|The Goal||The Chief purpose of the Church’s Mission is to bring glory to God. Glory is brought to God when every nation, tribe, and tongue find their delight in worshipping God.The salvation of souls is certainly a goal in mission. When we look at souls, however, we desire not only that they are saved from Hell, but saved for Heaven.||In man-centered missions’ the salvation of the lost is seen as the main purpose of missions. Men and Women are dying without Christ, and so we must bring them the good news.|
|What drives us?||“People deserve to be damned, but Jesus, the suffering Lamb of God, deserves the reward of His suffering” (John Piper, Let The Nations Be Glad, p. 39). We go out because we love Christ, and we desire that others would love Him too (Of course we are also to desire that the lost would be saved and that they find true fulfillment in God).||Man deserves Hell. It is often difficult to develop a love for the lost world, as the lost are so unlovely. To love the sinner who hates God and Christians is very difficult.|
|Worship||Worship of the Triune God is both the fuel and the goal of missions. Missions exist because worship does not. In Heaven there will be no need for missions, but we will be worshipping God for eternity (Rev. 5:8-14).||In man-centered missions, worship is often seen as only a secondary activity, not as important as missions.|
|Missions? Or Mission?||There is only ONE mission of the Church: to bring glory to God by proclaiming the Gospel and reaping the harvest of souls which will worship and delight in God forever.||There are numerous missions’ (plural), because there are numerous souls to save.|
|Bricks or Cathedrals?||The big-picture’ bricklayer constantly envisions the cathedral that he has a privilege to play a part in building. So the God-centered missionary envisions the Kingdom of God which he is engaged in building.||The little-picture’ bricklayer only sees the bricks and the mortar. So it is with the man-centered missionary, who when he is rejected or encounters trials or failures, cannot look beyond to see the hand of God in it all.|
|Work with or for Christ||We are not working for Christ as much as we are working with Christ (Matthew 28:20b)||In this view, we focus on our job, what we can, focus on our job, what we can do for Christ.|
|Human Worth||Human worth is not diminished by being God-centered. Instead, it is established. That is, when we focus on God who alone has worth in Himself, and we understand that we are created in His image, this brings us great worth.||Man has no worth in and of himself, and being man-centered in one’s approach to anything is ultimately futile.|
|Humility Vs. Pride||Though he thanks God for the opportunity to serve Him and desires to accomplish great things for God, the God-centered missionary knows that he is replaceable. He is a tool in God’s hand, and God can choose to discard him when God pleases. This brings about humility.||Again, the man-centered missionary is on his own mission or various missions, and without him the venture would fall apart. The tendency is toward a Lone Ranger’ mentality. This fosters pride.|
|Prayer||Colossians 4:2-4. Only God can open man’s hearts, so we must ever be in prayer when we are engaged in mission work. Methods are important, but only after you pray and get the message straight.||Man is pursued with any method or technique that will get him to listen, to ‘open his heart’. The problem, only God can open man’s heart.Prayer takes a back seat so the methods, and the message is often compromised.|
|Evangelism||We focus on our faithfulness to the message, allowing God to change hearts (1 Cor. 3:5-8). We have no reason to boast for our successes’ except to boast in the Lord. Those who reject the Gospel are not rejecting us, but God.A side note: though we must allow the Gospel to be offensive (the innocent God-man dying for wretched sinners), we must not add our own offensiveness to the mix.||The focus is on persuasion & results, because anyone’s heart can be opened ‘if we have the right key’. We are seen as failures if the person doesn’t choose Christ. Method and delivery are exalted above content. Offensive doctrines like ‘eternal judgment’ and ‘total depravity’ are avoided, so as not to drive away seekers. (Obviously there is no true gospel where sin and judgment aren’t preached).|
|Success & Failure||Success is guaranteed, because it is God who will build the church.(1 Cor. 3:4-6, Matt. 16:18)This is not to say that man has no role in God’s mission. Man is used as an instrument in the hands of God.Isaiah 18:6; 2 Corinthians 4:7)Even our failures are used by God as successes (Genesis 50:20; Romans 11:33-36)||Success is questionable, since in missions it is seen as man’s mission, and humans make mistakes.With a man-centered viewpoint, when we succeed, we tend to become prideful, and when we fail, we tend to get defeated.|
|How Great a Sacrifice?||Though to the word it appears as if you have made a great sacrifice, when we focus on the sacrifice that Christ paid for us and the benefits that He gave to us, our sacrifice is minimal (See Matthew 13:44-46).||With the wrong perspective, the sacrifice becomes unbearable, and when too much rejection, and too much hardship comes, the man-centered missionary is more likely to give up.|
Category Archives: Charts
THE SECOND COMING
A “stealth” event; Christ witnessed by believers only (1 Thessalonians 4:17)
A public event, Christ witnessed by everyone (Revelation 1:7)
Christ comes for His bride to take her to heaven (John 14:1-3)
Christ returns with His bride to set up His 1,000 year Kingdom (Revelation 19:11-16)
Occurs prior to the beginning of the Tribulation (Rev. 3:10; 1 Thess. 5:9)
Occurs at the end of the Tribulation (Matthew 24:29-35)
Ushers in a time of great distress on earth (Matthew 24:15-28)
Ushers in a time of great peace on earth (Isaiah 2:6; 19:21, 23-25)
Believers are rescued from the wrath of God (Revelation 3:10)
Believers rule with Christ (Revelation 20:4)
Church age believers receive their glorified bodies (1 Corinthians 15:50-54)
OT saints receive their glorified bodies (Isaiah 26:19-21)
Christ comes in the air (1 Thess. 4:14-17)
Christ comes to the earth
Imminent, could happen at any time
At least seven years away (Daniel 9:26-29)
No signs precede it
Many signs precede it, including the Tribulation (Matthew 24:3-35)
A time for great joy for believers
(1 Thessalonians 2:19-20)
A time of great mourning for unbelievers
Source: David Jeremiah Study Bible. Nashville, TN.: Worthy Publishing, 2013, p. 1841.
“My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” – Exodus 33:14b
When in SORROW, call John 14
When people FAIL you, call Psalm 27
When you have SINNED, call Psalm 51
When you WORRY, call Matthew 6:19-34
When you are in DANGER, call Psalm 91
When God seems FAR AWAY, call Psalm 139
When your FAITH needs stirring, call Hebrews 11
When you are LONELY and FEARFUL, call Psalm 23
When you grow BITTER and CRITICAL, call 1 Corinthians 13
When you feel DOWN and OUT, call Romans 8:18-39
When you want REST and PEACE, call Matthew 11:25-30
When the WORLD seems BIGGER than God, call Psalm 90
When you want Christian ASSURANCE, call Romans 8:1-30
When you leave home for LABOR or TRAVEL, call Psalm 121
When your PRAYERS grow narrow or SELFISH, call Psalm 67
When you want COURAGE for a task, call Joshua 1
When you think of INVESTMENTS and RETURNS, call Mark 10
How to get along with DIFFICULT people, call Romans 12
For great INVENTION/OPPORTUNITY, call Isaiah 55
For Paul’s secret to HAPPINESS, call Colossians 3:12-17
For a SUMMARY OF CHRISTIANITY, call 1 Corinthians 5:15-19
If you are DEPRESSED, call Psalm 27
If you want to be FRUITFUL, call John 15
If your FINANCIALLY BROKE, call Psalm 37
If your are LOSING CONFIDENCE in PEOPLE, call 1 Corinthians 13
If people seem UNKIND, call John 15
If your are DISCOURAGED about your WORK, call Psalm 126
If you find the world growing SMALL, and you GREAT, call Psalm 19
Reading The Bible Through The Jesus Lens in the Book of 2 Corinthians
“From Biblical Book to Biblical Hook”
Chart adapted from *Dr. Michael Williams Book
Title for 2 Corinthians
2 Corinthians: Theme
2 Corinthians 2:17
God directs Paul to explain and vindicate his apostolic authority while encouraging the generosity of the Corinthian church.
|“Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God.”|
Christ-Focus in 2 Corinthians
Implications from 2 Corinthians
Hooks from 2 Corinthians
Jesus gave Himself completely for the welfare of His people.
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you by His poverty might become rich.
– 2 Corinthians 8:9
God will provide for our needs as we give ourselves to others.
The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.
Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.
As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.”
– 2 Corinthians 9:6-11
Is it really better to give than to receive?
What if giving involves giving up comfort, safety, or even your life? Why would anyone give like that?
Is it possible for you to give any more than you have already received?
What have you already received from God?
About the Author:
Michael James Williams in his own words: “After my conversion in the U. S. Navy (in a submarine beneath the North Atlantic!), I entered Columbia Bible College, where I received a B.A. (1985). This was followed by an M.A. in Religion at Westminster Theological Seminary (1987) and a Ph.D. in Biblical Studies at the University of Pennsylvania (1999). In 2000, I was ordained in the Christian Reformed Church, and since 1995 have been teaching at Calvin Theological Seminary. I have also taught courses at Westminster Theological Seminary, the University of Pennsylvania, and brief stints in Limuru, Kenya; Donetsk, Ukraine; and Warsaw, Poland. In addition to articles on Old Testament topics in various reference works and academic journals, and contributing to and editing Mishneh Todah: Studies in Deuteronomy and Its Cultural Environment in Honor of Jeffrey H. Tigay (2009); I have authored Deception in Genesis: A Comprehensive Analysis of a Unique Biblical Phenomenon (2001); The Prophet and His Message: Reading Old Testament Prophecy Today (2003); and, most recently, How to Read the Bible through the Jesus Lens: A Guide to Christ-Focused Reading of Scripture. Grand Rapids, Zondervan (2012). My amazing wife, Dawn, and I enjoy hiking and all things outdoors.”
Supernatural Events in the Bible Chronicled: Compiled by Dr. Norman L. Geisler
|1||Creation of the world.|
|5:19–24||Translation of Enoch to be with God.|
|7:9–12, 17–24||The Noahic Flood.|
|11:1, 5–9||The Judgement on the Tower of Babel.|
|12:10–20||Plagues on Pharaoh for taking Abraham’s wife.|
|21:1–8||Sarah’s conception of Isaac.|
|19:9–11||Angels blind the Sodomites.|
|19:15–29||The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.|
|19:24–26||Lot’s wife turned to salt.|
|3:1–15||The Burning Bush.|
|4:1–5||Moses’ rod turned into a serpent and back.|
|4:6–7||Moses’ hand become leprous and is restored.|
|7:10–12||Aaron’s rod turns into a serpent and swallows up the rods of the Egyptian sorcerers.|
|7:19–24||Water in Egypt turned into blood.|
|8:5–7; 12–13||Frogs brought forth on the land of Egypt.|
|8:16–18||Lice are brought forth on the land of Egypt.|
|8:20–24||Swarms of flies are brought forth on Egypt but not on the land of Goshen.|
|9:1–7||Murrian (deadly pestilence) is brought on the cattle of the Egyptians, but not on Israel’s cattle.|
|9:8–11||Ashes produce boils on the Egyptians but not on Israel’s men and animals.|
|9:22–26||A terrible storm of thunder, hail, and fire which ran along the ground.|
|10:3–19||A plague of locusts on the Egyptians.|
|10:21–23||A plague of darkness was brought on the Egyptians while Israel had light.|
|12:29–30||Slaying the first born children.|
|13:21–22||The pillar of cloud led Israel by day, and the fire led them by night.|
|14:19–20||The angel of the Lord protects Israel from the Egyptians.|
|14:21–29||The parting of the Red Sea.|
|15:23–25||Sweetening of the bitter waters of Marah.|
|16:12–13||The camp of Israel is covered with quail.|
|16:14–15||Manna is provided for Israel to eat.|
|17:5–6||Moses strikes the rock and water is provided.|
|17:8–16||Remarkable victory over Amalek.|
|19:16–18||Fire and smoke engulf Mount Sinai.|
|19:19–25||God answers Moses from the Mount.|
|20:1–17||God gives the Ten Commandments to Moses.|
|9:23–24||Fire from the Lord consumes the burnt offering.|
|10:1–7||The fatal judgment upon Nadab and Abihu.|
|11:1–2||Fire from God to consume murmuring Israelites.|
|12:10–15||Miriam is made leprous and is healed.|
|16:35||Fire from the Lord consumes 250 men who offered incense.|
|16:28–33||Korah and his rebels are swallowed by the earth.|
|16:46–48||The plague stopped by the offering of incense.|
|17:8||Aaron’s rod buds.|
|20:7–11||Moses strikes the rock to bring forth water.|
|21:6–9||Healing by looking at the brass serpent.|
|22:21–35||Balaam’s donkey speaks.|
|3:14–17||The waters of the Jordan are divided.|
|5:13–15||The appearance of the Captain of the Lord’s hosts.|
|6||The fall of Jericho.|
|10:12–14||The sun stands still upon Gibeon.|
|2:1–5||The Angel of the Lord appears to Israel.|
|3:8–11||The Spirit of the Lord comes upon Othniel.|
|3:31||Shamgar slays 600 Philistines with an ox-goad.|
|6:11–24||The Angel of the Lord appears to Gideon.|
|6:36–40||The sign of Gideon’s fleece.|
|7:15–25||God delivers Midian into the hands of Gideon.|
|13:3–21||The Angel of the Lord appears to Manoah.|
|14:5–6||Samson slays the young lion.|
|15:14–17||Samson slays the Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey.|
|16:3||Samson tears down the city gate and carries it away.|
|16:27–31||Samson causes the collapse of the temple of Dagon.|
|3:2–10||The voice of God calling Samuel.|
|5:1–5||The overturning of the god, Dagon.|
|5:6–12||Philistines in Ashdod smitten with tumors.|
|6:19||The Lord smites the men of Beth-Shemesh.|
|28:15–20||Samuel appears from the dead to rebuke Saul.|
|6:6–7||The Lord fatally smites Uzzah.|
|3:3–28||God gives Solomon great wisdom.|
|17:1||Elijah prays and rain does not come for 3 years.|
|17:2–6||Elijah is fed by the ravens.|
|17:8–16||Meal and oil are supplied for the widow of Zarephath.|
|17:17–24||Elijah raises the widow’s son.|
|18:17–38||Fire from heaven consumes the sacrifice of Elijah on Mt. Carmel.|
|18:41–46||Elijah prays and God sends an abundance of rain in response.|
|19:5–8||Elijah is fed by the Angel of the Lord.|
|1:9–15||Fire from heaven consumes two captains and their men.|
|2:7–8||Elijah parts the waters of the Jordan and walks across on dry ground.|
|2:11||Elijah is taken up into heaven in a chariot of fire.|
|2:13–14||Elisha parts the waters of the Jordan.|
|2:19–22||Elisha heals the waters of Jericho.|
|2:24||Blasphemous youths killed by she bears.|
|3:15–20||Ditches are mysteriously filled with water.|
|4:1–7||A widow’s oil pot is refilled with oil by God.|
|4:8–17||Elisha prophesies and the Shunammite woman bears a son.|
|4:32–37||Elisha raises the Shunammite’s son.|
|4:38–41||Elisha detoxifies the poisonous pottage.|
|4:42–44||One hundred men are abundantly fed with 20 loaves of bread and 20 ears of corn.|
|5:1–14||Naaman is healed of leprosy.|
|5:27||Gehazi is struck with leprosy.|
|6:5–7||Iron axe head floats on water.|
|6:16–17||Elisha’s servant’s vision of the mountain full of horses and chariots of fire.|
|6:18||The Syrian army is struck with blindness.|
|6:19–20||God opens the eyes of the Syrians after Elisha leads them into Samaria.|
|13:20–21||A dead man is raised by contact with elisha’s bones.|
|20:9–11||Ahaz’s sundial returns backward by ten degrees.|
|38–42:6||God speaks to Job from the whirlwind.|
|1:1||Isaiah’s vision concerning Jerusalem.|
|6||Isaiah’s vision of the Lord.|
|1||Exekiel has a vision of God’s glory.|
|2:26–45||Daniel recounts and interprets Nebuchadnezzar’s dream.|
|3:14–30||Three Hebrew youths delivered from the fiery furnace.|
|5:5||The handwriting on the wall.|
|6:16–23||Daniel saved from the lions.|
|9:20–27||Daniel’s vision of the 70 weeks.|
|10:1–12:13||Further visions of Daniel.|
|1:4–16||Tempestous storm from God to arrest the fleeing Jonah.|
|1:17||The Lord prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah.|
|4:6||The Lord prepares a gourd to shade Jonah.|
|4:7||The Lord prepared a worm to smite the gourd.|
|4:8||The Lord prepared a vehement east wind.|
Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John
|1:11–19||An angel of the lord appears to Zacharias.|
|1:20–22||Zacharias is struck dumb.|
|1:26–38||Angel of the Lord appears to Mary.|
|1:64||Zacharias healed of dumbness.|
|2:9–15||Angels appear to shepherds.|
|3:16–17||1:9–11||3:21–23||Holy Spirit decended as a Dove, and a voice from Heaven spoke.|
|4:11||1:13||Angels minister to Jesus after the temtation.|
|1:42–48||Jesus sees Nathanael under the fig tree.|
|2:1–11||Water turned into wine.|
|2:23||Jesus performs many signs.|
|4:46–53||Nobleman’s sone healed.|
|4:30||Jesus escapes from the hostile crowd.|
|5:6||Catching a draught of fish.|
|1:23–25; 4:33–35||Casting out an unclean spirit.|
|8:14–15||1:30–31||4:38–39||Healing Peter’s mother-in-law.|
|8:16||1:32–34||4:40||Healing many sick people.|
|4:23–24||1:39||Jesus heals all manner of sickness and casts out many demons.|
|8:2–3||1:40–42||5:12–13||Cleansing a leper.|
|9:2||2:3–5||5:18–20||Healing a paralytic.|
|5:6–9||Healing an infirmed man at Bethseda.|
|12:9–13||3:1–5||6:6–10||Healing the man’s withered hand.|
|12:15||3:10||Healing of many people.|
|8:5–13||7:1–10||Healing a centurion’s servant.|
|7:11–15||Raising a widow’s son at Nain.|
|12:22||Casting out a demon from a blind mute.|
|8:23–26||4:35–39||8:22–24||Stilling the storm on the sea of Galilee.|
|8:28–32||5:6–13||8:28–33||Casting out the demons and allowing them to enter swine.|
|9:23–25||5:35–42||8:49–55||Raising the ruler’s daughter.|
|9:20–22||5:25–34||8:43–48||Healing the woman with an issue of blood.|
|9:27–30||Healing two blind men.|
|6:5||Jesus heals a few sick people in Nazareth.|
|9:32–33||Casting out a demon from a deaf mute.|
|9:35||Jesus heals the sick in many cities.|
|14:14||Jesus heals the sick among the great multitude.|
|14:15–21||6:35–44||9:10–17||6:5–13||Feeding the five thousand.|
|14:25||6:48||6:19||Walking on the sea.|
|14:35–36||6:55–56||Healing of many at Gennesaret.|
|15:21–28||7:24–30||Healing the Canaanite woman’s daughter.|
|7:31–35||Healing a deaf mute.|
|15:30–31||Jesus heals many among a great multitude.|
|15:32–38||8:1–8||Feeding the four thousand.|
|8:22–25||Healing a blind man at Bethsaida.|
|17:14–18||9:17–27||9:38–42||Healing the Epileptic boy.|
|17:24–27||Temple tax in the fish’s mouth.|
|9:1–7||Healing a man born blind.|
|11:14||Curing a demon-possessed, blind mute.|
|13:11–13||Healing an infirmed woman.|
|14:2–4||Healing a man with dropsy.|
|17:12–14||Cleansing ten lepers.|
|19:1–2||Jesus heals many at the borders of Judea.|
|20:30–34||Healing the two blind men.|
|21:14||18:35||Jesus heals the blind and the lame man in the temple.|
|21:18–19||11:12–14; 20||Withering the fig tree.|
|12:28–29||A voice from Heaven.|
|22:51||Restoring a servant’s ear.|
|27:51||15:38||23:45||The Veil of the Temple is torn from top to bottom.|
|27:51||A great earthquake, and the rocks were broken.|
|27:52–53||The tombs were opened and many of the dead are raised.|
|28:1–10||16:1–8||24:1–12||20:1–9||The resurrection of Jesus.|
|28:1–7||An angel rolls the stone from the grave and speaks to the women.|
|28:5–8||16:5–7||24:4–8||Angelic appearance to those at the sepulcher.|
|20:11–13||Two angels appear to Mary.|
|16:9||20:14–17||Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene.|
|28:9–10||Jesus appears to the women.|
|16:12||24:13–35||Jesus appears to the two on the road to Emmaus.|
|20:19–23||Jesus appears to 10 apostles.|
|28:16–20||16:14–18||24:36–49||20:26–31||Jesus appears to 11 apostles.|
|21:1–25||Jesus appears to 7 apostles.|
|21:6||Miraculous catch of fish.|
|1:3–5||Jesus appears to all the apostles. (Lk 24:24–51)|
|1:6–9||Jesus ascends into heaven.|
|1:10–11||Two angels appear to the apostles.|
|2:1–4||The coming of the Holy Spirit on the apostles.|
|2:4–13||The apostles speak with other tongues.|
|3:1–11||Peter heals the lame man in the temple.|
|5:5–10||Ananias and Sapphira are killed.|
|5:12||Many signs and wonders performed by the apostles.|
|5:18–20||Anel releases the apostles form prison.|
|7:55–56||Stehen sees Jesus at the right hand of God.|
|8:7||Unclean spirits are cast out of many.|
|8:13||Philip performs miracles and signs.|
|8:14–17||The Samarians receive the Holy Spirit.|
|8:39–40||Philip caught away by the Holy Spirit.|
|9:3–7||Jesus appears to Saul (cf. 1 Cor. 15:8).|
|9:10–16||Jesus appears to Ananias.|
|9:17–19||Saul’s sight is restored.|
|9:32–34||Peter heals Aneneas.|
|9:36–42||Dorcas is restored to life.|
|10:1–8||Cornelius receives a vision.|
|10:9–16||Peter receives a vision three times.|
|10:44–48||Cornelius’ household receives the Holy Spirit.|
|12:7–10||An angel releases Peter from prison.|
|12:23||The angel of the Lord kills Herod.|
|13:8–11||Elymas the sorcerer is blinded.|
|14:8–10||Paul heals a lame man at Lystra.|
|16:16–18||Paul casts a demon out of a young woman.|
|18:9–10||The Lord appears to Paul.|
|19:6||Believers at Ephesus receive the Holy Spirit.|
|19:11–12||Many unusual signs performed by Paul.|
|20:9–12||Eutychus is restored to life.|
|23:11||The Lord appears to Paul.|
|28:3–6||Paul protected from the viper bite.|
|28:7–8||Paul heals the father of Publius.|
|16:25–26||Prison doors opened and Paul’s and Silas’ bands are broken off.|
|15:6||Jesus’ appearance to five hundred people.|
|15:7||Jesus’ appearance to James.|
|12:1–6||Paul’s vision of heaven.|
|1:1–3:22||John’s vision of Jesus.|
|4:1–22:21||John’s vision of the future.|
|6:12||A great earthquake.|
|6:12||The sun becomes black as sackcloth.|
|6:12||The moon becomes as blood.|
|6:13||The stars fall from heaven to earth.|
|6:14||Every mountain is moved out of its place.|
|8:7||Hail and fire mingled with blood falls on the earth.|
|8:8||Something like a great burning mountain is cast into the sea, and a third part of the sea becomes blood.|
|8:9||A third part of the creatures in the sea die.|
|8:9||A third part of the ships are destroyed.|
|8:10–11||A great, burning star falls from heaven and a third part of the rivers and fountains become bitter.|
|8:12||A third part of the sun is darkened.|
|8:12||A third part of the moon is darkened.|
|8:12||A third part of the stars are darkened.|
|9:1||A star falls from heaven.|
|9:2||The sun is darkened by the smoke from the botomless pit.|
|9:3–11||A plague of locusts are given power to torment men for 5 months.|
|9:18||A third part of mankind is killed.|
|11:5||The two witnesses devour their enemies by fire from their mouths.|
|11:6||The two witnesses stop the rain for 3 1/2 years.|
|11:6||The two witnesses turn water into blood.|
|11:6||The two witnesses smite the earth with many plagues.|
|11:11||The two witnesses are raised from the dead.|
|11:12||The two witnesses ascend into heaven.|
|11:13||There is a great earthquake in which a tenth part of the city falls, and 7000 men are slain.|
|11:19||There are lightenings, voices, thunderings and earthquake and great hail.|
|16:2||Fowl and loathsome sores fall on men who worship the beast.|
|16:3||The sea becomes as blood, and every living soul in it dies.|
|16:4||The rivers and fountains of waters become blood.|
|16:8||The sun scorches men with fire.|
|16:10||Darkness covers the kingdom of the beast.|
|16:12||The water of the river Euphrates is dried up.|
|16:18||There are voices and thunders and a great earthquake.|
|16:20||The islands flee and the mountains cannot be found.|
|16:21||A great hail of heavy stones falls on people.|
|18:1–24||The fall of Babylon.|
|19:11–16||The return of Jesus Christ.|
|21:1||The new heaven and the new earth appear.|
|21:10||The new Jerusalem descending from heaven.|
Not all these events are miracles in the technical sense of a direct action of God superseding a natural law. Some (e.g. Gen. 7, 19) may be a special act of divine providence where God uses natural laws to accomplish His purpose.
Chart adapted from Appendix 2 in Norman L. Geisler. Miracles and the Modern Mind: A Defense of Biblical Miracles. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker (1992).
Reading The Bible Through The Jesus Lens in the Book of 2 Corinthians
“From Biblical Book to Biblical Hook”
Chart adapted from *Dr. Michael Williams Book
Title for 2 Corinthians
2 Corinthians: Theme
2 Corinthians 2:17
God directs Paul to explain and vindicate his apostolic authority while encouraging the generosity of the Corinthian church.
|“Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God.”|
Christ-Focus in 2 Corinthians
Implications from 2 Corinthians
Hooks from 2 Corinthians
Jesus gave himself completely for the welfare of his people.
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. – 2 Corinthians 8:9
God will provide for our needs as we give ourselves to others.
The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. As it is written,
“He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.”
He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. – 2 Corinthians 9:6-11
Is it really better to give than receive?
Which would you rather do?
What if giving involves giving up comfort, safety, or even your life?
Why would anyone give like that?
Is it possible for you to give more than you already have received?
What have you already received from God?
*Michael James Williams in his own words: “After my conversion in the U. S. Navy (in a submarine beneath the North Atlantic!), I entered Columbia Bible College, where I received a B.A. (1985). This was followed by an M.A. in Religion at Westminster Theological Seminary (1987) and a Ph.D. in Biblical Studies at the University of Pennsylvania (1999). In 2000, I was ordained in the Christian Reformed Church, and since 1995 have been teaching at Calvin Theological Seminary. I have also taught courses at Westminster Theological Seminary, the University of Pennsylvania, and brief stints in Limuru, Kenya; Donetsk, Ukraine; and Warsaw, Poland. In addition to articles on Old Testament topics in various reference works and academic journals, and contributing to and editing “Mishneh Todah: Studies in Deuteronomy and Its Cultural Environment in Honor of Jeffrey H. Tigay” (2009); I have authored “Deception in Genesis: A Comprehensive Analysis of a Unique Biblical Phenomenon” (2001); “The Prophet and His Message: Reading Old Testament Prophecy Today” (2003); and, most recently, “How to Read the Bible through the Jesus Lens: A Guide to Christ-Focused Reading of Scripture” (2012). My amazing wife, Dawn, and I enjoy hiking and all things outdoors.”
Christian Leadership Defined:
“A Christian leader is a humble, God-dependent, team-playing servant of God who is called by God to shepherd, develop, equip, and empower a specific group of believers to accomplish an agreed-upon vision from God.” – Dave Kraft
The Key Ingredients of Leadership:
Christian leaders are, first and foremost, servants (bond slaves) of the Lord, and second, servants of those they are leading.
They are characterized by humility, dependence, and team-playing, rather than being a loner or one-man show.
Christian leaders are called by God into leadership. They do not decide for themselves to be a leader. They are not pushed into leadership by well-meaning supporters, nor do they arrive at leadership because no one else will do it.
Christian leaders are moving toward a specific destination.
Christian leaders are creating and sustaining an agreed-upon vision. There is an initial buy-in and a growing ownership of the vision among those being led.
Christian Leaders Have 4 Major Responsibilities:
Shepherding—a leader loves and cares for those being led.
Developing—a leader helps those being led in their personal walk with Jesus Christ to become fully devoted followers.
Equipping—a leader trains those being led for ministry.
Empowering—a leader inspires, encourages, affirms, believes in, and frees people up to serve out of their gifting.
Contrasting Past and Future/Current Leaders
Operate in committees
Operate in teams
Command and control
Degreed and elected
Gifted and called
Linear and pyramidal
Share propositional truth
People of the written page
People of the screen
About The Author:
Dave is originally from the LA area. He is definitely a Southern California boy. Dave has been married to Susan for 42 years. They have four adult children and six grand children.
He served with The Navigators for 38 years leaving that organization in the fall of 2005. In those years with The Navigators, Dave had assignments in Southern and Northern California, Sweden, Colorado and Washington State.
He served as Pastor of Coaching and Leadership Development Mars Hill Church in Seattle & currently in Orange County, CA.
In addition to his work at Mars Hill, Dave is a Life Coach with Ministry Coaching International with headquarters in Bend, Oregon. Dave has the joy of coaching pastors around the country in developing a Life Plan to stay strong and healthy in their personal and family life. Building upon this, Dave helps each pastor think through their specific vision for their ministry and their game plan for building a team to help them carry it out. Visit this link to have Dave Kraft spend a weekend at your church.
When not recruiting training and placing leaders, which he truly loves, Dave likes to read, jog, listen to music and watch movies.
The excerpts above are from the introduction to his excellent book pictured above and published by Crossway Books in Wheaton, ILL., entitled Leaders Who Last, 2009.
[Adapted from Ronald H. Nash. Worldviews in Conflict: Choosing Christianity in the World of Ideas. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, pp. 34-45).
“The Christian Worldview”
The Christian worldview is theistic in the sense that it believes in the existence of one supremely powerful and personal God. Theism differs from polytheism in its affirmation that there is only one God (Deut. 6:4). It parts company with the various forms of pantheism by insisting that God is personal and must not be confused with the world that is his creation. Theism must also be distinguished from panentheism, the position that regards the world as an eternal being that God needs in much the same way a human soul needs a body. Theists also reject panentheistic attempts to limit God’s power and knowledge, which have the effect of making the God of panentheism a finite being (For a fuller discussion, see Ronald Nash, ed., Process Theology. Panentheism can be thought of as a position somewhere between theism’s belief in a personal, almighty, all-knowing God and the impersonal god of pantheism that is identical in some way with nature or the world order. While the god of panentheism is not identical with the world, this god and the world necessarily co-exist eternally Another basic feature of panentheism is the denial of the view that God can act as an efficient cause, a belief that precludes any belief in either creation or in such miracles as the Incarnation or the Resurrection).
Other important attributes of God, such as his holiness, justice, and love are described in Scripture. Historical Christian theism is also trinitarian. The doctrine of the Trinity reflects the Christian conviction that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are three distinct centers of consciousness sharing fully in the one divine nature and in the activities of the other persons of the Trinity. An important corollary of the doctrine is the Christian conviction that Jesus Christ is both fully God and fully man (It is important for Christians to realize that the belief that Jesus is fully God and fully man does not involve them in a logical contradiction. Critics of Christianity like to deceive people into thinking that this Christian claim is similar to believing that something is a square circle. It is not). Christians use the word incarnation to express their belief that the birth of Jesus Christ marked the entrance of the eternal and divine Son of God into the human race.
The Bible begins with the words, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Many early Christian thinkers found it important to draw out certain implications of the biblical view of God and stipulate that God created the world ex nihilo (from nothing), which is an important metaphysical tenet of the Christian worldview. This was necessary, they believed, to show the contrast between the Christian understanding of Creation and an account of the world’s origin found in Plato’s philosophy, a view held by a number of intellectuals in the early centuries of the Christian church (For more on this see Ron Nash. The Gospel and the Greeks). Plato had suggested that a godlike being, the Craftsman, had brought the world into being by fashioning an eternal or matter after the pattern of eternal ideas that existed independently of the Craftsman. Moreover, this creative activity took place in a space-time receptacle or box that also existed independently of the Craftsman. Such early Christian thinkers as Augustine wanted the world to know that the Christian God and the Christian view of Creation differed totally from this platonic picture. Plato’s god (if indeed that is an appropriate word for his Craftsman) was not the infinite, all-powerful, and sovereign God of the Christian Scriptures. Plato’s god was finite and limited. In the Christian account of Creation, nothing existed prior to Creation except God.
There was no time or space; there was no preexisting matter. Everything else that exists besides God depends totally upon God for its existence. If God did not exist, the world would not exist. The cosmos is not eternal, self-sufficient, or self-explanatory. It was freely created by God. The existence of the world, therefore, is not a brute fact; nor is the world a purposeless machine. The world exists as the result of a free decision to create by a God who is eternal, transcendent, spiritual (that is, nonmaterial), omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, loving, and personal. Because there is a God-ordained order to the creation, human beings can discover that order. It is this order that makes science possible; it is this order that scientists attempt to capture in their laws. The Christian worldview should be distinguished from any version of deism. This theory dared to suggest that although God created the world, he absents himself from the creation and allows it to run on its own. This view and several twentieth-century varieties seem to present the picture of a God (or god) who is incapable of acting causally within nature (This certainly appears to have been the view of such twentieth-century theologians as Paul Tillich and Rudolf Bultmann. While the term naturalism will be explained later, there is some justification for describing thinkers like Tillich and Bultmann as religious naturalists. They may have believed in God, but their God was effectively precluded from any providential or miraculous activity within the natural order). While no informed Christian will argue with the assured results of such sciences as physics, biology, and geology, the Christian worldview insists that divine activities such as miracles, revelation, and providence remain possible.
The study of epistemology can quickly involve one in fairly sticky problems. In fact, one should admit that on many epistemological issues (for example, the dispute between rationalists and empiricists – For the reader unfamiliar with these terms, an empiricist is a person who believes that all human knowledge can be traced back to bodily experience. A rationalist, on the other hand, believes that some human knowledge can originate in something other than sense experience) a wide variety of options seems to be consistent with other aspects of the Christian worldview. But there do seem to be limits to this tolerance. For example, the Christian worldview is clearly incompatible with universal skepticism, the self-defeating claim that no knowledge about anything is attainable. The fact that this kind of skepticism self-destructs becomes clear whenever one asks such a skeptic whether he knows that knowledge is unattainable.
It also seems obvious that a well-formed Christian worldview will exclude views suggesting that humans cannot attain knowledge about God. Christianity clearly proclaims that God has revealed information about himself (I defend this claim in Ron Nash. The Word of God and the Mind of Man). Nor will an informed Christian deny the importance of the senses in supplying information about the world. As St. Augustine observed, the Christian “believes also the evidence of the senses which the mind uses by aid of the body; for if one who trusts his senses is sometimes deceived, he is more wretchedly deceived who fancies he should never trust them” (Augustine. City of God, tran. Marcus Dods. New York: Modern Library, 1950, 19.18.). In his own theory of knowledge, Augustine was a rationalist in the sense that he gave priority to reason over sense experience. Augustine probably had a good theological reason for defending the general reliability of sense experience.
He undoubtedly realized that many claims made in the Bible depended upon eyewitness testimony. If the senses are completely unreliable, we cannot trust the reports of witnesses who say that they heard Jesus teach or saw him die or saw him alive three days after the Crucifixion. If the experiences of those who saw and heard a risen Christ were necessarily deceptive and unreliable, an important truth of the Christian faith is compromised. In recent Christian writings about the theory of knowledge, philosophers apparently operating on different tracks have found agreement on an important point. In the case of my own track (a kind of Christian rationalism that received its first formulation in the writings of St. Augustine), it is a mistake to accept an extreme form of empiricism that claims all human knowledge rises from sense experience. Older advocates of this empiricism used to illustrate their basic claim by arguing that the human mind at birth is like a tabula rasa, a blank tablet. At birth, the human mind is like a totally clean blackboard; absolutely nothing is written on it. In other words, human beings are born with no innate ideas or knowledge. As the human being grows and develops, the senses supply the mind with an ever-increasing stock of information. All human knowledge results, in this model, from what the mind does with ideas supplied through the senses—the basic building blocks of knowledge.
My alternative to this extreme kind of empiricism can be summarized in the claim that some human knowledge does not rise from sense experience (I consciously reject an extreme type of rationalism that claims no human knowledge rises from sense experience. Plato held this latter view. But as explained earlier, Augustine did not; nor do I). As many philosophers have noted, human knowledge of the sensible world is possible because human beings bring certain ideas, categories, and dispositions to their experience of the world. The impotence of empiricism is especially evident in the case of human knowledge of universal and necessary truth. Many things in the world could have been otherwise. The typewriter I am using at this moment happens to be brown, but it could have been red. Whether it is brown or not is a purely contingent feature of reality. Regardless of the color my typewriter happens to be, it could have been colored differently. But it is necessarily the case that my typewriter could not have been brown all over and red (or any other color) all over at the same time and in the same sense. The necessary truth that my typewriter is brown all over and not at the same time red all over cannot be a function of sense experience. Sense experience may be able to report what is fact at a particular time. But sense experience is incapable of grasping what must be the case at all times. The notions of necessity and universality can never be derived from our experience. Rather, they are notions (among others) that we bring to sense experience and use in making judgments about reality.
How do we account for the human possession of these categories of thought or innate ideas or dispositions that play such an indispensable role in human knowledge? According to a long and honored philosophical tradition that includes Augustine, Descartes, and Leibniz, human beings have these innate ideas, dispositions, and categories of thought by virtue of their creation by God. In fact, this may well be part of what is meant by the phrase the image of God (I have explored the roots of this theory in the writings of St. Augustine in my book The Light of the Mind: St. Augustine’s Theory of Knowledge. Lexington, Ky.: University Press of Kentucky, 1969). After all (Christians believe). God created the world. It is reasonable to assume that he created humans in such a way as to make them capable of attaining knowledge of his creation. To go even further, it is reasonable to believe that he endowed the human mind with the ability to attain knowledge of himself.
Philosopher Alvin Plantinga has noted an important similarity between the role that God-given categories and dispositions play in human knowledge and what Reformed thinkers like John Calvin said about belief in God:
Reformed Theologians such as Calvin…have held that God has implanted in us a tendency…to accept belief in God under certain conditions. Calvin speaks, in this connection, of a “sense of deity inscribed in the hearts of all.” Just as we have a natural tendency to form perceptual beliefs under certain conditions, so says Calvin, we have a natural tendency to form such beliefs as God is speaking to me and God has created all this or God disapproves of what. I’ve done under certainly widely realized conditions (Alvin Plantinga, “Self-Profile,” in Alvin Plantinga, ed. James E. Tomberlin and Peter van Inwagen (Boston: D. Reidel, 1985), 63, 64. Plantinga’s quote comes from Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, bk. 1, chap. 3, 43–44).
Plantinga shows no reluctance to describe the idea of God as “innate,” that is, present in the mind from birth, not derived from experience. These are complex issues. But it is clear that the Christian worldview is no ally of skepticism. Human beings can know God’s creation; they are also capable of attaining knowledge about God. Nor should this surprise anyone. It is exactly what we should have expected.
The fact that all human beings carry the image of God (another of Christianity’s claims about human nature) explains why human beings are creatures capable of reasoning, love, and God-consciousness; it also explains why we are moral creatures. Of course, sin (yet another of Christianity’s important presuppositions about human beings) has distorted the image of God and explains why humans turn away from God and the moral law; why we sometimes go wrong with regard to our emotions, conduct, and thinking.
Because of the image of God, we should expect to find that the ethical recommendations of the Christian worldview reflect what all of us at the deepest levels of our moral being know to be true. As C. S. Lewis pointed out,
Christ did not come to preach any brand new morality… Really great moral teachers never do introduce new moralities; it is quacks and cranks who do that… The real job of every moral teacher is to keep on bringing us back, time after time, to the old simple principles which we are all so anxious not to see (C.S. Lewis. Mere Christianity, 78).
When one examines the moralities of different cultures and religions, certain differences do stand out. But Lewis was more impressed by the basic, underlying similarities:
Think of a country where people were admired for running away in battle, or where a man felt proud of doublecrossing all the people who had been kindest to him. You might just as well try to imagine a country where two and two made five. Men have differed as regards what people you ought to be unselfish to—whether it was only your own family, or your fellow countrymen, or everyone. But they have always agreed that you ought not to put yourself first. Selfishness has never been admired (Ibid., 19).
According to the Christian worldview, God is the ground of the laws that govern the physical universe and that make possible the order of the cosmos. God is also the ground of the moral laws that ought to govern human behavior and that make possible order between humans and within humans (Each of the areas dealing with God, ultimate reality, knowledge, ethics, and humankind includes its share of important but different questions that cannot be pursued in this study. One such problem in ethics is the precise relationship between God and morality. For some technical discussions of the topic, see Philip L. Quinn, Divine Commands and Moral Requirements. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1978, and Robert Merrihew Adams, “A Modified Divine Command Theory of Ethical Wrongness” in Religion and Morality, Gene Outka and John P. Reeder, Jr., eds. Garden City, N.Y.: Anchor Press, Doubleday, 1973).
Christian theism insists on the existence of universal moral laws. In other words, the laws must apply to all humans, regardless of when or where they have lived. They must also be objective in the sense that their truth is independent of human preference and desire.
Much confusion surrounding Christian ethics results from a failure to observe the important distinction between principles and rules. Let us define moral principles as more general moral prescriptions, general in the sense that they cover a large number of instances. Moral rules, on the other hand, will be regarded as more specific moral prescriptions that are, in fact, applications of principles to more concrete situations.
The difference between principles and rules has advantages and disadvantages. One advantage of moral principles is the fact that they are less subject to change. Because of the larger number of instances where they are applicable, they possess a greater degree of universality. One disadvantage of any moral principle is its vagueness. Because principles cover so many situations, it is often difficult to know exactly when a particular principle applies. Rules, however, have the advantage of being much more specific. Their problem is their changeableness. Because they are so closely tied to specific situations, changes in circumstances usually require changes in the appropriate rule. For example, St. Paul warned the Christian women of Corinth not to worship with their heads uncovered. Some Christians have mistakenly regarded Paul’s advice as a moral principle that should be observed by Christian women in every culture at all times. But a study of the conditions that prevailed in ancient Corinth reveals that the city’s prostitutes identified themselves to their prospective customers by keeping their heads uncovered. In the light of this, it seems likely that Paul’s advice was not a moral principle intended to apply to Christians of all generations but a rule that applied only to the specific situation of the Christian women of Corinth and to other women in similar situations (Even if my particular interpretation of 1 Corinthians 11 is challenged, my point can be made in terms of other New Testament passages. See, for example, Paul’s remarks in Romans 14 concerning Christians eating meat that had been offered to pagan gods).
The following chart may help clarify the points of the last paragraph:
Principles Universal Vague
Rules Specific Situational
I recognize that the distinction I am drawing here suffers from impreciseness. This is due in part to the fact that the difference between principles and rules is sometimes relative. That is, Scripture actually presents a hierarchy of moral prescriptions beginning at the most general level with the duty to love. This duty to love is then further broken down into the duties to love God and love people (Matt. 22:37–40), and then still further into the more specific duties of the Decalogue (Rom. 13:9–10). And, of course, the still more specific duties spelled out in the New Testament, such as the prohibition against the lustful look and hatred, are further specifications of the Ten Commandments (Matt. 5:21–30). The distinction between principles and rules suggests that whenever you have two scriptural injunctions, where a more specific command is derived from the more general, you can regard the more specific injunction as the rule and the other as the principle. It is possible to read 1 Corinthians 13 in this way. First, Paul proposes love as a moral duty binding on all. Then he proceeds to provide more specific rules about how a loving person will behave; for example, he will be kind and patient. Based on our distinction between principles and rules plus a careful study of the New Testament, we can draw several conclusions:
(1) The New Testament gave first-century Christians plenty of rules. But, of course, the rules cover situations that may no longer confront twentieth-century Christians, such as Paul’s injunction against eating meat offered to idols.
(2) The New Testament does not provide twentieth-century Christians with any large number of rules regarding our specific situations. The reason is obvious. The rules were given to cover first-century situations. A first-century book that attempted to give moral rules to cover specific twentieth-century situations would have become unintelligible or irrelevant to readers in the intervening nineteen hundred years. What moral help could the first-century Christians in Rome or Ephesus have derived from such a moral rule as “thou shalt not make a first strike with nuclear weapons” or “it is wrong to use cocaine”?
(3) At the same time, some of the New Testament rules apply to situations that have existed throughout time. Passages dealing with acts of hating, stealing, lying, and the like continue to be relevant because the acts are similar.
(4) But often what many people miss is the importance of searching out the moral principles behind the New Testament rules. These principles are equally binding on humans of all generations. A careful consideration of the Bible’s first-century rules enables us to infer the more general principles behind them, principles that apply to us today. It may be unimportant today whether Christian women keep their heads covered, but it is important that they avoid provocative dress and behavior. Though few Christians in our generation are bothered by pagan butchers who have offered their wares as a sacrifice to a false god, we can profit from the principle that we should do nothing that causes a spiritually weaker person to stumble (Another qualification may help some readers. I am not suggesting that Scripture presents us with a casuistic system of morality in which specific moral duties can always be deduced from more general moral statements. Casuistry always leads to a type of legalism that is condemned by Scripture. But I do think a recognition of a biblical hierarchy of rules and principles can help us determine our duty).
While a properly formed Christian worldview allows a great deal of leeway regarding the positions sincere Christians may take on many of the tough problems that rise in the formulation of an ethical theory, informed Christians will have to reject certain views. One such view is the position called situation ethics, which asserts that Christian ethics imposes no duty other than the duty to love. In determining what he should do, the situationist declares, the Christian should face the moral situation and ask himself what the loving thing to do is in this particular case. No rules or principles prescribe how love will act. Indeed, each loving individual is free to act in any way he thinks is consistent with love as he understands it. The point to situation ethics is, then, that Christian ethics provides no universal principles and no specific rules. Nothing is intrinsically good except love; nothing intrinsically bad except nonlove. One can never prescribe in advance what a Christian should or should not do. Depending on the situation, love may find it necessary to lie, to steal, even presumably to fornicate, to blaspheme, and to worship false gods. The only absolute is love.
A proper response to situation ethics will begin by pointing out that love is insufficient in itself to provide moral guidance for each and every moral action. Love requires the further specification of principles or rules that suggest the proper ways in which love should be manifested. Because human beings are fallen creatures whose judgments on moral matters may be affected by moral weakness, love needs guidance from divinely revealed moral truth. Fortunately, Christians believe, this content is provided in the moral principles revealed in Scripture.
In spite of all this, life often confronts us with ambiguous moral situations in which even the most sincere among us may agonize over what to do. At times we simply do not know enough about ourselves, the situation, or the moral principle that applies to be sure we are doing the right thing. As many of us also know, weakness of will can hinder moral decision making.
In the unambiguous situations of life, Scripture teaches, God judges us in terms of our obedience to his revealed moral law. But how does God judge us in the more ambiguous situations where the precise nature of our duty is unclear? God looks upon the heart, Scripture advises. We are judged if we break God’s commandments. This is certain. But in those cases where we may not know which commandment applies or where we may have incomplete knowledge of the situation, God’s judgment will take into account not merely the rightness of the consequences of our act (something that we ourselves are often unable to determine in ambiguous situations) but the goodness of our intentions.
William J. Abraham provides us with an introduction to the complex subject of what the Christian worldview teaches about human beings:
Human beings are made in the image of God, and their fate depends on their relationship with God. They are free to respond to or reject God and they will be judged in accordance with how they respond to him. This judgment begins now but finally takes place beyond death in a life to come. Christians furthermore offer a diagnosis of what is wrong with the world. Fundamentally, they say, our problems are spiritual: we need to be made anew by God. Human beings have misused their freedom; they are in a state of rebellion against God; they are sinners. These conclusions lead to a set of solutions to this ill. As one might expect, the fundamental solution is again spiritual…[I]n Jesus of Nazareth God has intervened to save and remake mankind. Each individual needs to respond to this and to become part of Christ’s body, the church, where they are to grow in grace and become more like Christ. This in turn generates a certain vision of the future. In the coming of Jesus, God has inaugurated his kingdom, but it will be consummated at some unspecified time in the future when Christ returns (Abraham, An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1985, 104-5).
What a paradox human beings are! The only bearers of the image of God on this planet are also capable of the most heinous acts. As Pascal put it, “What a freak, what a monster, what a chaos, what a subject of contradiction, what a marvel! Judge of all things, and imbecile earthworm; possessor of the truth, and sink of uncertainty and error; glory and rubbish of the universe” (Blaise Pascal. Selections from The Thoughts, trans. Athur H. Beattie. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1965, p. 68).
In another passage, Pascal wrote,
Man is but a reed, the weakest in nature, but he is a thinking reed. The whole universe need not arm itself to crush him; a vapor, a drop of water is enough to kill him. But even though the universe should crush him, man would still be nobler than what kills him since he knows that he dies, and the advantage that the universe has over him, the universe knows nothing of it (Ibid., 30).
The essential paradox here—the greatness and the misery of humankind—flows out of two important truths. God created humans as the apex of his creation; our chief end, in the words of the Westminster Catechism, is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. But each human being is fallen, is in rebellion against the God who created him and loves him.
Christianity simply will not make sense to people who fail to understand and appreciate the Christian doctrine of sin. Every human being lives in a condition of sin and alienation from his or her Creator. Each has sinned and fallen short of God’s standard (Rom. 3:23). As John Stott counsels, sin “is not a convenient invention of parsons to keep them in their job; it is a fact of human experience” (John Stott. Basic Christianity. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1967, p. 61).
The sin that separates us from God and enslaves us is more than an unfortunate outward act of habit; it is a deep-seated inward corruption. In fact, the sins we commit are merely outward and visible manifestations of this inward and invisible malady, the symptoms of a moral disease…Because sin is an inward corruption of human nature we are in bondage. It is not so much certain acts or habits which enslave us, but rather the evil infection from which these spring (Ibid., 75-76).
In the writings of the nineteenth-century Christian writer Søren Kierkegaard, human alienation from God often rises to the surface in the form of moods like despair. As Kierkegaard described it in his technical way, two aspects of human existence (the finite/temporal and the infinite/eternal) compete for dominance in the life of every human being. Unless a person succeeds in getting these two dimensions into proper relation and manages somehow to unify them, he or she will never really be a self. Apart from God, each human being is a divided self.
Clearly, each of us is finite in many respects. We are limited and restricted by our bodies, our circumstances, our surroundings, our weakness of will. A constant and unavoidable reminder of the limitations of our existence is provided by death—the actual death of others and the realization of the inevitability of our own death. But there is also another side to our existence, a side that takes on dimensions of infinity or eternity. For one thing, our desires seem to transcend the finite limitations of our bodies. We always desire more than we have; we always want more than we can possibly achieve. No matter what we have accomplished or attained in the way of fame, fortune, pleasure, or happiness, we want more. In a very real sense, our appetites are never satisfied. This is not to ignore times when thoroughly satiated individuals pause, momentarily content with the most recent satisfaction of their desires. But the contentment soon disappears, and they are back on the trail, searching for more.
The frustration resulting from the human inability ultimately to satisfy all desires is just one manifestation of the tension between the finite and infinite poles of our being. Another example is the tendency of many to seek escape from reality through flights of fantasy. Rather than confront the truth about the closed frontiers of their existence, many people prefer to live in a world of dreams and illusions. In spite of their age, such people suffer from lifelong immaturity. They never really grow up.
Because most people never succeed in pulling the finite and infinite sides of their being together, they go through life suffering the spiritual and emotional consequences of being divided selves. Despair is one result of the failure to put the various parts of one’s life together. Despair is essentially enthusiasm that has gone astray, that has lost its bearings; it is a zeal for things that either disappear when they are most wanted or fail to deliver all that they seem to promise. If, in a person’s unconscious, he or she begins to feel that all the deepest yearnings of the soul will eventually end up unsatisfied, the onset of despair makes a kind of perverse sense. It is perfectly understandable how one’s unconscious, under these conditions, might react by repressing enthusiasm, thus producing the mood of despair.
The victim of moods like despair is frequently unaware of the problem. Kierkegaard clearly thought that despair is often unconscious. The individual senses dimly that something is wrong, without ever being able to put a finger on it. The great extent to which despair functions in human lives below the level of consciousness may be one more result of the refusal of many people to face the truth about themselves and their world. The truly unhappy person who mistakenly believes himself or herself happy tends to regard as an enemy everyone who threatens that illusion.
Moods like despair are also indications that the major source of human trouble lies within, not in external circumstances. Consider the contrast in the writings of St. Paul between sins, the overt acts, and sin, the depraved nature within. Human beings are not self-sufficient; we cannot cure ourselves. We can become selves, we can grow up and develop into complete human beings only through a proper relationship with God. The finite and infinite must be joined from without, by God himself. Despair is only one symptom of estrangement from God and consequently from the self. Divided selves can achieve the unity of selfhood only in a faith-relationship with God.
One final aspect of Kierkegaard’s analysis deserves attention. Moods like despair indicate that people are not wholly or ultimately made for this world. There is “something eternal” in us. We are to find the fulfillment of our passion for meaning and security, which is expressed in a distorted way by our typical immersion in these worldly projects, in a realm which is not subject to disappearance. A human being is not an absurdity, a futile passion, doomed either to repression or the most poignant unhappiness. He is, rather, a wayward child of God, whose restlessness and anxiety and despair can and should drive him into the arms of his Father. His despair is indeed a sickness, but it is curable when he finds his true home (Robert C. Roberts, “The Transparency of Faith,” The Reformed Journal. June, 1979, p. 11).
The eternal factor that God has implanted within leaves all of us ultimately frustrated, unhappy, and restless until we finally enter into his rest. As Augustine put it, God has made us for himself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in him. Human beings are driven to seek an eternal peace, in which everything will finally be in its proper place, in which perfect order both in the world and in the soul will be attained. Despair may be one way God informs us that we are to look beyond ourselves for our ultimate peace. It is one of several moods and affective states that ought to remind alert people that we should know better than to think that our highest good can be found in this life. The Christian worldview recognizes the human need for forgiveness and redemption and stresses that the blessings of salvation are possible because of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Christ’s redemptive work is the basis of human salvation. But human beings are required to repent of sins (be sorry for and turn from sins) and believe. Accepting Christ as one’s Lord and Savior brings about a new birth, a new heart, a new relationship with God, and a new power to live (See John 3:3-21; Galatians 2:20; Hebrews 8:10-12; and 1 John 3:1-2).
Christian conversion does not suddenly make the new Christian perfect. But the Christian has God’s nature and Spirit within and is called to live a particular kind of life in obedience to God’s will. Finally, the Christian worldview teaches that physical death is not the end of personal existence.
CHRISTIANITY’S “TOUCHSTONE PROPOSITION”
Even my short outline of the Christian worldview may seem involved to some readers. Is it possible to boil everything down to one proposition? In this connection, William Halverson makes an interesting observation:
At the center of every worldview is what might be called the “touchstone proposition” of that worldview, a proposition that is held to be the fundamental truth about reality and serves as a criterion to determine which other propositions may or may not count as candidates for belief. If a given proposition P is seen to be inconsistent with the touchstone proposition or one’s worldview, then so long as one holds that worldview, proposition P must be regarded as false (William H. Halverson, A Concise Introduction to Philosophy, 3d. ed. New York: Random House, 1976, p. 384).
There is value in seeing how Halverson’s suggestion applies to what has already been said about the Christian worldview. Does one touchstone proposition or control belief or ultimate presupposition that is the fundamental truth of this particular worldview also serve as the test that any belief must pass before it can be included as part of the worldview?
One proposition that may fill the bill is the following: “Human beings and the universe in which they reside are the creation of the God who has revealed himself in Scripture” (By Scripture I mean the 39 books of the Old Testament and the 27 books of the New Testament deemed canonical by the Protestant Church).
The basic presupposition of the Christian worldview is the existence of God revealed in Scripture. This linkage between God and the Scripture is proper. It is true, naturally, that this particular touchstone proposition allows the Christian ready access to all that Scripture says about God, the world, and humankind. While that is certainly an advantage, it is hardly an unfair advantage. What would be both unwise and unfair would be any attempt to separate the Christian God from his self-disclosure.
As Carl F. H. Henry points out, God is not “a nameless spirit awaiting post-mortem examination in some theological morgue. He is a very particular and specific divinity, known from the beginning solely on the basis of his works and self-declaration as the one living God” (Carl F. H. Henry, God. Revelation and Authority, vol. 2: God Who Speaks and Shows. Waco: Word, 1976, p. 7).
Any final decision regarding the existence of the Christian God and the truth Christian worldview will necessarily involve decisions about issues related to the Christian Scriptures. Since details of that worldview flow from the Christian’s ultimate authority, the Bible, any negative reaction to one will likely produce a negative reaction to the other. Of course, to turn the coin over, a positive evaluation of one side of this equation should bear positively on the other. The Christian cannot pretend that his worldview was formulated in a revelational vacuum.
While all mature, thinking persons have a worldview, many of them are unaware of the fact. People often evidence great difficulty attaining consciousness of key elements of their worldview. Most of us know individuals who seldom think deeply enough to ask the right questions about God, metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and humankind. As I have said, one of the important tasks for philosophers, theologians, and, indeed, for anyone interested in helping people in this important matter, is first to get people to realize that they do have a conceptual system. The second step is to help people get a clearer fix on the content of their worldview. What do they believe about the existence and nature of God, about humankind, morality, knowledge, and ultimate reality? The third step is to help people evaluate their worldview and either improve it (by removing inconsistencies and filling in gaps) or replace it with a better worldview. In the next chapter, I will examine recommendations regarding the best or most promising way to go about making a choice among competing worldviews.
The article above was adapted from Chapter 2 in Ronald H. Nash. Worldviews in Conflict: Choosing Christianity in the World of Ideas. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010.
About the Author: Ronald H. Nash (PhD, Syracuse University; 1936-2006) was professor of philosophy at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He also was a professor of philosophy and theology at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. He previously served for 25 years as Head of the Department of Philosophy and Religion at Western Kentucky University. Nash was strongly influenced by such evangelical thinkers as Gordon H. Clark and Carl F.H. Henry. He influenced and mentored many young Christian philosophers and apologists during his life. He was a Fellow of the Christianity Today Institute, and a prolific author. He wrote hundreds of magazine and journal articles, as well as authoring or editing over thirty books, including:
Worldviews in Conflict: Choosing Christianity in the World of Ideas. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010.
Is Jesus the Only Savior? Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010.
Life’s Ultimate Questions: An Introduction to Philosophy. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010.
The Gospel and the Greeks: Did the New Testament Borrow from Pagan Thought? (Student Library). Phillipsburg, N.J.: P&R Publishing, 2003.
The Light of The Mind: Saint Augustine’s Theory of Knowledge. Phillipsburg, N.J.: P&R Publishing, 2003.
Great Divides: Understanding the Controversies That Come Between Christians. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1993 (Republished by Academic Renewal Press, 2003).
Social Justice and the Christian Church. CCS Publishing, 2002.
When a Baby Dies. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999.
The Meaning of History. B&H Academic, 1998.
Faith and Reason: Searching for a Rational Faith. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999.
Christian Faith and Historical Understanding. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999.
The Word of God and Mind of Man (Student Library). Phillipsburg, N.J.: P&R Publishing, 1992.
Poverty and Wealth: The Christian Debate over Capitalism. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1986.
The Concept of God. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1983.