Apologetics: How We Got the Bible, Part 1

apologetics2Where did my Bible come from and how do I know it’s reliable? We’ll take the first question first.

The best translations available today were made by committees of Bible scholars at the behest of a publishing house. And those scholars translated an agreed Greek text developed by a method called “textual criticism” or “lower criticism.”

Many people confuse textual criticism with higher criticism, which is quite a different thing. Lower or textual critics take the thousands of ancient manuscripts of the Bible and seek to determine which variations are errors the crept in, typically by copyist mistake, and which variations actually reflect the original. Continue reading

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Apologetics: Real Proof, Part 2

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It’s not easy to stick God on a poster board and label him Exhibit A. But I can actually do that with the many good people at my church. If I’m going to defend my faith to someone else, I ought to be able to do that with myself.

I ought to be able to say to an unbeliever: If you don’t believe me, come see my brothers and sisters at my home church. This is Exhibit A. This is irrefutable evidence. God is alive, present, and active in their lives. Continue reading

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Apologetics: Real Proof, Part 1

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I grew up studying apologetics. Really. Except we called it “Christian evidences” back then.

You see, my dad subscribed to countless magazines covering the creation/evolution controversy, carbon dating, archaeological discoveries, and all sorts of similar things. He read Apologetics Press and John Clayton (who agree about very little), Henry Morris, and many others. And I read all that stuff.

I grew up a “junior scientist” type. I had my mother wake me up early and hold me out of school so I could watch John Glenn’s three-orbit space flight. I watched every Gemini and every Apollo mission until they landed on the moon.

I loved science. My parents foolishly bought me a microscope in the Fourth Grade. I raised mold in my bedroom so I could make slides and look at the slimey stuff close up. Really. (It smelled like a brewery.) Continue reading

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What Must Be Preserved of the Churches of Christ? (the Church, Part 2)

churchofchristAnd so we need to discuss Jesus some more.

John Howard Yoder, in The Politics of Jesus, points out that, when Jesus is held up as an example in the New Testament, it’s always about the cross.

He’s never held up as an example of how we should pray, or how to live as a single Christian. He is not held up as an example of Christian leadership or as the “Master Teacher.” It’s always about his crucifixion.

Philippians 2 is one very important example. Peter uses Jesus as an example to us of suffering for the sake of the Kingdom — Continue reading

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What Must Be Preserved of the Churches of Christ? (the Church, Part 1)

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Some readers appear to see no distinction between an individual Christian being like Jesus and a congregation of Christians being like Jesus, but teams of people working in concert can accomplish things that individuals cannot do.

I have a son who wants to program games for a living. He can’t do it by himself despite being highly motivated and talented. I imagine that there are thousands of young men and women in the same posture — unable to develop the gaming software of their dreams because the task is too big for one person — even though there are thousands of talented, motivated people wanting to do just this.

If we see being Christ-like as individuals as the same being Christ-like as the church, then we have very small dreams. Continue reading

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What Must Be Preserved of the Churches of Christ? (The Assembly, Part 2)

churchofchristWhen we read in the scriptures that we are to become like Jesus, we tend to interpret “like Jesus” based on our own personalities and religious upbringing.

For example, many take “like Jesus” to mean “sinless,” which is true but largely misses the point.

The Eastern Orthodox define “sin” as “missing the mark,” and they define “the mark” as Jesus. And I think they’re right. Adam and Even were driven from the Garden because they fell from the image of God. When they sinned, they didn’t just break a rule, they acted contrary to the image in which they’d been created, and so the image became broken. Continue reading

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What Must Be Preserved of the Churches of Christ? (The Assembly, Part 1)

churchofchristLet’s see. We assemble to edify one another.

(1Co 14:4 NIV) Anyone who speaks in a tongue edifies themselves, but the one who prophesies edifies the church.

(1Co 14:5 NIV) I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be edified.

(1Co 14:17 NIV) You are giving thanks well enough, but no one else is edified.

“Edify” translates the Greek word from which we get “edifice,” that is, a building. To edify is to “build up,” as the ESV and many other translations say. Continue reading

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What Must Be Preserved of the Churches of Christ? (Singing, Part 4)

churchofchristThere’s a pretty good argument from 1 Corinthians 14 that the purpose of the assembly is for us to “edify” one another. Paul also speaks in terms of encouragement, strengthening, and comfort, but edification is the recurring theme that holds the chapter together. Hebrews 10:25 supports the thesis.

“Edify” means to build up, but it tells us nothing about what that means. Is this about building up my self esteem? My courage? My holiness? My humility?

Is the goal for me to leave “spiritually fed” so that I’m nourished to get through another week. Is this a spiritual pit stop?

I would like to suggest a hypothesis. I think the central purpose of the assembly is the spiritual formation of the congregation, that is, so that the congregation will become more and more like Jesus.

I could give you some scriptures, but what fun would that be? Rather, I’ll pose this as a question. What is the central purpose of the assembly — and why?

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What Must Be Preserved of the Churches of Christ? (Singing, Part 3)

churchofchristDoes God care at all about the quality of the singing during the Sunday morning assembly?

I’ve often heard the platitude that God cares nothing about the quality of the singing, and so I wonder if that actually holds true on close examination.

The question is not whether God finds poor singing “acceptable” — meaning, I suppose, that God gives credit for having performed one of the five “Acts of Worship” despite how poorly the act of singing is done.

That’s a  check-the-box approach to Christianity and worship that I believe to be entirely foreign to the scriptures — both testaments. Rather, I’m asking whether God might be disappointed when we do a poor job of singing when we could easily do better?

And I’m not asking whether we have to be perfect in our singing (which is undefinable to me), but whether God expects us to be concerned about whether we’re on key, on the beat, in harmony, and otherwise singing well  — assuming we aren’t tone deaf or otherwise incapable of singing on key, on the beat, in harmony, etc. (“God does not exact day labor, light denied.”)

And why or why not?

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What Must Be Preserved of the Churches of Christ? (Singing, Part 2)

churchofchristSo in the last post I asked why God teaches us to sing as Christians. It’s not a test of our faithfulness. God teaches us to sing for a reason. And until we grasp the purpose of singing, we really have no business being doctrinaire about the rules for how to sing in church.

So let’s start with the lyrics. Obviously, if the songs are spiritual songs, hymns, or psalms, the lyrics will praise God or carry another spiritual message. The lyrics matter because they carry a rational message that those singing and those listening hear. Continue reading

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