Counterfeit Faith – Dogmatism

Beware of Dogma sign
By Twinsday (Own work) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
One of my problems is that I am a slow reader, which was no help to me at all during my years as an English Literature major! I can skim read, of course, but when I come across good books packed full of excellent wisdom, I end up taking forever to digest them. Add in my A.D.D. issues, and I end up with tons of books that I never finish, or have only read bits and pieces in, or have never even started!

So, recently I picked up off my shelf a book I bought years ago – David G. Benner’s Soulful Spirituality: Becoming Fully Alive and Deeply Human (Brazos Press, 2011) – and realized again why I wanted to read it. Benner, psychologist and author, writes with great wisdom and grace. Very early in the book already it made me pause to meditate and reflect. Here is a long excerpt: Continue reading “Counterfeit Faith – Dogmatism”

Why Theology Matters

Statue personifying Faculty of Theology
“Faculty of Theology (personification)-1” by Joker Island – Own work. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

(This is a blast from my past. My first ever professionally published article, “Theology Shapes Everyone” was published in The Banner, June 16, 1997 and was written while I was still a graduate student completing my MA in English Literature. I hope you will find it is still relevant today.)

A few months ago [back in 1997], a friend showed me a humorous article, titled, Glossary of Church Growth and Contemporary Christian Music Terminology. It gives tongue-in-cheek definitions of various terms and phrases related to Church life and Christian music. Scanning through it, I noticed the following entry: “Theology: A necessary evil, something like spinach or Pepto Bismol.” Even as I laughed at it, I was afraid the joke’s sentiment may actually reflect the average Christian’s feelings about theology.

One of the catch-phrases these days is, “I want to know God personally, not know about God.” There is, of course, some truth in that statement. This is one reason why books like J.I. Packer’s Knowing God are such best-sellers. Theology is often seen as giving a lot of head-knowledge about God with little to offer in terms of heart-knowledge. In fact, sometimes, theology is even seen as a hindrance to spiritual growth. Perceived as dry, intellectual, academic stuff, theology is seen as far removed from the reality and needs of the Christian’s spiritual walk.

Theology has indeed been guilty before of being irrelevant and abstract. This was especially so during the nineteenth century when many Christians were swept along by the era’s worship of human reason and science. Theology was affected by a very strong emphasis on logic and classification, leaving very little room for the more experiential and pastoral approaches. Modernity also has a strong faith in the inherent goodness of knowledge for knowledge’s sake. Hence, creating a split between theory and practice. As a result, theology in universities is often pursued for its own sake, divorced from its service and accountability to the Church. But such abuses of theology do not justify its exclusion. Let us not throw away the proverbial baby along with the bath water. I am convinced that theology has been, and still is, relevant to both a Christian’s and a Church’s spiritual health. Continue reading “Why Theology Matters”

The Historicity of Jesus: Ancient Pagan Sources

Jesus is considered by scholars such as Weber ...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In my previous post, I argued for the historicity of Jesus by examining the Jewish historian Josephus’ writings. In this post, I will look at pagan Greco-Roman authors as sources for the historical Jesus, drawing again from Robert E. Van Voorst, Jesus Outside the New Testament: An Introduction to the Ancient Evidence (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000), pp. 19-74. Van Voorst lists seven pagan – i.e. non-Christian and non-Jewish – sources.

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Josephus on Jesus: Evidence for Jesus’ Existence?

Antonio Ciseri's depiction of Pontius Pilate p...
Antonio Ciseri's depiction of Pontius Pilate presenting a scourged Christ to the people Ecce homo! (Behold the man!). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As Christians celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus during Good Friday and Easter, I want to briefly deal with the claims of skeptics that Jesus never existed as a real person and was a mythical fiction by the early Christians. Of course, skeptics will not accept the New Testament documents as reliable witnesses to the historicity of Jesus. Fine, I can understand their logic that the New Testament documents are biased. Thankfully, there are non-Christian ancient documents that mentioned Jesus that we can turn to. There are, at least, seven ancient Classical or Greco-Roman authors who mentioned Jesus that scholars have attested as authentic. And there are various ancient Jewish writings as well, the most famous being the Jewish historian Flavious Josephus. Obviously I don’t have space to look at all of these documents in detail with you. For this blog post, I will look at Josephus’ Jewish Antiquities.

Continue reading “Josephus on Jesus: Evidence for Jesus’ Existence?”

Scripture Alone?

(This blog is based on a sermon delivered at Rehoboth Fellowship Christian Reformed Church, Toronto on Oct. 30, 2011.)

One of the major themes from the Reformation is “Scripture Alone” or, in its Latin form, sola scriptura. Although this is a popular theme among Protestant Evangelicals especially, I think many have actually misunderstood its meaning, and hence, misapplied it. So, in the spirit of the Reformers, I want to reform – to form again – what I believe are distortions about sola scriptura. My main scholarly source here is Alister McGrath’s Reformation Thought (Blackwell 1993).

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Does God Cry?

The recent earthquake and tsunamis in Japan with a horrific death toll of possibly ten of thousands should break our hearts and move us to act, to give and to help. For Christians who believe in an omnipotent good God, however, it may also shake our faith. The problem of evil and suffering is a centuries-old philosophical conundrum. It is bad enough to contemplate human-made horrors like 9/11, human trafficking, the Holocaust or the atrocities of war but how do we reconcile natural disasters – such as Japan now, New Zealand’s earthquake weeks prior, the 2010 Pakistan floods, the 2010 Haiti and Chile earthquakes, the 2005 Hurricane Katrina, the 2004 Asian tsunamis, the list goes on – with the belief that a good God is in control? I confess I grapple with this problem.

Continue reading “Does God Cry?”