A big objection to Christianity is its exclusivity. People ask, “How can Christians say that Jesus is the only way? That seems like the height of arrogance, intolerance, and narrow-mindedness. Religious truth claims like that inevitably lead to superiority, oppression, division, and violence.” In this passage, Jesus himself deals with this objection, because Jesus himself is the source of the claim. In doing so, he shows how the gospel is the only approach to life that has the ability to work against our innate tendencies towards superiority and hostility toward people who differ from us.
One of the most common objections to Christianity is the behavior of Christians themselves. The record of the church throughout history has been full of hypocrisy, injustice, and oppression. People rightly ask, “How can I put my faith in something that has such a horrible record of injustice?” The first thing we must say to this is, “It’s true.” But is that all there is to say? This passage from the letter of James gives us a fascinating insight not just into the problem of hypocrisy in the church, but it’s counter-intuitive and life-changing solution.
The doctrine of hell is probably the single most repellant and difficult doctrine in Christianity. Many people try to soften it, or get rid of it all together. The problem is that the person who talked more about hell, and gave us more information about hell, is Jesus himself. Apparently, Jesus did not have any problem holding together a God of love with a God of judgment. In fact, when we see what Jesus is really teaching us about hell, we learn that the only way you can have a God of love is if you’re willing to allow that God also to be a God of judgment. How? Join us and find out in this week’s episode.
One of the big questions that comes up when you start talking about Jesus in particular is the question of the Bible. Can you trust it? Is it a reliable source of information?Many people today would say, “No, it’s not reliable.” They would say, “The Bible was written so many years after Jesus lived, and has been translated and re-translated so many times, that there’s no way any of us can know who Jesus really was, or what he really said and did.”
You can see how important this question is. Because the Bible is the foundation for Christian belief and practice. If it’s true and reliable, then we have a trustworthy guide. But if it’s not, if it’s just a bunch of myths and legends, then there’s no way to know the truth about Jesus.
The question of God’s existence is a foundational question, and the way you answer it has profound implications for every other area of your life. One of the problems, however, is that God’s existence is not the kind of thing that can be proven (or disproven) irrefutably. But that doesn’t mean it is an exercise in blind (i.e. irrational) faith. The world is full of clues. In fact, when we look inside our own minds and hearts, we find powerfully compelling evidence for the existence of God. The question is not whether there is evidence. The question is: What explanation makes best sense of the evidence?
Welcome to a new series in which we examine the big questions and objections people have to faith in God, and Christianity in particular. We begin with the question of God and science. People might ask, “Why not begin with the question of God’s existence?” The reason is because for many people, science makes the question of God irrelevant. If science answers every question about the universe, there is no need to inquire about God. In fact, one common narrative is that of the war between God and science. This is both unfortunate and unnecessary. Join us this week as we explore the question of God and science.
As we end this series, we come back to the reason Jesus told this parable in the first place. The religious leaders couldn’t imagine being in community with “tax collectors and sinners.” They were angry at Jesus for welcoming people whom they saw as morally repugnant and a danger to society. The idea of a shared world with them brought them no joy, so Jesus told them this parable to say, in effect, “It should, because it brings God great joy.” How can we find, not just a willingness to be in community with people we would consider enemies, but real joy in that prospect? Jesus shows us by giving us a picture of God’s vision for the world: a feast. What does that mean? Join us for the conclusion of this series.
One of the most intimate, vulnerable, and powerful parts of our lives is our identity. While identity language and debates about identity are ubiquitous in our culture today, Jesus had a lot to say about it 2,000 years ago. As we continue our series in this famous parable, we learn the two primary ways people have sought identities over the years, and how the gospel provides a unique, unassailable third way.
This week, we get to the heart of this parable: forgiveness. On its surface, it sounds much more appealing to our cultural ears than concepts like sin and repentance. But in a society filled with oppression, victimization, and abuse, forgiveness can quickly become problematic, because it often feels like a suspension or denial of justice. However, Jesus was no stranger to oppression, victimization, or abuse. And yet he considered forgiveness to be one of the most important things to teach us, both how to receive it and how to give it. At its essence, this parable is an invitation to know God - and to become like him.
If humans are “lost,” as Jesus teaches in this parable, what is the solution? According to Jesus, it begins with repentance. But that is an offensive idea in our culture. To say someone needs to repent is to say they’re a sinner. As modern people, we say that such ideas are an assault on our dignity as humans, and that dehumanizing doctrines such as this have no place in an enlightened society. But is that true? What if repentance means something deeper? And what if practicing it will lead to an even greater level of human flourishing and dignity? In this parable, Jesus himself gives us much-needed insight into the nature and practice of repentance.
The Parable of the Prodigal Son is one of the best known and most beloved of Jesus’ parables. It’s a beautiful picture of God’s love for us. But if we only read it as a story of God’s love for us as individuals, we miss one of his biggest points. Jesus told this parable as a response to hostility and division in community: religious leaders were furious at him for welcoming “sinners.” One of the main points of this story was to help them, and us, understand the nature of depth of our own “lostness.” What does that mean? And how does it affect our communities and relationships? Join us for the first in a 5-week series.
The end of one year and moving into a new year is a natural time to think about newness and life change. Personal transformation is a big topic, and a huge challenge. How does real, deep, and abiding life change really happen? Is it through a greater commitment to a more disciplined life? Is it through personal self-effort and self-control? These things certainly play a role in the Christian life. But at its heart, the gospel offers us a radically counter-intuitive and counter-cultural vision of what a transformed life looks like, what its goal is, and how it actually happens. This passage is one of the classic pictures of it, and when we understand what its saying, we’ll be better able to apply the gospel message to our lives.
The “true meaning of Christmas” is a much-debated idea. In Western, secular culture, the “true meaning” is no longer connected to the physical incarnation of God in the person of Jesus Christ. In fact, many insist that making that connection necessary leads us further away from the true meaning, since to do so is seen as being too divisive. But what if it’s true? Even if you don’t believe it, do you understand what’s at stake in the question? This passage helps us, because it shows us what the Incarnation actually does for us (and what we would lose if we reject it).
God chose Mary to become the mother of Jesus, but that didn’t make her life easier. In fact, it made it much harder in many ways. However, when she comes to see her relative Elizabeth, something happens that causes Mary to break out in a song of exultant joy. Where does a joy like this come from, especially when she was staring into the abyss of a ruined life? And how could we possibly experience the same kind of joy in the midst of our challenges and difficulties? This wonderful (literally: full of wonders) passage shows us.
The experience of longing might perhaps be the thing that defines human experience more than anything else. In fact, every person has, not just longings, but unfulfilled longings. Therefore, one of our biggest questions is: What do we do with these longings? Is it even possible for them to be fulfilled? Mary’s encounter with the angel in Luke 1 helps us. As she wrestles with the message of the angel, it leads her to see that the gospel is not just information, but a radical call on each person’s life. What does that call mean for our deepest longings? This passage helps us to see the answer.
Advent is the season of the year when Christians remember and celebrate the “arrival” of Jesus. But in order to respond rightly to Jesus, you have to understand who he is and why he came. That is a deeply contested question in our culture, but Mary’s story in Luke 1 helps us makes sense of it. Over the next three weeks, we’ll look at her response to the angel’s message. And when we understand the message Mary heard, we’ll be able to respond in the way Mary did.
At the end of Jonah's story, he finds himself sitting alone, in the scorching desert, asking God to take his life. But God is not done with Jonah just yet. Jonah has to confront one last difficult truth: the grace of God is both radically inclusive and radically exclusive. God shows mercy to every kind person, without distinction, even moral distinction. But we can only experience God's grace when we give up living life our way.
Jonah is a rebellious, runaway prophet. In chapter one of Jonah finds himself on a boat, halfway to the end of the earth, accompanied by some unusual companions, and in the middle of a horrific storm, that God Himself has sent. Sometimes we find ourselves in the midst of storms too. And just like Jonah we start to wonder... is God trying to kill me? But don't worry, just like Jonah, we will find out that there is something fishy about the grace of God.
One of the oldest and most difficult challenges to faith in God is the question of evil and suffering. This is also one of the greatest challenges to finding reconciliation with people who have done us great wrong. Fascinatingly, this final episode in Joseph's story shows us how he was able to do both. Joseph was able to reconcile with his brothers, precisely because he found a way to reconcile everything that happened to him with God.
Everyone experiences hurt over things that have happened to them in the past. And everyone experiences guilt over things that have done in the past. In spite of our secular assertion that guilt and sin are outmoded and harmful expressions of a primitive religion, our experience tells us that these things still need to be dealt with. This passage is an extraordinary and poignant exploration of just how exactly God goes about dealing with those things in our lives.