Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Who's Got God?

 When I first started The Skeptical Believer, it was meant to be in conjunction with the publication of my first book. I originally saw the blog as a supplement to the book, and a way to expand on some of the issues raised in it. Here is the introduction from my first post here:

I started this blog in tandem with the upcoming publication of my first book (details to be released soon!). Co-written with a colleague, it's an honest exploration of faith, truth, and finding common ground with those who see the universe differently.

The Skeptical Believer is all about taking an honest look at faith. Let's face it--all of us have questions and doubts about our worldview no matter what we believe in. My premise is that it's vital to meet these challenges, confront them head-on, and be able to admit that we don't have all the answers. And just as importantly, to never settle for pat, skin-deep cop-outs when it comes to the most profound and sometimes troubling issues of life.

Well, life has a funny way of getting in the way sometimes and now I find that nearly two years have gone by. But wait, there's more!

I am very excited to announce that, at long last, my book Who's Got God? is now available for purchase!!!

Friday, November 25, 2011

REVIEW: Love Wins, pt 3

Part One
Part Two
Part Three

I’ve been promising a wrap-up to my review of Rob Bell’s Love Wins for some time now, so let’s get ‘er done. This will dovetail nicely with the last post I made for our church blog, How Can A God Of Love Send People To Hell?

Let’s talk about the image of hell that most of us, Christians and non-Christians alike, are brought up to believe the Bible teaches.

First of all, are any of you parents? And if so, do you love your children? If not parents, do you have a pet that feels almost like a child to you? Do you have brothers and sisters, parents and grandparents, close friends who you love more than anyone else in the world?

Allow me to tell you a true story.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

ASK: How Can A God Of Love Send People To Hell?

This can be one of the most troubling and serious questions that you may ever wrestle with, whether you're still considering following Jesus or have been a disciple of His for 50 years. The very notion of hell is unsettling and, quite frankly, disturbing.
This is exactly how it is supposed to be.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

ASK: Isn't Christianity A Straitjacket?

"Freedom is the ability to do what you want and define life on your own terms. Christianity takes both of those away."

This is a very American (and modern) objection to Christianity. After all, the right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" is in the Declaration of Independence. It's in the very DNA of our country (I'm not going to get off track here and delve into politics and all that, but it's my belief that this phrase is widely misinterpreted today and has become a selfish and superficial attitude rather than the ground-breaking statement of political freedom it was meant to be).

So when a person becomes a Christian, do they have to give up their freedom? Don't you become a slave to one group's view of morality? Do you have to give up your voice and become just another sheep in the crowd?

Many people think becoming a Christian means just that.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

ASK: How Can You Say There Is Only One Way to God?

My latest blog entry for our church.

--Jeremy
Truth poorly defended loses not its truthfulness;
likewise Falsehood aptly defended loses not its falsity.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

ASK: Isn't the Bible a Myth?

Hi gang,

I'm writing a series of posts for my church's blog to mirror our pastor's next series on apologetics. Check it out at http://www.journeyoc.com/blog/. I still have more thoughts on Love Wins, so that'll be coming Soon™.

And if you live in the Orange County, CA area, come on down and visit us at Journey Christian Church. We're a place where everybody is welcome, nobody is perfect, and anything can happen!

--Jeremy
Truth poorly defended loses not its truthfulness;
likewise Falsehood aptly defended loses not its falsity.

Ah heck, I'm just gonna copy the post over here after the jump =P

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

REVIEW: Love Wins, pt 2

Part One
Part Two
Part Three

Whatever you’ve heard about Love Wins, whether positive or negative, Rob’s main thesis in the book is simply this: that God’s love is far bigger and more powerful than any human being can conceive of. Infinitely bigger. Eternally more powerful.

I think that’s something we can all get behind. Right?

Rob urges followers of Jesus to practice opening their minds a bit, and to be okay with asking questions. To imagine that perhaps God’s plan for humanity’s ultimate destiny is more complex and bigger than the binary saved-or-condemned-forever belief that is pounded into us. He asks the question, “if God’s love is the most powerful thing in the universe, and He wants all people to be saved and reunited with Him, does He fail in the end? Does God get what God wants or not?”

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

REVIEW: Love Wins

Part One
Part Two
Part Three

I know this review is a bit late to the party, but since this book has attracted so much attention even outside of Christian circles, I thought I'd write my thoughts on it.

I’ll get it out of the way right now instead of beating around the bush and say that I absolutely loved this book. It’s a rare quality when someone can teach about Hell and cause you to love God even more than you already did.

Let me also make two upfront statements regarding this book:

1) I do not 100% fully agree with every single detail that Rob Bell writes in this book.
2) Nowhere in this book does Rob Bell state or imply that ALL people who ever lived will “go to Heaven” and that nobody will “go to Hell”. I fear that anyone who is saying these things in criticism of the book simply has not read it, or has badly, badly misunderstood (perhaps willfully) his entire point.

I don’t say those things out of a need to “defend” or “justify” the fact that I loved this book. I say them because I’m afraid that a lot of people—Christians—immediately shut their ears and stop listening to what you have to say when you say you like Rob Bell, and I really want you to give him a fair shake. Don’t you hate it when someone hears that you are a Christian and immediately makes all kinds of assumptions about you? That sword cuts both ways.

You don’t have to agree with Rob Bell. You are totally free to think he is 100% wrong. Just don’t condemn him as a heretic for discussing the issue. Remember the Pharisees!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Ground Control To Major Tom

I’ve been meaning to check in for awhile now just to give an update on the blog. Right now I’m working on a review of Rob Bell’s new book Love Wins. It’s almost finished, but a very exciting work project came up and has been causing me to burn the midnight oil so I haven’t been able to put the finishing touches on it.

 

I’m hoping to have a new post up within the next week or so. Check back then for my thoughts on the book that’s got so many Christians talking!


--Jeremy
Truth poorly defended loses not its truthfulness;
likewise Falsehood aptly defended loses not it's falsity.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Resurrection Post-Script

Just a few thoughts I wanted to tack on to the end of my Easter series, Resurrection is Go!

What's Your Faith In?
You’ve all heard Jesus’ saying about having the faith of a mustard seed:

I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you. Matthew 17:20

What does that actually mean, and what does it have to do with the Resurrection?

Faith, you see, depends not on how much of it you can muster up. As Eugene Peterson says, “You don't need more faith. There is no 'more' or 'less' in faith.”

Faith is not a matter of degree or quantity; it is a question of object.
 

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

On The Death Of An Evil Man

So Osama bin Laden has finally met the end promised to him almost 10 years ago, and it looks like he ran out of time to become an Apostle bin Laden.

As followers of Jesus, how should we view this momentous event? I think there are a few ways.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Unable to Leave a Comment?

I've received multiple reports over the last couple days of people being unable to leave comments at the end of my posts. I am currently investigating the cause of this. For now, I have changed the commenting system to a pop-up window which *should* alleviate this problem. However, the actual 'Post a Comment' link is extremely small and hard to read, so I am exploring ways of increasing it.

The original problem may be occurring if you have third-party cookies disabled in your web browser, as the Blogger site requires the use of them in order to function correctly. As far as I know, this new pop-up window system does *not* require their use.

Please try posting your comment again, and if you find you are still unable to do so, please email me at skbeliever23@yahoo.com with the following information, and I'll get it up:

1) The text of the comment you wish to leave
2) The name you wish to post as, along with your URL. Or Anonymous, if you prefer.
3) Browser you are using.
4) Full text of any error messages you receive, if any. This will help me troubleshoot the problem.

I have seen some other blog writers reporting the same thing, so it may be endemic to Google and get sorted out all on it's own--hopefully sooner rather than later.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Sunrise

When they were pounding on the door of the upper room that Sunday morning with their incredulous news, do you think the women had any idea the import of what they had just witnessed? On that morning a new era of history was born, and our Western calendar would eventually be broken into two periods: before Him and after Him.

Even if the Resurrection didn’t really happen, it’s still the most important event in history. The belief that a Jewish rabbi rose from the dead has changed the world more than anything else before or since.

But what does it mean for you and me today?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Saturday

Abandoned.

Abandoned by your Master. Abandoned by your God.

Even in the face of betrayal by Yahweh himself, Jesus still finds a way to entrust the care of his soul to him. Still calls him Father. Still believes. And then he’s gone. His body utterly broken and humiliated. Murdered. Executed.

Dead.


Friday, April 22, 2011

Friday

Imagine the scene: you’re one of Jesus twelve disciples. You rode into Jerusalem earlier in the week for Passover, and you’ve been expecting big things. After years of playing around at the fringes, this was the week when he was finally going to do something dramatic, and show the world that he really was the long-awaited Messiah. You didn’t know what he was going to do, but you knew it was going to be BIG.

But now it’s Friday, and instead of glorying in victory you’re standing on a rocky crag just outside the city walls. The stench from gehenna, the city’s burning trash dump, fills your nose. Old patches and fresh pools of blood lie everywhere on the ground. All around you are the sounds of grief and agony—some wailing softly, some crying out and yelling.

In front of you is your Master, the Rabbi you gave up everything to follow. In the last three years you’ve seen things you can’t explain. A mighty storm calmed with the power of a single word. Insane and possessed lunatics restored to their right mind. The blind are seeing. The deaf are hearing. The lame walking. Even the dead live again.

Not only have you seen what can only be called supernatural events happen at this man’s command, but he’s reinterpreted your millennia-old traditions in ways that nobody had ever thought of before, and done so with conviction and authority. He completely befuddled your religious authorities at every turn, exposing some of them for the hypocrites and dead-souled fiends they were.

Truly, if anyone ever had been sent by God, it was him. You had bet your life on it. Gave up the family business, wandered around the country with no home and no money. Broken just about every religious rule you had learned as a child. Your priests considered you a heretic.

But it had been worth it.

He was The One. You knew it. After seeing and hearing the things you had, there could be no doubt he was the real deal. You’d heard about other men who had come before and claimed to be the Messiah, but all of them had failed, all of them were dead, and none of them had done the insanely miraculous things that Jesus had.

And this was The Week.

When Jesus told you that he was headed to Jerusalem for Passover, you knew what that meant. “Finally!” you thought to yourself. It was really gonna happen! Time to take his rightful place and put everybody else in theirs. With the kind of power Jesus wielded, nobody could stand against him. And if they didn’t listen to his words, he would make believers out of them by wielding his awesome power, calling down fire from heaven to annihilate his foes, just like Elijah. Nobody defies the Messiah.

You couldn’t wait. Either way this went down, it was going to be glorious.

But then, in the span of just a few hours, everything changed.  One of your closest friends, one of Jesus’ trusted inner circle, had betrayed you all. Three years you spent with this man—what was he thinking? What possible reason could he have? Questions about Judas recede quickly though, because by daybreak, events had rapidly spiraled out of control. Judas is already old news.

Your master, your Messiah, had been beaten senseless, mocked by priests and Romans alike, and then the unthinkable.

Sentenced to death.

“I don’t get it,” you thought, “when is he going to strike back?”

He’s had Herod himself in his sights, he’s been in front of the religious leaders who had been so vocally against him, those who dared call him a heretic possessed by Satan. He had stood right next to Pontius Pilate.

And done nothing.

What was he waiting for?

All these questions fade into the background as your mind comes crashing back to the present. Back to Golgotha. And the scene that lies before you.

In front of you is your Master. Jesus. Bleeding. Mocked. Being executed. Dying.

“He saved others, but he can’t save himself,” someone nearby says. “What a joke.”

Is he right? No, no he can’t be. You’ve seen Jesus’ power with your own eyes. With one word you know he could call legions of angels to descend on his murderers like an avalanche of destruction, wiping the earth clean of their very existence. Couldn’t he? Surely he’s just waiting for the most dramatic moment to pull off something spectacular.

And yet minute by minute…his life ebbs away with each drop of blood trickling off that cross. That ugly, rugged cross.

Why isn’t he doing anything? Why won’t he rescue himself? Why won’t God do anything?

Has he abandoned Jesus?

Has he abandoned you?

<--Part Ten                    Home                    Part Twelve: Saturday-->

--Jeremy
Truth poorly defended loses not its truthfulness;
likewise Falsehood aptly defended loses not its falsity.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Don’t Myth-understand It

I hope you’ll find time to visit my site on Friday, Saturday, and Easter Sunday. I’ve written some pieces that will help take you through each day of that weekend from a special perspective. It may be a powerful new way of thinking about Easter weekend for you.

But back to the topic at hand. There are a lot of theories out there attempting to explain away the Resurrection of Jesus. I’ve discussed many of them in this series, and there are a few others out there as well. All of them have pretty much been vaporized due to lack of any credible support. And so the modern skeptic of the Resurrection today usually stakes her claim on a fairly new default theory.

It’s all a myth. A legend. A fairytale.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Apostle bin Laden

Can you imagine Osama bin Laden becoming a Christian? Being baptized, publicly becoming a follower of Jesus and then directing the same enormous amounts of energy towards spreading the Gospel as he once had towards killing Americans and Christians?

Me neither, but that is almost exactly what happened to a man named Saul of Tarsus.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!

Here’s something you may or may never have thought of before (unless you’ve read any of the great books on Christian apologetics out there). The fact that the traditional day of Christian worship is Sunday is another piece of evidence that the Resurrection really happened.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Cha-cha-cha-cha-Changes

One of them was brash and overeager. Two of them wanted the power to kill their enemies. None of them were brave men—when the moment of crisis came, every single one of them fled out of fear for his own safety, forsaking their master to suffer his fate alone.

Yet literally overnight these men changed into powerhouses of faith, love, and boldness. One of the most powerful evidences for the Resurrection is the sudden and dramatic change in the lives of Jesus’ disciples.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

You (Don’t) Look Like You’ve Seen A Ghost

In the past, some critics of the Resurrection have sought to explain it away by saying that his followers merely hallucinated seeing a risen Jesus. Like most theories, this one too falls to shreds upon the slightest scrutiny.

The apostles made it very clear that when they said Jesus was risen, they meant bodily. They weren’t talking about seeing a ghost or the spirit of Jesus; they were adamant that the physical body of their Teacher was up and about. Now it’s true that this body apparently now had some supernatural abilities—such as the ability to appear in a room unannounced, and the ability to mask its identity until He desired to be recognized—but the apostles (and Jesus himself) took great pains to emphasize the fact that it was his actual body that was risen:

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Hey It’s Dark In Here!

Ever heard of the swoon theory? It’s a good one. Well, not really—it’s more useful for comedic value than anything else, cuz the mental images it brings up are pretty hilarious.

Picture the scene: late in the day as Jesus is being crucified, Pilate orders his men to speed up the death of everyone on the crucifixion-docket that day. It’s the holiest weekend of the Jewish year coming up, and having a lot of Jews hanging on crosses outside their holiest city? That would be bad.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Dog Ate My Jesus

It’s the famous old excuse:

“Jimmy, where is your homework?”

“I’m sorry teacher, but the dog ate my homework.”

We’ve all heard it, but have you ever actually known someone to use that excuse? Have you ever used it yourself? Probably not.

Because it’s ridiculous!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Bring Out Yer Dead!

In our first Resurrection post I ended by quoting Paul from 1 Corinthians 15. If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. Well luckily for that little 4th grade boy 25 years ago who wanted to be the best Peter he could be, this is not the case!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Nobody Here But Us Linens

When I was about 8 or 9 years old, the Sunday School classes at my church decided that for Easter we were going to make a little mini-movie about the resurrection. We had the whole thing set up on a large lawn outside the classrooms. Our classroom was to be the 'upper room' where the disciples were cowering after Jesus' execution, and across the lawn, placed against the bushes bordering the edge, we had set up a big foam rock acting as the stone sealing his tomb, complete with Roman soldiers standing guard.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Resurrection is GO!

Part 1: Resurrection is Go!
Part 2: Nobody here But Us Linens
Part 3  Bring Out Yer Dead!
Part 4: The Dog Ate My Jesus
Part 5: Hey It's Dark In Here!
Part 6: You (Don't) Look Like You've Seen A Ghost 
Part 7: Cha-cha-cha-cha-Changes
Part 8: Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!
Part 9: Apostle bin Laden
Part 10: Don't Myth-understand It
Part 11: Friday
Part 12: Saturday
Part 13: Sunrise

In any discussion involving challenges to faith in Jesus there will be a myriad of subjects to consider.
How can you trust a book of dead men’s fairytales?

You know evolution like, totally proves God is fake, right?

So you believe in talking snakes and an angry sky-god who kills his own kid—I believe in magic crystals and vibrating with the universe. Bully for both of us!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Still GO’ing

So Lent starts tomorrow, and although I don’t really observe it except to acknowledge it’s arrival, I thought it would be useful perhaps to reprint my Resurrection is GO! series starting then, since it’s all about the very first Easter.

 I’ve made some minor edits to it which (hopefully) improve the readability a bit. It may be basically the same content as last year, but there are some things always worth revisiting.

 So come follow along on this journey toward Easter! Even if you don’t believe in a man rising from the dead, give it a read anyway--it's always good to discover that not all of us are zombie-eyed nutcases, as I have been called on one occasion...ironically by someone who 'welcomed serious debate'. Comments, questions, and challenges are always welcome.

Monday, February 28, 2011

…Religulous

***continued from Part One***

2. “Jesus is just another in a long line of mythical dying and resurrecting gods like Horus and Mithra.”

I’ve never heard this argument coming from people I actually meet, but it is very prevalent amongst the intelligentsia and ‘professional’ skeptics. And I’ll admit, the very first time I heard it I was taken aback and had to do a bit of study in order to find out about it. It’s part-truth and part-bunk.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Ridiculous…

ReligulousAt the urging of a few friends, I finally got around to watching the film Religulous. In it, comedian Bill Maher, who is known for his dry, cynical wit, sets off on a jaunt around the world to expose the hypocrisy and ignorance of religious folk. His thesis is that religion is a force for evil in the world and we would be better off if it were eradicated. The film shows Maher interviewing Christians, Muslims, Jews, and a couple Mormons as well (he also takes a quick potshot at Scientologists).

Maher is a very intelligent man and a gifted comic. It’s just a shame that he’s used his talents to become bitter, jaded and cynical. And for all his intellect, he does an incredibly poor job at researching his chosen subject matter, as he uses outdated and puerile arguments to defend his position.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Jack Lewis, Guest Blogger pt. 4

The question is, I suppose, whether any hypothesis covers the facts so well as the Christian hypothesis. That hypothesis is that God has come down into the created universe, down to manhood — and come up again, pulling it up with Him. The alternative hypothesis is not legend, nor exaggeration, nor the apparitions of a ghost. It is either lunacy or lies. Unless one can take the second alternative (and I can’t) one turns to the Christian theory.

‘What are we to make of Christ?’ There is no question of what we can make of Him; it is entirely a question of what He intends to make of us. You must accept or reject the story.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Jack Lewis, Guest Blogger pt. 3

What are we to do about reconciling the two contradictory phenomena? One attempt consists in saying that the man did not really say these things; but that His followers exaggerated the story, and so the legend grew up that he had said them. This is difficult because His followers were all Jews; that is, they belonged to that Nation which of all others was most convinced that there was only one God — that there could not possibly be another. It is very odd that this horrible invention about a religious leader should grow up among the one people in the whole earth least likely to make such a mistake. On the contrary we get the impression that none of His immediate followers or even of the New Testament writers embraced the doctrine at all easily.

Another point is that on that view you would have to regard the accounts of the Man as being legends. Now, as a literary historian, I am perfectly convinced that whatever else the Gospels are they are not legends. I have read a great deal of legend and I am quite clear that they are not the same sort of thing. They are not artistic enough to be legends. From an imaginative point of view they are clumsy, they don’t work up to things properly.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Jack Lewis, Guest Blogger pt. 2

Part 1 of "What Are We To Make of Jesus Christ?"

‘What are we to make of Jesus Christ?’ This is a question, which has, in a sense, a frantically comic side. For the real question is not what are we to make of Christ, but what is He to make of us? The picture of a fly sitting deciding what it is going to make of an elephant has comic elements about it.

But perhaps the questioner meant what are we to make of Him in the sense of ‘How are we to solve the historical problem set us by the recorded sayings and acts of this Man?’ This problem is to reconcile two things. On the one hand you have got the almost generally admitted depth and sanity of His moral teaching, which is not very seriously questioned, even by those who are opposed to Christianity. In fact, I find when I am arguing with very anti-God people that they rather make a point of saying, ‘I am entirely in favour of the moral teaching of Christianity’ — and there seems to be a general agreement that in the teaching of this Man and of His immediate followers, moral truth is exhibited at its purest and best. It is not sloppy idealism; it is full of wisdom and shrewdness. The whole thing is realistic, fresh to the highest degree, the product of a sane mind. That is one phenomenon.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Jack Lewis, Guest Blogger

C.S. Lewis is the man. Let me just say that right now. If he had lived 1800 years earlier, he would have had at least one book in the Bible, I have no doubt. Go into a bookstore or your favorite online bookseller and select literally any book he ever wrote—every single one of them are classics. Well, except maybe for Till We Have Faces; unless you’re really really into the whole mythology behind the story of Cupid and Psyche you probably won’t get much out of it. But every other book he wrote is just absolutely chock-full of his classic wit, penetrating insight, and abundant imagination.

Lewis is a maestro at taking complex theological ideas and explaining them in such a simple and obvious way that even the most untrained layman can understand. And not only does he explain it well, he does so in a way which preserves and even highlights the mystery and awe of an eternal being, never watering a subject down or turning our faith into dry academia.  Have you read Narnia as an adult? You’ll get ten times more out of that series now than you ever did as a child.

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Year of Light and Momentary Troubles

I know it’s been quite a bit more than the ‘few weeks’ I said it would be until my next post. Sorry ‘bout that; life kinda got in the way, as I’m sure many of you can relate to.

2010 was for me a terrific year of spiritual growth and maturation…mainly because it was also a year of relentless financial and worldly hardships. When I look back on the year, though, the hardships aren’t what I see. What I see is God sustaining us through every uncertain month, in a different and unexpected way each time. I see more than ever God keeping his promises to my family, not in some theological kind of abstract ‘God is always with you’ way, but in a real, flesh and blood, down-in-the-trenches-with-us manner. (And we would like to give special thanks to all of those people who acted as His hands in helping to sustain us).