Wednesday, November 09, 2022

The Recent Exchange Between Mike Licona And Dale Allison On Jesus' Resurrection

They appeared on Sean McDowell's YouTube channel in a video released today. Both make a lot of good points, and there's some significance in what they agree about, but far more can and should be said about other relevant issues. And they both substantially underestimate the evidence for Christianity beyond Jesus' resurrection.

Tuesday, November 08, 2022

To Endear Jesus To People's Hearts

"It has been the distinctive aim, and the sincere desire, though the feeble and defective endeavour, of my ministry amongst you, to make known and to endear the Saviour to your hearts." (Octavius Winslow, A Pastoral Letter [London, England: Houlston and Stoneman, 1852], 6)

Sunday, November 06, 2022

Work For The Bread That Doesn't Perish

John 6 is often brought up in contexts like soteriology, the eucharist, and the historicity of John's gospel and miracles. That's appropriate, and it should keep happening, but the passage is also relevant in another context that should get more attention than it does.

In verses 26-27, Jesus rebukes the crowd for being overly focused on physical food and not focused enough on spiritual food. And he said that in a context in which problems like lack of food and poverty were much bigger than they are today, especially in a place like modern America. It's a documented fact that there's been a major decrease in poverty worldwide over the last several decades. It's also a fact that the modern world has far more technology, medicine, comforts and conveniences, literacy, and other advantages than people had in Biblical times. Yet, people, including Christians, frequently don't make the relevant distinctions between the Biblical context and ours. As if the tens of trillions of dollars we spend on government programs to help people in physical contexts, military assistance in such contexts, private charities, etc. don't make us significantly different than ancient Egypt, ancient Israel, or the Roman empire or only make us a little different. But even in a setting in which people were much worse off in these contexts than they are today, Jesus often made comments like the ones in John 6:26-27. How much more should we be doing it today?

The culture often suggests that the primary or only context in which Christians are doing good is when they benefit people physically in the short term (giving food to people, giving them clothing, giving them medicine, providing shelter, etc.). And Christians frequently accommodate that mindset by giving an inordinately large amount of attention to that sort of work. (And the fact that liberal professing Christians do that more than conservatives doesn't prove that conservatives aren't doing it. You can do something to a lesser extent, yet be guilty of doing it to some degree.) If people still haven't noticed the explicitly Christian names of the hospitals they go to, the widespread presence of explicitly Christian charities in so many contexts, etc., then they're culpably negligent. We can point these things out to them from time to time, but we need to keep the priorities Jesus set out in this passage in John 6 (and in many other places). There's some value in explaining to people what charity work and other such things Christians have done over the centuries, but we need to avoid taking that too far. You can be overly focused on it and leave people with false impressions. Mind precedes matter, and there are higher priorities than benefitting people physically in the short term.

I've occasionally heard John Piper make a good point in this context. One of the reasons why Christians should be so focused on work like evangelism and missions is to benefit people physically over the long term. The afterlife will have a physical dimension after the resurrection. The spiritual has priority over the physical, but as far as the physical is concerned, the long term has priority over the short term.