously to the notion that “Jesus was not a real historical figure”, but apparently the light of education has still not penetrated all the deep corners.
Should be unfortunate enough to find yourself accosted by denialists, you may find this essay series by James Hannam useful. Hannam writes in his introduction:
“The thesis that Jesus never existed has hovered around the fringes of research into the New Testament for at least a century but it has never been accepted as a mainstream theory. This is for good reason. It is simply a bad hypothesis based on arguments from silence, special pleading, and an awful lot of wishful thinking. It is ironic that certain atheists will buy into this idea and leave all their pretensions of critical thinking behind…
In this four-part series, it is not my intention to study the minutiae of the various arguments. Instead, I will focus on three central contentions often advanced in discussions about Jesus. These are 1) the lack of secular references, 2) the alleged similarities to paganism, and 3) the silence of St. Paul.”
Hannam deals with each of these contentions in a highly readable and well-researched series of essays. Read the rest of Is Jesus Christ a Myth? here:
I’m visiting some colleagues in Hobart at the moment, so I have a new route that I walk to work each day. It’s a tranquil and tree-lined avenue with some lovely gardens, especially now when all the spring flowers are in bloom.
Running alongside the path is a stream, and this morning, in that stream, were some ducks. Mostly they were doing normal duckish things – paddling about, quacking and nibbling the odd bit of water vegetation. But it’s spring, so they were also pretty frisky. In particular, there were two drakes which both seemed very keen on a female duck, which in turn was doing her best to paddle away from them. But the drakes were not to be discouraged. They held her head under the water and had their way with her despite all her struggling and flapping.
Just another day on the river. A light breeze, the delicate scent of flowers in the air and avian gang-rape in the water.