Homosexuality and the Bible

Here is an updated version of Robert Gagnon’s response to Jennifer Knust’s CNN Belief Blog post on the Bible and homosexuality. Gagnon is one of the leading evangelical scholars on the subject and his discussion of what the Bible has to say about homosexuality and same sex relationships is well worth digesting.

HT: Chris Reese

The Difference Between Old Testament War and Qur’anic Jihad

Imad Shehadeh (Professor of Theology at Jordan Evangelical Theological Seminary) puts forward several reasons why we should distinguish God’s OT command to kill the Canaanites from qur’anic Jihad:

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  1. It is limited to one time, not all times.
  2. It is limited to one land, not all lands. It judges sin to fulfill prophecy, not to adhere to a religion.
  3. It shows God’s holiness, not his power. Its goal is to bless the whole earth, not subdue it. It is God fighting for his people, not the people fighting for God.
  4. It is according to God’s trustworthy nature, not according to a capricious nature.
  5. It prefigures God finally absorbing the deserved judgment and wrath on all nations in Christ’s death on the cross. Judgment deserved became judgment absorbed.[/pk_box]

From his review of Allah: A Christian Response (Themelios Volume 36, Issue 2, Aug 2011).


Defending Christianity is Not Enough

[pk_box width=”600″ align=”center”]”We can make people (often) attend to the Christian point of view for half an hour or so; but the moment they have gone away from our lecture or laid down our article, they are plunged back into a world where the opposite position is taken for granted. As long as that situation exists, widespread success is simply impossible. We must attack the enemy’s line of communication. What we want is not more little books about Christianity, but more little books by Christians on other subjects — with their Christianity latent. You can see this most easily if you look at it the other way round. Our Faith is not very likely to be shaken by any book on Hinduism. But if whenever we read an elementary book on Geology, Botany, Politics, or Astronomy, we found that its implications were Hindu, that would shake us. It is not the books written in direct defence of Materialism that make the modern man a materialist; it is the materialistic assumptions in all the other books. In the same way, it is not books on Christianity that will really trouble him. But he would be troubled if, whenever he wanted a cheap popular introduction to some science, the best work on the market was always by a Christian.”[/pk_box]

C. S. Lewis, God in the Dock.

[Source: Tim McGrew]

Could the Universe Create Itself?

Professor Edgar Andrews offers several reasons to doubt the claim that the universe arose without the intervention of a supernatural creator.

Exploring Life’s Biggest Questions

G. K. Chesterton once wrote, “We all feel the riddle of the earth without anyone to point it out. The mystery of life is the plainest part of it.” He was right; there is nothing more basic to humanity than the desire to unriddle the mystery of life. Life’s Biggest Questions is a new book intended to help readers do exactly that.

Written by Erik Thoennes, a pastor and professor of theology at Biola University, the book raises sixteen fundamental questions (e.g. Does God exist? What is God like? Who is Jesus? What is a human being?) and offers snappy but Biblically solid answers in response. Less than 200 pages in length, the book’s strength is its readability and clarity – distilling complicated doctrines of the Christian faith into easily accessible chapters. The book also contains several charts and illustrative material to make the information easy to digest and with questions for application and discussion at the conclusion of each chapter, Life’s Biggest Questions is an ideal resource for small groups.

Because the book is primarily an introduction to theological questions rather than apologetic questions (e.g. Is faith opposed to evidence? Are miracles possible? Why can’t Christianity be true for you, and Buddhism true for me?) the book wouldn’t be my first choice to put into the hands of a skeptic or someone who is grappling with objections to Christianity. However, for new Christians or those who have had some exposure to Christianity and want to know more, or even mature Christians who are looking for concise ways to talk about what they believe, this book is a valuable resource.

You can find out more about the book here (including a sample of the first three chapters). To hear Erik Thoennes talk about the book, you can listen to his interview with Greg Koukl on the Stand To Reason radio program here (skip to 01:54:01 for the interview).

Here are some endorsements of the book:

“It is refreshing to see a book that addresses our deepest concerns from a distinctively theological perspective. Professor Thoennes is a master communicator, and Life’s Biggest Questions is marked by an accessible, interesting style. The book is filled with content and distinctively characterized by repeated examples of practical application. It is a fun read and would make an excellent text for a course in theology or Christian worldview.”
-J. P. Moreland, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, Talbot School of Theology, Biola University

“Helpful, concise, accessible: this book will provide clarity and conviction for those looking for answers to the big questions.”
-Josh Moody, Senior Pastor, College Church, Wheaton, Illinois; author, The God-Centered Life: Insights from Jonathan Edwards

“Socrates’ well-known statement, ‘The unexamined life is not worth living,’ is an entirely appropriate start to Life’s Biggest Questions. Stepping outside of one’s day-to-day existence to reflect on the big-picture questions is understandable and commendable. This book clearly, concisely, and thoughtfully presents answers from an evangelical Christian perspective. Thoennes is not only able to articulate Christian theology and history, but also help readers think through the implications for their own lives.”
-Heather Campbell, vice president, Atheist Coalition of San Diego

“Dr. Thoennes is a masterful teacher. With biblical precision and profound understanding, he comes to grips with the most often asked questions about the gospel. The beauty of following Christ comes through with such clarity that the reader will want to fall in love with Jesus all over again.”
-Robert E. Coleman, Distinguished Professor of Evangelism and Discipleship, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary

Debunking the Zeitgeist Movie

Jonathan McLatchie addresses the internet documentary’s claim that Jesus is a mythological amalgamation of ancient pagan deities.

Nicholas Wolterstorff on How to Think with a Christian Mind

In a 2007 address at the University of Tennessee, Nicholas Wolterstorff offered some thoughts on how to faithfully and effectively serve in the academic world as a Christian:

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First, be patient. The Christian scholar may feel in his bones that some part of his discipline rubs against the grain of his Christian conviction, but for years, and even decades, he may not be able to identify precisely the point of conflict; or, if he has identified it, he may not know for years or decades how to work out an alternative. Once he does spy the outlines of an alternative, the Christian scholar has to look for the points on which, as it were, he can pry, those points where he can get his partners in the discipline to say, “Hmm, you have a point there; I’m going to have to go home and think about that.” He doesn’t just preach. He engages in a dialogue – or tries to do so. And that presupposes, once again, that he has found a voice.

Second, to arrive at this point, the Christian scholar will have to be immersed in the discipline and be really good at it. Grenades lobbed by those who don’t know what they are talking about will have no effect. Only those who are learned in the discipline can see the fundamental issues.

Third, to be able to think with a Christian mind about the issues in your discipline, you have to have a Christian mind. As I see it, three things are necessary for the acquisition of such a mind.

First, you have to be well acquainted with Scripture – not little tidbits, not golden nuggets, but the pattern of biblical thought. Let me add here: beware of the currently popular fad of reducing acquaintance with scripture to worldview summaries.

Second, you need some knowledge of the Christian theological tradition.

And third, you have to become acquainted with the riches of the Christian intellectual tradition generally, especially those parts of it that pertain to your own field. Too often American Christians operate on the assumption that we in our day are beginning anew, or on the assumption that nothing important has preceded us. You and I are the inheritors of an enormously rich tradition of Christian reflection on politics, on economics, on psychology, an enormously rich tradition of art, of music, of poetry, of architecture – on and on it goes. We impoverish ourselves if we ignore this. Part of our responsibility as Christian scholars is to keep those traditions alive.

Fourth, Christian learning needs the nourishment of communal worship. Otherwise it becomes dry and brittle, easily susceptible to skepticism.[/pk_box]

Christianity is Not a Source of Violence

The Evangelical Philosophical Society has issued a public statement in response to claims that Christianity caused Anders Breivik to commit the recent killings in Oslo, Norway:

[pk_box width=”600″ align=”center”]In no reasonable sense of the term can Breivik be called a Christian. As Jordan Sekulow said … in another Washington Post piece, “To label Breivik a ‘Christian’ requires a depraved understand[ing] of what it means to be a Christian.”

Those sympathetic with these accusations apparently reject the distinction between genuine Christians and those who merely claim to be Christians. We recognize this distinction in every other context, and so should we here. Being a Christian is not simply a matter of affirming certain propositions, as is clear from many biblical passages (e.g., Mt. 25:31-46; 1 Cor. 6:9-10; and Gal. 5:19-21). Even if Anders Breivik did affirm the deity and resurrection of Jesus (which, in fact, he denies), this would not by itself make him any more Christian than the devil himself (who presumably would affirm these truths).

Even more disturbing is the contention by Thislethwaite that there are “elements of Christianity” that actually inspire violence. Thislethwaite neglects to specify what those elements are, beyond pointing to certain problematic “interpretations” of Scripture.

Some might be tempted to justify this view by pointing to certain Old Testament passages where God commanded the killing of the Canaanites. But these are not uniquely Christian texts. Jews and Muslims also regard the Old Testament books as scripture. To properly assess a true Christian ethic of violence we must focus on Christianity’s distinguishing person, Jesus Christ, and Christianity’s distinguishing text, the New Testament. And when we do so, what do we find? A consistent ethic of non-violence. Consider the following:

The Example of Christ – Jesus’ entire life was characterized by peace and reconciliation, earning him the moniker “Prince of Peace.”Even in the face of extreme injustice and merciless torture, he did not resist his abusers. Jesus even rebuked a disciple for resorting to violence to defend him (Mt. 26:52).

The Ministry of Christ – Jesus consistently worked for peace and reconciliation. He declared, “blessed are the peacemakers” (Mt. 5:9) and instructed people to “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you (Luke 6:27-28). Jesus explicitly taught an ethic of personal non-violence, saying, “Do not [violently] resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also” (Mt. 5:39).

Other New Testament Teachings – The Apostle Paul taught fellow Christians to live peacefully with others, saying, “so far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Rom. 12:18).He makes the same admonition repeatedly (see I Cor. 7:15; 1 Cor. 14:33; 2 Cor. 13:11; and 1 Thess. 5:13). Paul and Peter also expressly reject rebellion against government authorities (Rom. 13:1-3; 1 Pet. 2:13-17).

The influence of these teachings in the history of the church is well-known, including:1) significant pacifist theological traditions (e.g., the Quakers and Mennonites), 2) Christian non-violent social movements (e.g. anti-war organizations, anti-death penalty groups, and Martin Luther King’s work in the civil rights movement), and 3) Christian martyrdom, as thousands of believers have been, and continue to be, tortured and killed rather than to violently defend themselves against oppressors.

These are the facts that have been overlooked or ignored by those such as Thislethwaite who suggest Christianity inspires violence. Perhaps what Thislethwaite really wants to highlight is the fact that some madmen, most recently Anders Breivik, have warped or twisted Christian ideas to their own use in attempting to justify their violence. Well, of course this is true—and it is so obvious it is hardly worth stating. But this is a far cry from the notion that Christianity itself, as defined above inspires violence or that there could be such a thing as a “Christian terrorist.” [/pk_box]

Read the full statement here.

Another Atheist Refuses to Debate William Lane Craig

Polly Toynbee, president of the British Humanist Association, has pulled out of her scheduled London debate with Craig. Three prominent members of the BHA, the President and two Vice-Presidents, have now refused or withdrawn from publicly contesting the claims of theism with the Christian philosopher. Read the Reasonable Faith press release here.

Tim Keller on Justification and Justice

Tim Keller talks about his book Generous Justice and shows how Christianity is not a hindrance to doing justice, but that its central doctrine – justification by faith – is essential to having a heart for justice and the poor. The talk took place at the Christ and City conference in Chicago.

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If you want to hear more from Keller on Biblical justice, check out his lecture on Doing Justice or his sermon on Isaiah 58.

Lectures by John Stott

With the passing of John Stott, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary has made available some lectures he delivered at their campus in 1972. Stott is worth hearing, as Kenneth Kantzer once wrote, “When I hear him expound a text, invariably I exclaim to myself, ‘That’s exactly what it means! Why didn’t I see it before?'”.

Here’s a sample (from Stott’s series on the Sermon on the Mount):



You can find all of the lectures on Gordon-Conwell’s iTunes page.

Paul Helm on Philosophical Theology

Credo Magazine has a helpful interview with Paul Helm on the nature of philosophical theology and its purpose in the life of the church.

Here’s an excerpt:

[pk_box width=”600″ align=”center”]“Is Philosophical Theology important for the church today? Why?”

“It’s important that those who have responsibilities in the church should reflect on what they say, link it to the great Christian tradition of the relationship between church and culture. Otherwise we make mistakes, we unintentionally might talk nonsense. (‘At the Cross, God died’; ‘I prayed so hard, and God changed his mind’.) We need to know what our message means, and also what it does not mean. This requires continuous Bible study and theological reflection, but we also need to reflect on our theology. Theology is not just a game, but a serious business. For all these tasks some understanding of philosophical theology can help.”[/pk_box]

Read the whole thing here.

Source: Paul Manata and Patrick Chan