Bart Ehrman is at it again, popularizing the ideas that agnostics and atheists want so desperately to believe about Jesus and Christianity—namely, traditional teaching about Jesus doesn't match up with the historical reality of Jesus. The Bible can't really be trusted, but the public can trust scholarship to uncover the evolution of belief its writers represent. When I learned that this book would be coming out, I teamed up with Craig Evans, Simon Gathercole, Charles Hill, and Chris Tilling to write How God Became Jesus (Zondervan). We were granted access to an advance copy of Ehrman's book and mobilized in our fields of expertise to write a response, released the same day as Ehrman's book.
Lest we forget, let me note that Ehrman gets some things very right, things even Christians can be thankful he is bringing to the fore in this latest study. For example, he believes Jesus did exist and his life can be studied. (Let's not take that for granted.) Also, he points out that in the Gospel records we have, Jesus does not go around saying, "I am the second person of the Trinity and you must call me God and worship me." Ehrman is right that there was a progression of understanding and belief about who Jesus was and what he did and was doing. The Bible certainly does represent Jesus' followers' written reports that try to make sense of this for their audiences. In short, Ehrman is asking good questions.
But even granting these things (and giving him the benefit of the doubt that he really is attempting to do religiously neutral historical scholarship) Erhman's research, according to many scholars including those who wrote the book with me, leaves much to be desired in places. How God Became Jesus urges the consideration of (among others) the following lines of evidence. more >>
With the release of Matthew Vines' God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships, conservative Evangelicals are responding with warnings that the book should not cause confusion regarding Scripture's teaching on homosexuality.
The book, Andrew Walker – director of Policy Studies for the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission – says, "is the first step in a larger effort to fundamentally recast long-held, universally acknowledged norms pertaining to sexual ethics."
In his review, Walker notes that not only does Vines identify himself as a conservative evangelical and claim to uphold the authority of the Bible, but his book also comes at a strategic time for the gay rights movement as it was likely written to introduce confusion among Evangelicals – "one of the last remaining constituencies in America that has not embraced homosexuality with gusto." more >>
Easter is a time when Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, fulfilling centuries of prophecy about the Messiah. It is a holiday known for also featuring secular components like Easter eggs, candy, egg hunts, and the Easter bunny. Some of these traditions derive from pagan observances dating back to the Roman Empire, which some find troubling.
Thomas Burke, dean of Humanities at Hillsdale College and a professor of philosophy and religion, however, believes that it is acceptable for Christians to partake in rituals during Easter that may have pagan roots.
In an interview with The Christian Post, Burke explained that given that these secular Easter traditions "no longer have those pagan associations and meanings," they are "perfectly legitimate for Christians." more >>
What was the extent of the physical suffering Jesus endured at the crucifixion? Consider that the English word "excruciating" is from the Latin meaning "out of the crucifixion." I've found that the best way to comprehend the magnitude of the Christ's physical suffering on Good Friday is to read the following description that we've adapted from the work of medical doctor, C. Truman Davis (see I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist, p. 380-383).
WARNING: THIS IS GRAPHIC (You may have a difficult time getting through it).
The whip the Roman soldiers use on Jesus has small iron balls and sharp pieces of sheep bones tied to it. Jesus is stripped of his clothing, and his hands are tied to an upright post. His back, buttocks, and legs are whipped either by one soldier or by two who alternate positions. The soldiers taunt their victim. As they repeatedly strike Jesus' back with full force, the iron balls cause deep contusions, and the sheep bones cut into the skin and tissues. As the whipping continues, the lacerations tear into the underlying skeletal muscles and produce quivering ribbons of bleeding flesh. Pain and blood loss set the stage for circulatory shock. more >>
Easter has always meant a lot to me, and in the life of our church, Easter Sundays have been historic times of outreach, growth and opportunity. However, the resurrection of Jesus has never meant more to me than it does right now.
The grave is brutal, merciless and uncaring. It swallows everything it touches and it is never satisfied. It will not stop until every last person has been consumed. It seems as though every time you turn on the news or get a breaking news alert on your phone there is a new tragedy. Planes that disappear, celebrities who accidentally overdose, young people who despair and take their lives, public places turned to terror through shooting – sometimes it's too much to handle.
The good news is that death has been devoured by the power of God and it can't fight back. Jesus' tomb is empty and because of that fact, we don't have to be terrified by the grave anymore. Death's power has been undone. Those who fall asleep in Christ become greater after death than they were before and they can never be touched by it again. Paul said, "For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." (II Corinthians 5:1) more >>
"Heaven Is for Real," the movie based on the near-death experience of a young boy who believes he visited heaven and met Jesus, is generating divided opinions among Christians on whether it presents a biblical message on heaven as it hits theaters Easter weekend.
The movie is based on the best-selling 2010 book Heaven Is for Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back, where pastor Todd Burpo reports on the near-death experience of his then 4-year-old son, Colton, who shares of meeting Jesus in heaven as well as a number of his deceased relatives after undergoing emergency surgery in 2003.
The film adaptation of the book, directed by Randall Wallace, opened on Wednesday, and has received the backing of some Christian groups, including Faith Driven Consumer, which reviews faith or Bible-based films. more >>