Showing posts with label Gospel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gospel. Show all posts

Sunday, January 28, 2024

Out of this World

“We brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.”

No matter how public our profile in life may be, and no matter how good our intentions, one of the things we cannot take out of the world with us is any rock-solid evidence that we have reformed its institutions or brought light to the darkness of the culture around us in any lasting, positive way. Unlike the changes that Christ brings to the individual human heart, the effect of any changes we introduce into the system will always be fleeting at best.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Not Peace but a Sword

The popular notion that lemmings in the wild commit mass suicide by leaping off cliffs is a sixty-five-year-old lie that has attained the status of myth. So says the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. The perpetrators were employees of the Disney Corporation in a 1950s documentary called White Wilderness. They staged the fake lemming migration with a combination of tight camera angles, judicious editing and a turntable, of all things. For the legendary cliff scene, they hurled lemmings into an Alberta river from off camera and captured them on film thrashing and drowning.

The reason? It made for good TV. Seriously.

Thursday, June 29, 2023

A Disturbance in the Force

“Stop forcing your beliefs on me!”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that cry when debating with unbelievers. In fact, I’ve heard it so much that I’ve begun to think there might be something behind it. After all, when many kinds of people from many kinds of backgrounds and situations seem to be arriving at the same kind of sentiment, there must be some cause for it, right?

But for a long time I haven’t been able to figure out exactly what it is. The problem is the wording: “You’re forcing …”

Am I? Really? How is that?

Thursday, November 03, 2022

Media and the Gospel

“The medium is the message”, said the great philosopher of mass media, Marshall McLuhan.

It’s his most oft-quoted line, since it’s so often true. When you have a message to send, you’ve got to be very careful about the form (i.e. the “method” or “medium”) in which you’re sending it, or the message itself can become horribly distorted.

Thursday, August 04, 2022

The Mythical Native

So you’re speaking to someone about the gospel. And suddenly he gets that ironic glint in his eye. He folds his arms, steps back and says, “Well, what about the people who have never heard? What about people not born in Christian cultures, or even in cultures with some other religion? Hey, what about the native on some remote South Sea island, who has never even seen a white person and knows nothing about Western culture? If you have to believe the gospel to be saved, then isn’t that poor guy going to hell? And how is that fair? After all, he never even had a chance.”

He smiles smugly at you, confident you won’t be able to field that one. And you stumble.

Thursday, May 19, 2022

The End of Evangelism

There is general fear being widely expressed among evangelicals today that we are not reaching people the way we used to. Certainly the numbers of people in the modern West who are becoming Christians seems to be slumping, and a lot of us are a bit nervous about the trend.

Is the Age of Evangelism Ending?

According to, one problem is that the professional clergy people and leaders are not stepping up, and that church ministries and programs are not going out to reach people. Meanwhile, The Evangelism Institute has found that while 85% of evangelical churches have a pro-evangelism statement in their constitution, less than 5% of the people are actually involved in doing something with it.

Thursday, April 14, 2022

How Do You Love the Gospel?

I hear a lot of people talk about their love for the gospel. But then I also hear a lot of talk about how people “love” ice cream, their cars, their mates, their pets, and the NFL.

I’m pretty sure there’s a difference in each case.

There are different ways to love. Some of them are a million miles from the others. So what are people talking about when they say they really love the gospel?

I’m going to give you three different ways. There are probably more, but I’ve seen these three a lot.

Friday, December 03, 2021

Too Hot to Handle: Culture and the Gospel

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

Immanuel Can: I’m going to temporarily suspend our self-imposed five-sentence limit, Tom, in order to tell you a story about something that happened last year when our provincial standardized test was performed.

You need to know that teachers are all given a specific script for what they are and are not allowed to tell students on the day of the test. They are expressly forbidden to go beyond this script, and doing so is grounds for firing. Teachers cannot add any directions, explanations, definitions or any other kind of information to this. They are not allowed to give any guidance once the test begins, no matter what a student wants or needs. It’s standardized, period.

One of the questions on the test asked kids to imagine a picnic, and then write based on their imagining.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

The Rest is Detail

The gospel is a funny thing.

At least the way we often define it is a bit odd, particularly when we include the word in the phrase “gospel meetings”. You know, those very simple, explicit “Come-to-Jesus” messages promulgated in evangelistic tent meetings and in gospel halls all over North America for the last century or more.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

I mean, there isn’t, really. It just isn’t the whole gospel picture, is it?

Tuesday, February 09, 2021

The Dignity of Causality

A few days ago, I stopped on my way to work to talk to a homeless man. His name is Rick, and he’s a fascinating character, all smiles and cheer as he sits for hours at a time on a downtown side-street air vent pumping out lifesaving heat in the sub-zero February chill. He’ll gratefully take your money if you offer it, but he doesn’t do the traditional begging thing. At night, he bikes up to the courthouse, where there are nearly 100 CCTV cameras, so that he can sleep without fear of being robbed … or worse.

He’s been at it for three and a half years.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Leaving Something on the Shelf

“Let the high praises of God be in their throats and two-edged swords in their hands ...”

What is that all about, you ask?

Well, let me tell you what it’s not all about. It ain’t about taking the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, and quoting it to the unsaved in hope of touching an unregenerate conscience and stirring it to life.

Some battles are not between people’s ears.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Anonymous Asks (106)

“How can Christians say their religion is the only true one?”

Over fifty years ago, a Muslim who happened to hear my father preaching asked him a question very much like this one. After listening to Dad for a time, he inquired, “Are you actually telling us that Jesus is the only way to God?”


In a Bit of a Bind

My father was in a bit of a bind in that he was at the time a guest in a foreign country. His ability to continue freely preaching and teaching there depended to a certain extent on not rocking the boat unnecessarily. However, this was one of those questions that cannot be evaded, ignored or put off to a more convenient time when there might be fewer witnesses or a less potentially hostile environment. Faithfulness to his Master demanded a straightforward answer, and Dad gave one.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

David’s Covenant and the Resurrection

On Tuesday we looked at the first six public messages in the book of Acts to consider how one’s audience ought to determine the content of a gospel message, a pattern well established by the apostles in their preaching.

It seems obvious that the apostles did not simply memorize a few key points to preach about in every situation. They did not utilize a predictable series of Old Testament proof texts. They were not merely checking boxes, but responded to the needs of the particular audience to whom they were preaching.

So now here we are in Acts 13.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

The Gospel in Context

Ever preached from one of these?
Anybody who has browsed my Bible Study series is familiar with the conviction (not uniquely mine) that context may well be the single most significant tool for determining meaning available to English students of scripture. It has certainly been the most useful to me.

This is not about that. It’s about the importance of a different sort of context: situation and audience.

A few weeks ago Immanuel Can and I had occasion to discuss the subject of the gospel and what it actually is. The four Gospels themselves (of course) record the beginnings of the “good news”, but necessarily cannot fully elaborate on all its implications. It requires the rest of the New Testament to do that, but a very good starting point is a study of how the apostles actually preached it from the very beginning (up to and including Acts 13, at any rate, which is as far as I’ve currently gone in my study).

Monday, March 16, 2020

Anonymous Asks (84)

“Does Christianity need to develop a new gospel adapted to today’s world?”

If the Christian faith was merely the invention of man, and if Christians were permitted to market it to the world in whatever way seems like it might work best, this could be a good idea. After all, brands grow stale over time and need to be refreshed. And in a consumer world, it’s whatever makes the sale for you. The customer is always right.

In this case, however, the “customer” is going to hell.

Thursday, November 07, 2019

A Disturbance in the Force

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Sunday, September 08, 2019

Stepping Up

“Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them …”

“Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question.”

It doesn’t always work this way in church. There are no guarantees. Sometimes the person who has done the hard work of contending for the faith in a particular area steps aside or is overshadowed by others who come along at the right time with the right gifts, experience and skill sets to be involved in the next step of any particular initiative.

And that’s okay when it happens. “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth,” says the apostle. That’s the right perspective to keep about such things.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Faith of the Gospel

“Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God.”

These “opponents” were primarily Jews.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Immanentizing the Eschaton

Let’s get this out of the way right up front: when you hear that someone is trying to “immanentize the eschaton”, it’s simply educated jargon. It’s a more confusing way of claiming they are trying to bring on the end times. I expect it’s intended to leave us midwits scratching our heads in perplexity, but who knows? The accusation has been leveled against utopian secularists and evangelical Christians alike.

Most recently I found it in Infogalactic’s entry on Postmillennialism, which I was discussing in this space just the other day: “It [postmillennialism, especially reconstructionist postmillennialism] has been criticized by 20th century religious conservatives as an attempt to immanentize the eschaton.”

Thursday, April 04, 2019

How Do You Love the Gospel?

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Spirits in Prison

Yesterday I pointed out that the apostles use the word “gospel” in slightly different ways at different times, emphasizing certain aspects of what we might consider an acceptable presentation of the good news and omitting others entirely.

Never is this more evident that in the third of Peter’s four references to the gospel found in his first epistle. His use of the word, and the context around it, open up what may be described as a theological can of worms.

Or perhaps later commentators on 1 Peter opened that can all by themselves.

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

The Gospel According to Peter

We all know what “the gospel” is, don’t we? Or at least we think we do.

If we searched the internet for a summary of the gospel, we might come away a tiny bit confused. John Piper, for instance, presents his gospel in six points. Bible Gateway reduces Piper’s six points to five. Phil Johnson goes with four, not one of which is identical to any of Piper’s, but all of which come directly from the apostle Paul.

For the new Christian, these differences in content and emphasis may be a bit hard to process.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Rules for Thee and Not for Me

“Do not preach” — thus they preach — “one should not preach of such things; disgrace will not overtake us.”

The only thing our society will not tolerate is intolerance. Unless it is society’s intolerance to those who refuse to tolerate sin. Then intolerance is just fine.

This is not a new development.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

The End of Evangelism

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

‘Proving’ the Bible

Here’s another one of those questions asked by a teen that manages to be relevant to Christians of all ages: “How can I prove the Bible and Christianity to my non-believer friends?”

Wow. That’s a concern that will never go away no matter how old I get.

I’m a bookish person. I love words. For years I had the idea that if I could only find the right ones, I could convince anyone of anything.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Too Hot to Handle: The Gospel Meeting

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

On the subject of the gospel meeting, Mike Willis has dug in. Gospel meetings, Willis says, used to accomplish a lot of good when America was a rural nation and non-Christians would visit the meetings.

Now, he concedes, not so much.

Yet despite a significant decline in their effectiveness (according to Willis, “Fewer non-Christian visitors are attending gospel meetings than at times in the past” and “We are not baptizing people any more”), he’s determined to revitalize the form. Willis says, “Reminding ourselves of the legitimate goals of gospel meetings and refocusing our aims on those goals should help us to have more effective gospel meetings.”

Friday, January 19, 2018

Too Hot to Handle: Culture and the Gospel

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Mythical Native

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

In a Nutshell

Have you ever been taught how to effectively share the gospel? Some of us have, some of us haven’t.

Better question: If you had only a few seconds to communicate the essence of salvation, which verses would you choose to put it across? How much could you get in there in, say, thirty seconds?

My son was asked how he would explain it this week.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Media and the Gospel

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

A Disturbance in the Force

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

How Do You Love the Gospel?

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

The Greatest Enemy

What is the greatest enemy of mankind?

Basil says it’s got to be corporations: “They have enormous power, and their priorities and objectives are seriously at odds with the greatest good / greatest number goal.”

Videsh says it’s greed: “So many wars were fought ’cos of greed.”

Mikael says disease, because it “destroys morale”, “does not discriminate” and “will never be stopped”.

Not a bad selection so far.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Mythical Native

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Rest is Detail

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Media and the Gospel

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

The Sound of Salesmen

The above line comes from a couplet in a Rush song called “Spirit of Radio”, one of the few classic rock tunes I could stomach during my post-punk phase. Neil Peart’s lyric goes like this:

“For the words of the profits were written on the studio wall;
Concert hall echoes with the sound of salesmen.”

It’s actually a rather ironic subversion of Paul Simon’s words in “Sound of Silence”, but that is neither here nor there. Peart once said, “The Spirit of Radio was actually written as a tribute to all that was good about radio, celebrating my appreciation of magical moments I’d had since childhood, of hearing ‘the right song at the right time.’ ” What Peart didn’t say is that it’s a wistful tribute: it ends in his disappointment with the ubiquity of commercialism.

I had a “Spirit of Radio” moment in church the other night.

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Franchising the Gospel

It looks more like a brand than a denomination.

Or really, it looks like any corporation with franchises all over the continent. All its churches use common fonts, a common logo and similar website designs. They’ve applied for a Canadian trademark and they’re opening a training centre for church planting in Europe this fall, where they already have a presence.

It ain’t Burger King, but this is a franchise.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The End of Evangelism

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

How Do You Love the Gospel?

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Monday, December 15, 2014

David’s Covenant and the Resurrection

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Gospel in Context

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Too Hot to Handle: The Gospel Meeting

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Too Hot to Handle: Culture and the Gospel

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Sceptics, Seekers and Opponents

Vox Day has an interesting piece on the subject of A Manual for Creating Atheists by Peter Boghossian, a book written with the purpose of teaching, in Boghossian’s own words, “how to talk people out of their faith”.

Day makes the point that Boghossian’s position could not be more distant from that of an authentic sceptic in the traditional sense: “Boghossian’s very stated purpose is in direct and explicit opposition to everything Sextus Empiricus advises, beginning with ‘suspension of judgment’ ”. A reader imprudently engages him on this and Day responds (with my italics):
“Scepticism does not mean ‘I am dubious about X.’ It does not mean ‘I am going to convince you that X is better than Y’. It does not mean ‘I will only believe X if there is sufficient evidence to justify it’. It means: ‘I have no opinion about either X or Y, and if you assert that X is better, I will argue that Y is better in order to produce a contradiction of equal weight and thereby allow me to suspend my judgment.’ What virtually no one who talks about scepticism seems to understand is that for the sceptic, suspension of judgment is not the method or the initial approach, it is the objective.”
— Vox Day
I had not thought of this before, but it provides a good jumping-off point for looking at the issue of how people respond to the preaching of the gospel.