The following is the introduction from my book Jesus in 3D which came out this past month. (The Amazon search feature only gives half of the intro, so I figured I’d offer it here in full.) Of course I’d love for you to buy it, read it, and let me know what you think. (And if you like it, post a favorable review there on Amazon!)
As a follow-up to yesterday’s list of my favorite books on Jesus, here are my favorites on the church and ministry. Once again, I very much welcome your thoughts and especially your own favorites. These are the ones that have shaped me and that keep me on my toes.
1. Jesus and Community by Gerhard Lohfink. I talked about this book in the Jesus list, but I wanted to include it here as well, mainly because (as I mentioned) it confirmed my conviction that the church was not an afterthought to the coming of Jesus the Messiah. On the contrary, core to Jesus’ ministry was the gathering of a body of people to continue God’s mission in the world. This book provides an excellent exegetically based theology of the church as just this very thing. Given that the church is full of sinful people (including me!) and can therefore be pretty frustrating at times, it has proved invaluable for me to remember that you can’t have Jesus without it. Or as William Willimon puts it, “The church may be a whore but she’s also your mother.” (Joey says Lohfink’s Does God Need the Church? is rockin too, and it’ll probably supplant this one when I do read it.) Continue reading
Life Journal // 007
I receieved an email this morning from a Real-Lifer (and good friend) about a verse from today’s Life Journal reading: John 6.65 – He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.” His comment was quick and to the point: “Doesn’t sound like free will to me!!!”
Of course “free will” is a complicated philosophical concept that we aren’t going to get into here, but I thought I’d share my answer for any other Real-Lifers (or otherwise) who had the same question.
This verse finds a parallel in 6.44 – “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them.” This states the very same thing, this time substituting “draws” for “enables” (they’re synonymous and both fairly straightforward).
If we read these as detached philosophical or theological statements then they do certainly seem to argue against free will. But not if we read them in the context of the story John is telling about Jesus. Notice what Jesus later says in John 12.32:
And I, when I am lifted up, will draw all men to myself.
In John’s Gospel, Jesus being “lifted up” always refers to the cross; in John’s paradoxical theology, it is when Jesus is at his lowest that he is actually at his highest (or to use another John phrase, that he is “glorified”). So it is at the cross that all people are drawn to Jesus. The cross is the great “enabler” without which none of us could come to Jesus. But since in the cross God reached out to all of us through Jesus, we are now all faced with the decision of how to respond. So it is true that no one can come unless they are drawn/enabled by God to do so, but in the cross this very drawing/enabling has taken place. God has done his part and the rest is up to us (with his constant help, of course).
This past week I began a 3-week class at RLC called “Ask Anything.” It’s a Q&A format centered on whatever people want to talk about, but each week I’ll tackle one of the “big questions” lots of people seem to be asking. I’ll post my reflections on those questions here on the blog each week. We started with a question that seems foundational to many: How do we know God exists?
First we have to acknowledge that we don’t know for sure that God exists, any more than we know for sure that he doesn’t. Absolute certainty about whether God exists or not is impossible.
Some say God doesn’t exist because God’s existence can’t be proven “scientifically.” But if anything like what we mean by the word “god” does exist, there is no way science could answer the question one way or another. Others might say that God has to exist because we’ve experienced him; but there is no way to know for sure that our experience matches the reality we’re claiming is behind it.
It is impossible for us to find a place or perspective from where we can look down and determine God’s existence either way. This would only be possible if God were below us, which would make him something other than God.
Instead of certainty, we are dealing with probability. Those who affirm or deny God’s existence are looking at the world, gathering information, and making an educated guess about the best explanation for what they see. Some think the world is best explained by the existence of a God. Others think the opposite. But neither position is inherently more logical, and both involve faith – a risky commitment we each have to make given our limited knowledge and perspective.
Within this, there are many reasons I think it more likely that God exists than that he doesn’t: Continue reading