Thursday, April 13, 2006

The Power of the Resurrection: The Easter Story as Apologetic

The historical, bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the lynchpin of the Christian faith. Take it away, and the entire Christian worldview collapses under the weight of its own foolishness. The Apostle Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15 that if someone produces the body of Jesus, our faith, our prayers, our preaching, and our very way of life are to be pitied above all others.

This Easter season, a new set of challenges faces the church, and seeks to undermine historic Christian teaching. Every challenge throughout the history of the church has been met with various apologetic approaches. But each threat has ultimately and finally been defeated with three profound, simple words: "Christ is risen!"

Three very distinct threats to the Christian faith can be noted this Easter. Just this month, National Geographic released a series of TV specials surrounding the "Gospel of Judas," a document that dates back to around 150 A.D. and supposedly gives a "different angle" to the relationship between Jesus and the disciple who betrayed Him. Notably absent from this series is the fact that even using the most liberal dating, this document is predated by the latest of the New Testament Gospels by 50 years, making its comparative reliability highly questionable at best. Along with "Judas," wide discussion of the "Gnostic" gospels has risen, even within the ranks of Christendom. And this May, the world will have the opportunity to see the silver screen version of "The DaVinci Code" in theatres.

Patterned after the best-selling novel by Dan Brown, "DaVinci" posits the theory that historic Christian teaching is, in fact, the product of a grand, ecclesiastical conspiracy. Such a notion is popular with our culture, which pants like a bloodthirsty wolf at the thought of uncovering a conspiratorial plot. In fact, the whole idea behind "DaVinci" is so popular, our culture has all but ignored the enormous historical fallacies present in the book, many of which were made by one of the main characters, a historian! My dear friend Spencer Haygood has eloquently stated that any Oxford-educated history professor who made such gross mistakes would immediately be stripped of his terminal degree and be sent back to History 101. But such mistakes are glossed over by the wider populace, who prefers to think of Christianity as "DaVinci" presents it: an institution founded by conspiratorial action and maintained by continued cover-up.

Certainly such claims should be answered by the church, and the arsenal of information against "DaVinci" grows by the day. But if we answer a story full of error only with the facts, the story still wins! Ultimately, confronting the latest attempts to undermine historic Christian faith must be empowered by the greatest of all stories! Our culture is now steeped in narrative. As such, they require a narrrative apologetic. Solomon was right: there really is nothing new under the sun! After 2000 years, the Easter story is still the greatest defense of the Christian faith. Therefore, the answer to the latest threats against Gospel integrity is ultimately that which has finally answered all other attempts to undermine Christianity: We must confront error with the story of the resurrected God-man!

And let's be honest: part of that truth is that the church has had her conspirators! Roman Catholicism is the result of the theological collapse of the Christian church in the third century, which itself resulted in the return of a spurious and unneccesary "Priesthood." Christian Hierarchicalism in all its forms is the result of women being seen as essentially inferior to men, and as a result, barring them not just from the Pastoral office (a Biblical position I believe), but also from any form of leadership in Christ's church. Denominationalism, in its worst form, is the result of individuals within particular expressions of church life claiming that theirs is the only "true church." The list of attempts to hijack the mission of the church could go on and on. As Greg Caruso of CRM Ministries well states, "When it is disfunctional, the body of Christ is a hideous thing!"

Nevertheless, throughout all of this, the true church has continued to stand, and with it, the power of the Gospel it is called to preach. For 2000 years, the church has answered her critics, and after 2000 years, the message of the Gospel remains undefeated! In light of this, are we really so afraid of "DaVinci"? For two millenia, the Gospel has withstood the attacks of Marcionism, Arianism, Gnosticism, Doceticism, Donatism, Imperial Catholicism, Hyper-Calvinism, German higher Criticism, Neo-Orthodoxy, Hyper-Landmarkism, and Postliberlism. After all of this, do we really believe it can finally be brought down by Tom Hanks and Opie?!

Certainly we need to be prepared to discuss the inaccuracies and inconsistencies of "DaVinci." Followers of Christ should, as Peter exhorts, be prepared to give an answer for what we believe, and why we believe it (1 Peter 3:15). But the greatest way to defend the Christian faith is to proclaim the greatest story of all; the story we remember this weekend. The ultimate proof of the truthfulness and superiority of Christianity is that while the tombs of all other religious leaders are occupied, we can proclaim with confidence that a dead man rose from the grave and has commissioned us to tell His story. The Canadian scientist G.B. Harding said that in searching for a religion, he asked himself two questions: 1. Has anybody conquered death? 2. Have they provided a way for me to do it? After searching the world and finding the tombs of Mohammed, Buddha, Confucious, and others respectively occupied, he found the tomb of Jesus Christ empty, and subsequently read the New Testament, finding the words of Jesus which said "Because I live, you shall live also!" In the words of Harding, "my search is over!"

This Easter, let us stand on the shoulders of our brothers and sisters who have come before us, face the present challenges to our ancient faith, and say with the confidence of our Orthodox brothers and sisters . . . .

"Christ is risen!. . . . .

. . . .He is risen indeed!"

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

The Wonder of the Blogosphere

Working from home today, I took a moment to surf over to SBC Outpost an congratulate Marty Duren on surviving (barely) an entire year in the blogosphere. Later this afternoon, I realized that my own weblog is exactly one year old today!

Much has been said over the past year about the advantages and liabilities of blogging. Many have joked that until last December, most Southern Baptist leaders didn't even know what a blog was. I must admit myself that until late 2004, I was only faintly aware of those underground currents of information which rapidly release information, and promote discussion, fellowship, and even evangelism. Now, exactly 365 days to the date of my first online post, I'd like to think I'm a bit more informed, both about blogs, and because of blogs.

Information regarding recent denominational contentions were publicized through the blogosphere in a way no major news source could have ever released such information. In light of this, many who were caught in the middle of such contention lamented the very existence of such a technology. Some, still speaking from ignorance, equated blogs with "internet pornography." Others saw the blogosphere as merely a more rapid way of spreading gossip among the body of Christ at large.

While such concerns are legitimate, the issue that should drive them should not be the technology that is admittedly used sometimes to forward inaccurate and even slanderous information. What should drive concerns about online gossip is the same issue that drives concern about every other kind of gossip; human depravity.

Ed Stetzer has spoken eloquently to the tendency to confuse form with meaning. Meaning is what matters, while form is simply the vehicle used to transport meaning. Stetzer of course uses these concepts to speak of Christian worship, evangelism and church planting. But such concepts can just as easily be applied to recent discussions about blogging. Blogging in and of itself is amoral, neither good or bad. Throw human depravity into the mix and you get gossip, slander, misinformation and false accusations released at beyond-lightning speed all over the world. Still, this isn't any worse than the juicy stories disguised as "prayer requests" at your average Baptist church.

On the other hand, inject God-given human insight and creativity into this form of communication and what you end up with is an awesome tool of evangelistic and ecclesiastical collaboration! Given the reality of globalization, there has never been a more immediate need for followers of Christ to engage cyberspace than now!

Like it or not, the blogosphere is now in full swing and gaining speed. Sure, some will (and in fact, already have) use this tool for evil. But many will (and in fact, should) use it for the building of the Body, the announcing of the Kingdom, and the pursuit of God's glory.

My hope is that as a result of my own weblog, I will grow at least at the same rate this coming year that I have in the past year. Whether it was from thinking through exactly how to communicate what I want to say so as to minimize misunderstanding, or from addressing questions poised to me publicly, challenging my positions and opinions and forcing me back to the Word of God, I know the blogosphere has been a powerful tool of God for my own growth. My prayer is that you have grown too, and that I will continue to use this powerful form of communication to speak on meanings that really matter!

Oh, and congratulations again Marty! (see