Why was Jesus Crucified?

Was Jesus crucified because he said he was God?

No, Jesus never said he was God. (He was only recognized as divine and worshiped after his crucifixion.)

Was he crucified because he said he was the son of God?

No, although the religious leaders didn’t like when he referred to himself as the son of God, this was not unprecedented. David called himself a son of God (Psalm 2:7) and in Psalm 82:6 the powerful wicked are referred to as both gods and as sons of the Most High. The nation of Israel was also called Yahweh’s firstborn son (Exodus 4:22 & Jeremiah 31:9). And in Genesis, Deuteronomy, and Job there are references to “sons of God.”

Then why was Jesus crucified?

The Jewish religious authorities, probably motivated by Jesus’ continual harsh criticism of them, knew that if they turned him over to the Romans, he would likely be crucified since many Jews were calling him the long-awaited Messiah, and he talked often of “the kingdom.” The charge brought against him was that he declared himself to be King of the Jews. It was for this reason Pilate ordered his crucifixion.

What the death of Jesus accomplished is a far more difficult question to answer since it requires one to consider the various atonement theories. Maybe I’ll tackle it one day.

Easter Day Ascension

Believe it or not, I just learned last week that the predominant view of early Christians was that Jesus ascended to heaven and was exalted by God on the day of his resurrection. And subsequent appearances of the glorified Christ were appearances from heaven.

The fact that I just heard this for the first time at the age of 46, either means I’m a terrible listener or that this doctrine is no longer taught (at least in the Protestant denominations I’ve attended).

I think an Easter Day ascension makes a lot of sense and the forty days mentioned in Acts are probably meant to be taken symbolically rather than literally. (The number 40 was a sacred number for Jews and is used well over a hundred times in scripture.)
Note: The rest of the NT is silent with respect to this forty days and the number is absent from church tradition until the third century. Even Justin and Irenaeus, both of whom rely heavily on the Lukan writings for their accounts of the ascension, make no mention of the forty days (perhaps indicating they didn’t believe this number should be taken literally).

Giving Yourself as a Ransom

“Jesus called them over and said to them, ‘You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles dominate them, and their men of high positions exercise power over them. But it must not be like that among you. On the contrary, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be a slave to all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life—a ransom for many.'” (Mark 10:42-45)

Are we willing to follow Jesus’ example? As humankind continues to flounder amidst age-old systems of power and dominance, are we willing to sacrifice, to reject reality, in order to show those around us that there is a better way?

Are we willing to eschew “common sense” to demonstrate this better way? Are we willing to love and serve, knowing this will make us vulnerable to the hurt that will come from those who see us as nothing more than idealistic fools?

Are we willing to live out the truth and share it with others so that they can also experience freedom? Are we willing to live our lives as living sacrifices in order to ransom many?

Following Christ is not for the faint-hearted!

Would you follow a human Jesus?

I just read a post by a Christian blogger in which he answers the question, “What if Jesus did not rise from the dead?”

After exploring the theological ramifications, he concludes this way:

My answer is, “So what? I will follow Him anyway. Following the example of Jesus is by far the best way to live.”

I’ve been thinking about this and wondering if I would say the same. If it were somehow proven conclusively that Jesus didn’t have a miraculous birth, didn’t live a perfect life, and didn’t rise from the dead, would I still be his follower?

I believe I would.

In the past, I’ve said things like “If I weren’t a Christian, I would chase after everything the world chases after. I’d only care about myself and fulfilling my desires.”

But I’m not sure this is true.

I’ve tasted sin (as defined by Jesus) and the truth is I haven’t found it to be that satisfying.

I think loving God by loving others is the best way of life. I have no doubt this world would be a much better place if all people recognized loving those around them as the greatest virtue.

So after kicking this idea around in my mind, I have to agree with the blogger: “Following the example of Jesus is by far the best way to live.”

Children & Old Testament Violence

There is so much human slaughter carried out (and celebrated) in the Old Testament by the “good guys” that I really don’t want my kids reading it. Does that make me a bad Christian parent?

I grew up thinking war was exciting, noble, and patriotic. As a kid, I ran around the woods with my friends mowing down commie soldiers with my stick machine gun.

But two events changed my perspective: As a college student, I read All Quiet on the Western Front, and for the first time in my life I was confronted with the terrible horror of war. Later I moved to a communist country and realized the commie soldiers I was slaughtering with imaginary bullets were just like me…with wives like my wife…and children like my children.

On top of this, over the past few years I’ve been “really” reading the words of Jesus. In the past, when I read Jesus’ words, I’d filter them through the lens of the Old Testament; doing this enabled me to always find biblical reasons not to take Jesus’ teachings on love and peace too literally. About a year ago, it hit me how wrong this is.

This quotation from Eric Seibert’s book, The Violence of Scripture: Overcoming the Old Testament’s Troubling Legacy, really captures my concern:

“In subtle but insidious ways, Old Testament texts that valorize violence normalize it. Because of this, readers are likely to become more accommodating toward violence. As Adrian Thatcher explains: “The impact is analogous to the watching of violent DVDs. In a tiny number of cases individuals replicate or act out scenes that have disturbed or excited them. The more serious problem is the likely desensitization to violence.” When we are desensitized to violence, we are not as bothered by it as we should be. This causes us to become less vigilant and more tolerant of violent attitudes and actions we should resist. While this accommodating attitude toward violence may not cause us to embark on a life of violent crime or transform us into vicious serial killers, it may provide just enough encouragement to make us think it is appropriate to engage in certain forms of violence. It may also cause us to be far less inclined to speak out against it, and this can have a devastating effect on people who are victimized by violence. When this happens, we too are guilty, not because we have engaged in acts of violence, but because we have done nothing to stop them.”

Am I the only Christian parent who feels this way?

Note: I realize not all of the Old Testament is about slaughtering your neighbors. I’m specifically addressing the ongoing conquest of Canaan (the first half of the Old Testament) and the many imprecatory psalms.

gods & priests

Have you ever seen something dozens of times but never thought about it, and then when you happen to think about it, you’re surprised that you never really saw it?

I’ve spent quite a bit of time reading through the Old Testament and it just hit me today that the descendants of Abraham were not monotheistic. They were monolatric. They believed in many gods but were in a covenant relationship with just one god—Yahweh*, who they believed to be the creator god and the greatest god.

It appears the people of Israel gradually transitioned from monolatry to monotheism during the late monarchy and exile period. While verses like Deu 4:35, 39 and Deu 6:4 were later used to bolster monotheism, many scholars believe these verses originally were meant to establish incomparability (in the same way we might say, “Häagen-Dazs is the only ice cream”).

My second example has to do with priests in the Old Testament.

I always thought Melchizedek, king of Salem, was a priest of Yahweh, but the text clearly says he was a priest of El Elyon (אֵ֣ל עֶלְי֔וֹן). El was the name of the chief Canaanite god and the compound El Elyon means God Most High. El Elyon was said to have fathered Heaven (Ouranus) and Earth (Gê), but it appears he was sometimes equated with Yahweh – Gen 14:22 (only in the Masoretic text) and Psalms 78:35.

Similarly, I thought Moses’s father-in-law was a priest of Yahweh but the text says he was a Midianite priest and the Midianites worshiped Baal.

Where did I get these wrong ideas? I think I picked them up many years ago in Sunday school and since that time just took it for granted that they were true. I suspect, to make things easy to understand, the Sunday school curriculum (or the teachers) kept things very simple and very black and white: Abraham and his descendants only believed in one God. And if Old Testament character behaved decently, they were followers of the one true God; if they weren’t friends of the Israelites, they were pagan idol worshipers.

This is just a reminder to me about how much preconceptions can cloud perception.
*We are told in Gen 4:26 that people first began calling on the name of Yahweh at the time that Enosh was born to Seth; this name is also used by Noah and Abraham; interestingly, however, the author of Exodus has God telling Moses that he only revealed himself to Abraham as God Almighty, El Shaddai (אֵ֣ל שַׁדָּ֑י), and not as Yahweh. (Ex 6:3)

Romans 8:28

“We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

This verse is addressed to those who are called according to [God’s] purpose. These are the elect, i.e. those God foreknew would persevere in the faith. (Romans 8:29)

What is “the good” that Paul has in mind in v28?

  • The elect will be conformed to the image of Christ. (v29)
  • The elect will be resurrected. (v11)
  • The elect will be adopted. (v23)
  • The elect will be glorified. (v17)

So does Romans 8:28 mean God’s elect will never experience bad things? Of course not! But it does mean nothing can ever strip the elect of “the good” God has in store for them.

Remember, “no condemnation now exists for those in Christ Jesus,” so remain in him to receive the inheritance God has in store for his children!

Early Warning Signs Of Adult Onset Arminianism

Approximately 3 out of every 4 Christians will encounter adult onset Arminianism (commonly known as AOA) during their life, either personally or in someone close to them. It can be a scary thing to encounter, especially if you’re not familiar with the symptoms. The person you once knew and loved is suddenly a completely different person.

Don’t panic.

It gets better.

To help you navigate the treacherous waters of AOA, I’ve listed the possible symptoms you may encounter.

    • An understanding that sin might not be quite as serious as Calvin made it out to be.


    • A conviction that whatever the Westminster Confession of Faith is, it can’t be orthodox.


    • Roger Olson is your hero.


    • A deep distrust of R.C. Sproul, John MacArthur, and John Piper, and a mild distrust of Tim Keller and Francis Chan.


    • Difficulty in recognizing Calvinists as brother and sister in the faith since they insist on adding the words “of the elect” after nearly every instance of the word “all” in scripture.


    • An understanding that OSAS is orthodox but not Perseverance of the Saints.


    • A deep hatred of tulips.


    • A belief that “Grudem” is synonymous with eisegesis.


    • A secret desire for a YRR-style movement within Arminianism.


    • Realization that since “God is outside of time,” predestination is no longer a problem.


    • A thankfulness that John 3:16 unequivocally supports Arminianism.


    • An avoidance of the ESV Bible because of its reformed bias.


    • Uneasiness around the word “sovereignty” (especially when the definition includes the word “control”)


    • The knowledge that in the original languages, “fear” actually means “respect” and “wrath” really just means “righteous judgment.”


    • Joy in knowing Jacob Arminius would have extended the right hand of fellowship to Michael Servetus.


    • An understanding that free will is the greatest thing since sliced bread.


    • Bewilderment that so many seem to think “permit” means “cause.”


    • Frustration that the Baptists are allowing so many Calvinists to infiltrate.


    • A belief that Jonathan Edwards just might be the most overrated theologian ever.


    • A comfort in knowing Arminianism can’t be accused of making God the author of sin.


  • A thankfulness that you can still choose which cereal you want to eat each morning.

If you or someone you know begins experiencing these symptoms, go to a pastor IMMEDIATELY. There’s really nothing your pastor can do since one’s future is completely in their own hands, but still, you should probably see a pastor.

But don’t worry. After 5-6 years, these symptoms will subside and you or your loved one will return to being a mostly normal person.

Until then…sorry.

(Note: In reality, AOA is extremely rare since most Christians pray the Sinner’s Prayer and experience Arminianism around the age of 5 or 6.)
I was inspired to write this after reading Stephen Altrogge’s excellent article “EARLY WARNING SIGNS OF ADULT ONSET CALVINISM.” 😉

Coveting vs. Wanting

My neighbor has nice things and I want nice things too–is that coveting?
By Keith Rawlinson
Volunteer Budget Counselor

Thou shalt not covet.

I think that just about every adult American has heard of the ten commandments found in the book of Exodus in the Holy Bible. Exodus 20:17 says that we shall not covet. From time to time, I deal with people in counseling who misunderstand this verse. Many people seem to think that this commandment means that it is wrong to want things that people around you have. Well, its not necessarily true. It is all right to want things that people around you have–it is not all right to covet. That takes us to the core of the issue: what does it mean to covet? Please keep in mind that this discussion is my own opinion on the matter, but scripture and life in general seem to support me.

What coveting does not mean.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary gives us two definitions for the word covet:

1 : to wish for earnestly.
2 : to desire what belongs to another inordinately or culpably.

The first definition, to wish for earnestly, is where most people get off track. Earnestly means: strongly or with great emotion. Thus, many people think that if you see something that belongs to your neighbor, or anyone else for that matter, and you want the same for yourself very, very badly, you are then coveting. Can this really be what God had in mind? If you see a couple with a strong, loving marriage and you want that with your spouse, is that coveting? If you know someone who has worked hard and become successful, and you want to do the same, is that coveting? Here’s a good one: if an unsaved person sees a Christian who has peace in his life from a close relationship with Christ, is it coveting if the unsaved person wants the same for himself? Of course not! All of the situations I just presented are good things; therefore, that first definition of covet can’t be what God had in mind.

What coveting does mean…

To read the article in its entirety, click here: http://eclecticsite.com/coveting.html

Obeying & Disobeying God

Why do Christians obey God?

Obedience to God is sometimes motivated solely by fear and duty. And while this sort of motivation isn’t wrong, it does demonstrate a lack of knowledge and trust in God. As our knowledge and trust grow, we find that our primary motivation for obedience becomes gratitude. And as it grows even more, our primary motivation is the realization that obeying God is always in our long-term best interest.*

Those who realize obeying God is always in their long-term best interest will be the most successful with putting to death the deeds of the flesh and living a life characterized by holiness and righteousness.

With fear & duty, gratitude, and the knowledge that obedience is always in our long-term best interest motivating us to be righteous, why do we still sin?

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Any Wesleyan Presbyterians out there?

I used to consider myself an Arminian, but about 5 years ago I moved into the Molinist camp; as a result, I find that I have a new appreciation for Reformed preaching.

It seems to me, Reformed pastors like John Piper, Tim Keller, John McArthur, and Kevin DeYoung take exegesis and biblical scholarship more seriously than than most Arminian pastors I have listened to.

While I see Arminians as generally more loving, I think they are more prone to eisegesis and more likely to be influenced by mysticism.

I think both camps struggle with balance when it comes to God’s sovereignty and human free will, but minimizing human free will as the Reformed do seems less sacrilegious than minimizing God’s sovereignty as Arminians tend to do.

So, I’m a bit of an anomaly. I currently attend a wonderful non-denominational church in the Bible belt, but I sometimes feel that a dose of Presbyterian preaching every now and then is good for my soul. The fact that I disagree with Presbyterians on all 5 of the points of Calvinism (TULIP) makes this truly ironic and amusing! 😉

Advice for Christian Singles

It’s always dangerous for a married person to write anything about struggles associated with being single, but I’m going to take a stab at it for a few reasons: One, I think a lot of advice being given by Christian leaders to Christian singles is ridiculous. Two, I was 28 when I got married so I do know something about this subject. And three, my kids are getting older so this topic is something that I have to think about again.

The specific struggle I’m going to address is dealing with sexual desires. Here’s the problem:

a. God designed humans so the sex drive kicks in for most people around the age of 12.
b. In our culture, most people first get married in their mid to late 20’s.
c. Sex before marriage is forbidden.

So what should we tell Christian singles?

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War Room Pt. 2

About 3 weeks ago, I wrote a short post sharing my impression of the movie War Room. But something has been nagging me about the movie since seeing it; I just couldn’t put my finger on it. I left the theater thinking something just didn’t make sense.

Well it just occurred to me: In the movie plot, it was the knowledge that his wife was praying for him that caused the husband to repent. He walked into her cleared out closet and saw her prayer requests on the wall, and after reading them, he felt remorse.

If a movie about the power of prayer is going to hinge on a husband seeing a note written by his wife, why didn’t she just write down her feelings in a letter or email and send it to him?

Now you could certainly argue that the wife never would have written the prayer lists if God hadn’t changed her heart through the course of prayer. And I think that’s true, but the implication throughout the movie was that you should pray and not attempt to resolve the problems in your life because that would be getting in God’s way.

Although their marriage was falling apart, the wife never approached her husband to talk about her concerns because she was told by Miss Clara to stay out of God’s way.

I have three problems with this philosophy:

  1. It’s not biblical.
  2. It fails to recognize God’s sovereignty by assuming we could get in God’s way and prevent him from achieving his purposes.
  3. Although it sounds spiritual, it actually promotes spiritual immaturity since it causes believers to think that their problem will all disappear if they just pray. (I realize God could remove all of our problems after we pray, but this is not how God typically operates.)

I suspect after the making of Fireproof, someone close to the Kendrick brothers said, “Fireproof was all about reconciling a broken relationship by doing good things, but shouldn’t prayer have been emphasized over good works?”

Although both Fireproof and War Room deal with the same topic, I’d choose Fireproof over this new movie.. Even though the acting and writing in Fireproof was painful at times, the theology was less problematic.

Hell & Heartbreak

The thought of evildoers going to hell doesn’t always break our hearts. In fact, the thought of certain evildoers going to hell can bring a sense of justice, satisfaction, and sometimes even pleasure.

Why is this?

I believe it is because we do not have their life stories. We have not walked in their shoes and felt what they have felt. As a result, our ignorance, coupled with our innate sense of justice, causes us to simply see them as evildoers.

People are much more than their actions…

Lovin’ ain’t easy, but it’s right.

It’s always been about loving God and loving others.

And it’s never been easy.

Throughout history we have gravitated toward rule following to show God that we love him. We do this because as hard as rule following can be, it’s much easier than obeying God’s command to love others. Loving others is messy and difficult, and it requires sacrifice.

God has reminded his people through various prophets that rules are important, but love for others needs to be the priority. And this message has been repeatedly ignored.

So God sent his son.

Just like many of the prophets who preceded him, Jesus told us that we had let the pendulum swing way too far toward rule keeping. He also reiterated that keeping rules while failing to love others didn’t impress God. In fact, it displeased him.

He said, “I’ll teach you and I’ll show you how to please my father,” and he did. He said, “Forget about the rules. Love God by loving others. If you focus on loving, the rules will take care of themselves.” He said, “It won’t be easy for you. But your father in heaven is patient and understanding, and he will send his Spirit to help you.” He said, “Persevere. Pray for strength and wisdom, and encourage and pray for each other. But please, persevere.” Then Jesus left with a promise to return one day for the faithful.

Once again we gravitate toward rule following to show God that we love him. We do this because as hard as rule following can be, it’s much easier than obeying God’s command to love others. Loving others is messy and difficult, and it requires sacrifice.

Note: I used artistic license (not direct speech) to sum up some of my favorite teachings of Jesus.

Moses’s Wives

Moses’s first wife, Zipporah, was given to him by her father Jethro, the priest of Midian. The Midianites were descendants of Abraham and Keturah’s son Midian. Midianites worshipped the false god Baal. (“Baal” means “Lord.”)

Moses had two sons with Zipporah and they traveled with him to Egypt. While en route, Zipporah was forced to circumcise one of her sons. Disgusted with this religious ritual, Zipporah threw the bloody foreskin at her husband’s feet and called Moses a “bridegroom of blood.” Some time after this, Moses sent her and his sons back to Midian.

Later, Jethro heard about the Hebrew’s exodus from Egypt and their victory over the Amalekites (descendants of Esau) in battle, so he traveled from Midian to Rephidim to return his daughter and grandchildren to Moses.

We are not told if Moses was pleased to see his wife and children again (although he treated Jethro with great respect during the visit), but we do know that Moses would later command the destruction of the Midianites. (The Bible seems to say Midianites needed to be wiped out because Midianite women, influenced by the prophet Balam, were coming into the camp and having sex with the men of Israel and inviting them to worship Baal.) Moses told the soldiers to kill every male (man and child) and to kill every Midianite woman who had had sexual relations. It is not clear whether or not this included Zipporah.

Before the Midianites were wiped out, we are told Moses took another wife, a Cushite. (Cushites were descendants of Noah’s grandson Cush. “Cush” is commonly translated as “Ethiopia” and it’s likely many Ethiopians left Egypt with the Hebrews.) Miriam and Aaron spoke against their brother as a result of this marriage and questioned whether or not he deserved to keep his position of leadership.

Some refer to Miriam and Aaron’s actions as blatant racism since Moses’s new wife was a dark-skinned Ethiopian, but their objection likely had little to do with her skin color. Instead their objection was likely rooted in the fact that Moses chose a wife from outside the line of Abraham.

Should pacifists in danger dial 911?

Christian pacifists believe Christ’s teaching on loving enemies calls for non-violence to the point of laying down one’s life if necessary. They say Christians should not engage in professions that could require them to injure or possibly kill others, such as police or military. This being the case, it seems a consistent Christian pacifist would desire all military and police forces to be disbanded.

This makes me wonder if Christian pacifists are thankful or disappointed that others are protecting them. It seems it would be hypocritical and unloving for pacifists to get any level of satisfaction or take any pleasure in the freedom obtained through the sacrifice of those who protect.

Biblical Slavery

In the Pentateuch (the first 5 books of the Old Testament) we read that God gave a code of law to the Hebrew people and within this code was a system of slavery that God established for his people.

If you want to know what Old Testament slavery was like and for some reason you don’t want to read through the Bible to find out, I recommend visiting a few apologetics’ websites and a few atheists’ websites. The apologetics’ websites typically cherry pick certain verses to show how the slavery practiced by the Hebrews was better than that practiced by other ancient Near East cultures. The atheists’ websites typically cherry pick certain verses to show how the slavery practiced by the Hebrews was worse than that practiced by other ancient Near East cultures.

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War Room

My church gave out tickets for this film, so I took my teenage daughter and son to see it. And since our family owns all four of the Kendrick brothers’ movies that were produced under Sherwood Pictures–Flywheel (2003), Facing the Giants (2006), Fireproof (2008), and Courageous (2011)–we were excited to see their new offering.

Here’s my impression of the Kendrick brothers latest film, War Room, and a few observations.

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