Where It’s Dangerous to Follow Christ

Where are Christians most persecuted today?

This year the top 10 worst persecutors are relatively unchanged. After North Korea is Afghanistan, followed by Somalia, Libya, Pakistan, Eritrea, Yemen, Iran, Nigeria, and India.

Nigeria entered the top 10 for the first time, after maxing out Open Doors’s metric for violence. The nation, with Africa’s largest Christian population, ranks No. 9 overall but is second behind only Pakistan in terms of violence, and ranks No. 1 in the number of Christians killed for reasons related to their faith.

Sudan left the top 10 for the first time in six years, after abolishing the death penalty for apostasy and guaranteeing—on paper at least—freedom of religion in its new constitution after three decades of Islamic law. Yet it remains No. 13 on the list, as Open Doors researchers noted Christians from Muslim backgrounds still face attacks, ostracization, and discrimination from their families and communities, while Christian women face sexual violence.

(This switch among the top 10 echoes the decision of the US State Department in December to add Nigeria and remove Sudan from its Countries of Particular Concern list, which names and shames governments which have “engaged in or tolerated systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom.”)

Where It’s Hardest to Follow Jesus:

1. North Korea
2. Afghanistan
3. Somalia
4. Libya
5. Pakistan
6. Eritrea
7. Yemen
8. Iran
9. Nigeria
10. India

India remains in the top 10 for the third year in a row because it “continues to see an increase in violence against religious minorities due to government-sanctioned Hindu extremism.”

Meanwhile, China joined the top 20 for the first time in a decade, due to “ongoing and increasing surveillance and censorship of Christians and other religious minorities.”

Of the top 50 nations:

12 have “extreme” levels of persecution and 38 have “very high” levels. Another 4 nations outside the top 50 also qualify as “very high”: Cuba, Sri Lanka, United Arab Emirates, and Niger.

19 are in Africa (6 in North Africa), 14 are in Asia, 10 are in the Middle East, 5 are in Central Asia, and 2 are in Latin America.

34 have Islam as a main religion, 4 have Buddhism, 2 have Hinduism, 1 has atheism, 1 has agnosticism—and 10 have Christianity.

Without Form and Void

Genesis 1:1 tells us, unsurprisingly, that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. There is nothing especially shocking in that statement. However, the statement that follows has raised some eyebrows: the earth was without form and void (Genesis 1:2). The Hebrew tohu is typically translated as “without form” or “formless,” and bohu is rendered “void” or “empty.” Genesis 1:2 could be translated as “it came about that the earth was without form and empty.”

Some have suggested that perhaps God created the heavens and the earth, and then something happened that caused the earth to go from fully created and beautiful to “without form and void.” Such an order of events attempts to explain the perceived old age of the earth. In this view, often called the gap theory, there was a long period of time (a gap) between what happened in Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2. Thomas Chalmers, who is credited with popularizing the gap theory, stated his opinion in 1814 that “it [Genesis 1:1] forms no part of the first day—but refers to a period of indefinite antiquity when God created the worlds out of nothing. The commencement of the first day’s work I hold to be the moving of God’s Spirit upon the face of the waters. We can allow geology the amplest time . . . without infringing even on the literalities of the Mosaic record” (Russell R. Bixler, Earth, Fire, and Sea: The Untold Drama of Creation, Baldwin Press, 1986, p. 86–87). The gap theory interprets the words the earth was without form and void as an aftereffect of something that took place in between the two verses. While Chalmers’ view was impactful, later theologians such as C. I. Scofield advocated for the view and influenced many in favor of the gap theory.

The challenge for the biblical interpreter is to understand whether or not the author of Genesis intended to communicate that something might have taken place in a possible gap. The simplest and most historically held position prior to Chalmers and other gap advocates was that the representation of the earth as without form and void was simply an expression of stages of progress during the first day and not a statement of condition prior to the creation week.

In that non-gap understanding, there is no attempt to explain the appearance of age and no special consideration for any theological implications. Advocates of the non-gap interpretation might simply assert that everything created had the appearance of age. For example, Adam was created as a man, capable of speech and critical thought. He obviously wasn’t created as an infant, hence the appearance of age. The same could be said of trees, mountains, etc. Proponents of the non-gap understanding generally don’t sense a theological need or exegetical reason to insert a gap of time between the two verses and conclude that to do so would be an argument from silence and not based on sound interpretive principles.

The Amen of Jesus

“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation’ ” (Revelation 3:14, NIV).

The book of Revelation contains an impressive array of titles that apply to Jesus. Among these is John’s unique usage of the word, Amen, as a descriptive title.

The word, Amen, occurs more than eighty times throughout the Bible. It is frequently used as an expression of solemn approval meaning, “So let it be,” as acquiescence to another’s prayer, or as an affirmative response. The early Christian church associated the word with prayers of thanksgiving and praise to God (see Ephesians 3:21). Only in Revelation 3:14 is it employed as a personal name or title.

To the apostle John, the Amen is a special title that applies uniquely to Jesus Christ. In this usage, the title becomes a powerful declaration of Christ’s veracity, reliability, and finality. The title is further qualified by the clause, “the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation” (Revelation 3:14, NIV). In this way, John identifies Jesus as the ultimate truth, a fact Christ Himself asserted (see John 14:6). As the Amen, Jesus is the One through whom all God’s purposes are established and confirmed (see 2 Corinthians 1:21). He is God’s final word in the plan of salvation. Whatever Jesus says is to be accepted without question because He is the Amen.

Through Christ, the Amen, all the promises and truth of God are secured. In His sublime person rests the guarantee of the whole plan of salvation. As the Amen, “Christ taught the truth because He was the truth. His own thought, His character, His life-experience, were embodied in His teaching.”–Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 43.

Lord, through Christ, the Amen, I have the assurance that all Your promises are sure. Amen.

Who Do You Think You Are?

In a crowded seminary class, the guy beside me started questioning the professor about his encouragement to preach through books of the Bible. The professor, ever the southern gentleman, responded with grace and patience. But the third time the student pressed, the professor sprung off his stool and told the student directly, “Who are you to tell the Holy Spirit what to do?” I slid my chair to the side, away from the now rebuked classmate, and had nightmares for weeks.

I relay this story because, like many of us, I have wrestled with how to respond to recent events. Most of us were grieved as we saw a mob storm into our capitol. I grappled with what to preach that Sunday. Do I press on in working through Daniel or break my plan to preach something directly about the events of this week? There was a strong temptation to go looking for a text that would let me address issues head-on. However, as I worked my way through the next section of Daniel in which Nebuchadnezzar has his terrorizing dream, one verse, 4:17, stood out to me. This verse gives you why Nebuchadnezzar was going to be struck mad and would act like an animal for a season. It was so that people would know that the Lord is the one who appoints the leaders of this world. How appropriate a text for a country sharply divided over its present and soon to be leaders. The Holy Spirit had prepared the right text for my congregation. It was one that did not give prophetic vision to address the day’s issues, but a text that reminded us of a fundamental and straightforward truth. The Lord rules this world. This is what we needed to hear.

The sentence is by the decree of the watchers, the decision by the word of the holy ones, to the end that the living may know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men. – Daniel 4:17

This truth seems simplistic. God is in control. While we want more answers to questions about the hows and whys of God’s plan, this is enough to give us peace and strengthen our faith. This basic and simple truth of the Scripture puts us on solid ground so we can stand in a world turned upside down.

Now is a time that Christians must stand firm on the foundational truths found in the Bible’s theology.

What are God’s works of providence?

God’s works of providence are his most holy, wise and powerful preserving and governing all his creatures, and all their actions.

The world has gone mad! We find ourselves in 2021 still in a pandemic, still dealing with political unrest and cultural wars. What are we to do? We must stand on the truth we already know! We do not seek a new answer from the Bible. We stand on the clear and essential truth. God is in control. We need to remember the truths our church was built on and go forward from that great foundation.

Many were terrified of Donald Trump in office, and others are now frightened of Joe Biden in office. If you are a Christian, you need to remember your theological foundation of who controls this world. You need to believe and trust what we see here in Daniel 4:17. It is the Most High that rules the kingdom of men, and He gives leadership to whom He will. It is not ultimately foreign interference, voter fraud, Big Tech, or minority groups that put a man or woman in our White House. These are secondary means that God uses to execute His holy, perfect, and unchangeable will.

This emphasis on God’s control is not to say that we should not care about secondary means. We should be concerned if there is foreign interference or voter fraud. However, Christians should have a level of peace and even continued joy, knowing that God rules the nations. All Kings, Presidents, and even tyrants are a part of His plan and His purposes.

Hear the words of the prophet Habakkuk,

O LORD, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save? Why do you make me see iniquity, and why do you idly look at wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise. So the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted. – Habakkuk 1:2-4

The Prophet did not like God’s response.

“Look among the nations, and see; wonder and be astounded. For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told. For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation, who march through the breadth of the earth, to seize dwellings not their own. – Habakkuk 1:5-6

God was going to answer Habakkuk’s prayer, but God would use Babylon to do it!

How often have we prayed that our land might see a revival of Biblical Christianity? What if, in God’s plan, it meant that we had to endure political, social, and cultural unrest? What if the church had to face a pandemic that forced us from our comfortable routine? What if the church had to be torn from political attachment involving self-appointed saviors or the socially woke who each in their own power promise to make America great? Once awakened from our comfortable slumber and free from these political attachments, we can return to God. Is this not the common starting point of most revivals in history? Is this not where the church turns from its apathy and misplaced commitment and returns to Christ and His Word? Revival starts with the church. It begins with Christians. It starts with us coming back to the basics of the Gospel and the Bible.

We would do well to remember what we hear in Daniel. God is in charge. He is working. Christians, God is working for His glory and your good. You can trust this truth. Here is where we must stand and join with the prophet Habakkuk at the end of his book, saying:

Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places. – Habakkuk 3:17-19

Kyle E. Sims

Being Unreasonable

Sometimes verses scream at you. Philippians 4:5 is one of them.

“Let your reasonableness be known to everyone.”

Reasonableness: the idea that we’re gentle, kind, courteous, and tolerant to everyone, not just those with whom we agree, but those with whom we disagree. It’s “a balanced, intelligent, decent outlook” (New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology). Not just to believers, but to unbelievers too.

It follows the command to rejoice always (Philippians 4:4Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)). That means that Christians are to be known for two qualities: joy and a kind disposition to everyone. This applies at all times, even when mistreated and hated. J. Gnilka observes that this command “prevents the church from being too preoccupied with its own interests.” We can’t control how others react to us, but our presence should be one of winsome, reasonable joy no matter what’s happening around us.

“There should be in the whole of our sentiments and demeanor, a diffidence which inclines us to suspect ourselves, and a candor which disposes us to make all due allowance for others,” writes Charles Simeon. We’re prone to divide and label others enemies, and to call “forth against each other … bitterest invectives.” Paul shows us a better way: to agree in the Lord, rejoice, be reasonable, pray, and think about what’s true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise.

A Needed Word
I’ve sensed a growing stridency among some in the past year. I get the reasons why. We’re all on edge. It’s easy to issue declarations, write caustic posts, question motives, and take issue with others. It’s a problem.

I sense in my own life the same desire: to decry those people who are (in my estimation) fighting about the wrong things in wrong ways.

And that’s just the point. I’m no better than they are. It’s hard for me to condemn others when I sense the same impulse in myself. That’s why what Charles Simeon wrote about suspecting ourselves and making allowance for others is so valuable.

Don’t get me wrong. We need to discuss issues. We should care about the truth. There’s a time for taking a stand. But in all of this, we should cultivate a healthy distrust of our own motives, and a willingness to assume the best of others even when we have a hard time understanding.

Reasonableness in Action
Admit your own weaknesses. Distrust yourself, at least a little. Consider the possibility that you could be wrong.

Hang out with people who disagree with you. Affirm the areas where you agree. Try to learn from them. Choose the most charitable interpretation of their words and actions. “Argue as if you’re right, but listen as if you’re wrong (and be willing to change your mind)” (Adam Grant).

In all of this, maintain your joy. It will take a lot of prayer, which is where Paul goes next in this passage. But with God’s help, it’s possible.

In this shrill and polarized age, I long for this in my life and in the life of the church. “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand.” (Philippians 4:4-5O)

We Need Bad Teachers

I was reading a newspaper report in which former Borrusia Dortmund strike Robert Lewandowski opened up on his relationship with Jurgen Klopp. He claimed Klopp was a ‘bad teacher’. Specifically:

Jurgen was not only a father figure to me. As a coach, he was like the ‘bad’ teacher. And I mean that in the best sense of the word.

“Let me explain. Think back to you when you were in school. Which teacher do you remember the most? Not the one who made life easy for you and never expected anything from you.”

“No, no, no. You remember the bad teacher, the one who was strict with you. The one who put pressure on you and did everything to get the best out of you.

“That’s the teacher who made you better, right? And Jurgen was like that.”

Daily Mirror
I thought that was an interesting way to speak about his former coach. He was like a ‘bad teacher’. Not in the sense that he didn’t teach well but because he would not settle for his players to waste their talent. He put pressure on them to get the best out of them. Those sorts of ‘bad teachers’, according to Lewandowski, are the ones you remember when you are older.

One danger in pastoral ministry is constantly trying to ensure you are liked by all. Those who want to be remembered as ‘good teachers’ (in the sense that Lewandowski would mean it) tend to end up being quite poor in the end. They are too busy seeking to be loved that, far from expecting much from their people, they are happy to peddle soft and fluffy teaching that is sure to upset nobody. Such are not good teachers in the end.

Perhaps some of us could learn a lesson from the bad teacher Jurgen Klopp. According to his players, he cared about them and wanted the best for them. As a result, he expected a lot from them and pushed them to achieve. I think there is something in this for the church.

Of course, there can be ungodly and unhealthy ways to expect a lot from people. We must always be careful to guard our motives. It is not loving, caring nor right to push people and expect much from them simply because it is self-aggrandising. People are not there simply as resources to exploit for our own ends. They are not there to make ‘my ministry’ appear great and the more I make use of them the greater I look. We have to be careful that we aren’t encouraging people to perform for such reasons. They are not resources to be used, they are sheep to be cared for.

But I do think there is a godly way to expect things from people just as I rightly expect things from my own children and would push them to achieve things too. Good parents do not take an entirely laissez-faire attitude to their children, allowing them to do whatever they want all the time and giving in to their every whim. Most of us recognise that would be particularly poor parenting and can see our children will not grow into mature adults if this is what we’re doing. It is no better when that approach is applied to the church and we implement a similar culture of low expectations.

But when we begin to expect things of people they start to grow up in maturity. We can hardly expect to see people grow up to handle the Word well if we never expect them to be able and we can’t realistically expect to see people engaged in pastoral ministry if we never give them opportunities to engage in it. Our children don’t gain skills, knowledge and maturity by never expecting them to gain those things, giving them no opportunity to acquire them and always doing everything for them. No. We push them to acquire skills, to learn, to grow. These things are no less important for our churches.

Maybe some of us should start being the bad teacher so that our people might be taught well.

S. Kneale

Stephen Kneale

God Does Not Cease to Exist When We Deny Him

God, who is revealed to us in the Bible, is not diminished when we deny his existence; we are. Think for a bit about this very moment of your life. Right now, your mind, without a sound, is receiving communication from my mind, and I made this communication silently as well. Of course, the same communication could have occurred if I projected a series of sounds through the air that rattled against your eardrums.

You are a being of body and spirit. You have an intricate muscular and skeletal system keeping you from collapsing. A respiratory and digestive system are supplying a circulatory system that is nourishing your muscles and bones, and your nervous system is involved in all of it. Some of the acts you are doing at this moment, like reading, are voluntary, but thousands of acts are involuntary. You continue to do them without even thinking about it.

With all of this going on, your mind is processing hundreds of little markings into words that have meaning. You then continue to process the specific sense in which I intended those words by analyzing how I have linked those words together in sentences. All of this happens in mere seconds. Your ability for communication and knowledge is miraculous.

There is more to it than that. Your non-material conscious mind is analyzing and judging what I have written to determine if it is trustworthy. To do that, you are relying upon a universal, transcendent, unchanging reality known as the laws of logic. These laws are an expression of God’s mind in creation, and our ability to think thoughts after him is a communicable attribute. If these laws are not universal, transcendent, or unchanging, there is no reason to place our trust in them, and trusting them is what we are doing. In denying God, the naturalistic worldview cannot account for such universal realities as the law of logic.

On top of that, you are judging this post for its moral content. As you agree or disagree, you are determining whether my words align with or violate a standard of good and evil. You cannot do otherwise. As a created being, you are a moral creature. You have your Creator’s law written on your heart. Many try to deny this reality by explaining it away as evolutionary programming, but simply because something has been programmed does not mean it is good. You can never get from what is to what ought to be in a naturalistic worldview. Yet, those who deny their reality as beings made by a personal God and deny the existence of moral truth will continue to contradict themselves and live as if morality is a universal reality that applies to all people.

Though we often violate what we know to be right, this moral reality is such a part of our human nature it is the very reason most of you can read this post in safety. Societal structures built upon these moral truths protect you. For those of you who are not safe right now, you know that it is wrong. Your sense of justice, and ours as well, rises within to correct it. We are praying for you. The idea of justice is not some fanciful whim; it corresponds to the standard of good and evil grounded in God himself.

I have barely begun to scratch the surface. Time does not permit me to go into any depth to the fact that, while you are reading this, gravity is holding you to a large planetary body. That globe is spinning through space orbiting an intensely massive burning star that is supplying your body with heat, food for your digestive system, and thousands of other benefits. God is not only our Creator; he is also our Sustainer.

Believing that matter came from nothing, that life came from non-life, that conscious personhood came from non-personhood, that truth is a mere social construct, and that there are no moral absolutes violates every semblance of logic, truth, and communication you have been using to process and judge my writing. I agree with Francis Schaeffer when he says, “I am more certain of the existence of God than I am of my own existence.” God does not cease to exist when we deny him; we do.

-D. Eaton

Hell Is An Answer

Answering challenges can feel like Whac-A-Mole. Whac-A-Mole is an arcade game where players use a mallet to hit little moles that pop up at random and then disappear back into their holes. What makes Whac-A-Mole so difficult is that you can only hit one mole at a time.

Apologetic conversations can feel like that sometimes. A particular issue is raised, we respond to the particular issue, only to have another particular issue pop up.

Let me suggest a better approach. Would Whac-A-Mole be easier if the mallet could hit more than one mole at a time? Of course it would! This is the advantage of answering challenges from a big picture, worldview perspective.

When it comes to Hell, there are some debated details. Is the fire literal or metaphorical? Is it torture or torment? Is the punishment physical, or psychological, or both? Is the punishment everlasting or annihilation? We become so focused on debating the details that we lose sight of the big picture.

One strategy I’ve found helpful in talking to unbelievers about Hell is to focus on its significant worldview implications. Namely, I believe Hell isn’t the problem people think it is. In fact, it’s a solution to two problems.

First, Hell helps answer the philosophical problem of evil.

The problem of evil is not the problem for Christianity people think it is. It’s a problem for atheism, but not for us. Why? Because our entire story is about the problem of evil. It starts in the third chapter and doesn’t get solved until 66 books later. But it does get solved.

Christianity has a lot to say in response to evil. We won’t get into all of that here. But one part of our larger response is that, in the end, evil is defeated. All wrongs will be made right. There will be a day of reckoning.

Christians shouldn’t be surprised by evil. It’s part of our Story. And our Story isn’t over yet. There is a day coming when all evil and suffering will finally be defeated.

So, first, Hell helps answer a philosophical problem—the problem of evil.

Second, Hell satisfies our existential longing for justice.

Many people have no problem with a God who forgives. The problem is a God who punishes. I think this might be a secular Western phenomenon, though. Most of us in the Western world live protected lives. We have “rights.” And when those rights are violated, we look to the government for justice. When injustice takes place, we go to the police, or lawyers, or government officials to make things right.

It’s easy for us to scoff at divine justice when we’re used to counting on human justice. But in places where there is no human justice, they don’t scoff at divine justice; they cry out for it.

Yale theologian Miroslav Volf—who saw thousands killed and millions displaced in his homeland of Yugoslavia—has us imagine delivering a lecture in a war zone on how God’s retribution is incompatible with His love. He says,

Among your listeners are people whose cities and villages have been first plundered, then burned and leveled to the ground, whose daughters and sisters have been raped, whose fathers and brothers have had their throats slit….

[I]f God were not angry at injustice and deception and did not make the final end to violence, God would not be worthy of our worship.

In his book Free of Charge, Volf says,

Though I used to complain about the indecency of the idea of God’s wrath, I came to think that I would have to rebel against a God who wasn’t wrathful at the sight of the world’s evil. God isn’t wrathful in spite of being love. God is wrathful because God is love. [Emphasis in original]

There is no incompatibility between love and final justice. As Volf points out, a god who is indifferent towards injustice would not be good. In fact, it is precisely because God is good that he punishes the guilty. The goodness of God requires final judgment. It is a manifestation of the perfect justice of God.

Even within the current cultural moment, we long for justice. This is why people say, “No justice; no peace.” This is the mantra of many who are marching in the streets in response to what they see as injustice. Our hearts cry out for perfect justice, but that’s something no earthly justice system will ever satisfy. Only God can provide that.

We cry out, “No Justice; no peace.” But if there is no God, there can be no final justice. The truth is, “No final judgment; no ultimate justice.”

With this argument, I’m appealing to what Francis Schaeffer called the “mannishness of man.” In the book Tactics, Greg Koukl says, “Because we all live in God’s world and are all made in God’s image, there are things all people know that are embedded deep within their hearts—profound things about our world and about ourselves—even though we deny them or worldviews disqualify them.”

There is something within us that demands that those responsible for injustice stand before a judge and pay for their crimes. But here’s the rub. We are all responsible for injustice. Therefore, we will all stand before Jesus, and we will all give an account for the wrongs we’ve done. The books will be opened containing a complete list of every crime we’ve ever committed. God misses nothing.

“Will that be fire? Will that be forever?” That’s not our concern right now. Whatever the judgment looks like, it’s going to be worse than your worst nightmare, and you do not want to be there. That is the bad news.

Here is the good news. There is another book, the Book of Life. In The Story of Reality, Greg Koukl says, “It also contains a record, the names of those who, though guilty, have received mercy, at their request: ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner.’ All those who have accepted their pardon in Christ will be absolved.”

So, in the final judgment, there are two options. Either Jesus pays, or you pay. Perfect mercy or perfect justice.

In the final analysis, Hell is a solution, not a problem. It helps make sense of something in the world and something in our hearts. First, it helps answer the problem of evil in our world. Second, it satisfies the longing for justice in our hearts by explaining how that longing will be satisfied.

Tim Barnett

Head and Heart

You have heard the distinction as often as I have—the distinction between head knowledge and heart knowledge. We learn facts about God, about his character, about his Word, but it is not until those facts reach the heart that they become spiritually beneficial. They say the journey from the head to the heart is the longest journey of all.

I’ve never been too comfortable with this distinction between head knowledge and heart knowledge, and recently Andrew Davis helped me sharpen my thinking a little bit. In his book An Infinite Journey (see my review) he tells about a testimony he once heard.

“I grew up in a Christian home, said the young lady who was sharing her testimony at an evening church service, “and I learned a lot about the Bible. But it was all head knowledge, not heart knowledge. It wasn’t until all that head knowledge moved down to my heart that my life began to change.” I watched as she pointed from her head to the center of her chest, to represent the movement of this knowledge, almost like the journey food travels through the esophagus to the stomach.

We have all heard people speak like this and we know what they are getting at. Yet here’s my concern: When we speak in this way, we pit the two kinds of knowledge against one another, with head being the enemy and heart being the friend. It’s like we need to battle the head in order to reach the heart, or like head knowledge is the necessarily evil we need to endure to reach the heart.

Now obviously there is a genuine concern that is being addressed in language like this. I was once much like this young lady. I grew up in a Christian home and knew facts about God and the Bible and the Christian faith, but without actually being saved. I think of a man like Bart Ehrman who, though an ardent enemy of Christianity, has a vast knowledge of the Bible. In God’s Word we encounter demons who know that God exists. We encounter apostates who once professed the Christian faith and knew a great deal about it before they wandered away and eventually revoked the faith.

I believe we need to affirm the importance of believing what is true without disparaging the facts and knowledge necessary to even know what is true. Head knowledge is good; heart knowledge is good. More head knowledge is better than less head knowledge and more heart knowledge is better than less heart knowledge. Head knowledge is good because heart knowledge is impossible without it. Christianity is and must be a faith that involves the mind just as it is and must be a faith that involves the heart. The problem comes when there is a radical disconnect between the two.

Davis says it well:

We must keep growing in knowledge or we will cease making progress in the Christian life. All of that knowledge begins as head knowledge, concepts understood by the mind, before anything else can occur. And we must have as much of that head knowledge as possible. But woe to us, if through unbelief, we do not allow that knowledge to transform us into the image of Christ and change the way we live our lives.

Tim Challies

Same Ole Same Ole

Ecclesiastes 1:9 says, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” It never ceases to amaze me how these words of Solomon’s, written 3,000ish years ago, are so precisely true today. Solomon’s words especially ring true when you look at the theological and spiritual trends that are popular today. Theologically speaking, there is definitely nothing new under the sun.

In theology, the two biggest controversies of the early church were the Trinity and the deity of Christ. Any disagreements on those doctrines today? Um…yeah! There are tens of millions of adherents to pseudo-Christian cults that deny the deity of Christ and/or the Trinity. In the pages of the New Testament, several writers had to deal with disagreements over the role the Old Testament Law has in the life of the Christian. The whole “Hebrew roots movement” that is gaining steam today is nothing but the Judaizers of the New Testament being revived (Galatians 2:16; 3:11; 5:12).

We have followers of Christ who attempt to use the grace of God as a license to sin (Romans 6). We have followers of Christ who go to the opposite extreme and turn the Christian life into a list of dos and don’ts (Colossians 2:21). We have entire denominations of Christians who do the exact opposite of what Paul prescribed in 1 Corinthians 14. We have churches dividing based on their favorite famous teacher (1 Corinthians 3). Many of us have still not grown past elementary matters (Hebrews 6:1-2).

Even in those who attack and oppose the Christian faith, there is nothing new under the sun. There has been a recent reinvigoration of the claims that the “legend” of Jesus Christ is nothing but a copy of the ancient myths involving Horus, Mithras, Osiris, etc. The early church fathers refuted these claims centuries ago. Morally speaking, the biggest complaint against Christianity has been, and always will be, that it forbids people from having sex with whomever and whatever they want, whenever they want.

There is nothing new under the sun. That is why the Bible is so eminently relevant. The issues it addressed 2,000 years ago are still issues today. The people it describes experienced the same trials, temptations, and struggles that we do today. The doctrinal and theological confusions and disagreements the early church debated are still being argued today.

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

S. Michael Houdmann

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