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Come Reason's Apologetics Notes blog will highlight various news stories or current events and seek to explore them from a thoughtful Christian perspective. Less formal and shorter than the Web site articles, we hope to give readers points to reflect on concerning topics of the day.

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Showing posts with label difference in Christianity. Show all posts
Showing posts with label difference in Christianity. Show all posts

Monday, April 25, 2016

Another Way Christianity Changed Everything: Human Freedom

People want to be free. In fact, most of the battles now fought in the culture wars are about individuals who feel they have not simply a desire but a right to express their individual freedom as to who they are and how they are seen by others. The transgender bathroom fiasco is a prime example of this.

It is their right, they demand, to present themselves as they personally wish to be presented. They maintain that neither culture nor tradition should trump who they are as individuals and they're pursued various legal strategies to assert individual rights as real and inviolate. But where do those rights come from?

In one sense I agree with the battlers. Culture, tradition and even government cannot bestow rights (properly understood) upon people. Any right that is granted by an institution is not an inviolate right by definition. If the state can create and bestow rights upon an individual, then the state can take those rights away. Such "rights" amount to privileges that the state allows one to exercise.

In fact, throughout much of human history, the individual was subservient to the group. In his book Inventing the Individual: The Origins of Western Liberalism, scholar Larry Siedentop outlines how all cultures prior to Christ were first built around the family unit which expanded to the city-state, the polis.1 He writes how the Greeks saw devotion to the welfare of the city as the highest virtue. Rome demanded devotion to the emperor and the empire. Conformity to the powers that be was the only thing that made one a worthwhile citizen.

So what changed? Where did this idea that the state should be respectful of the rights of the citizen more than the citizen must conform to the needs of the state come from? Siedentop states plainly, it is Christianity that declared such a radically new concept to humanity:
Paul's vision on the road to Damascus amounted to the discovery of human freedom—of moral agency potentially available to each and everyone, that is to individuals. This 'universal' freedom, with its moral implications, was utterly different from the freedom enjoyed by the privileged class of citizens in the polis.

In his conception of the Christ, Paul brings together basic features of Jewish and Greek thought to create something new. We can see in a famous passage from his letters, the letter to the Galatians, dating from about twenty years after Jesus' crucifixion. Paul uses Jesus' emphasis on the fatherhood of God to insist on the brotherhood of man and, indirectly, to proclaim his own role as apostle to the Gentiles. 'There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free; there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.' Paul's 'one' signals a new transparency in human relations. Through his conception of the Christ, Paul insists on the moral equality of humans, on a status shared equally by all. And his great mission becomes the salvation of individual souls, through sharing his vision of the Christ - a vision which makes it possible to create a new self.2
Paul grounds his view of humanity as valuable because each individual bears the image of God. People are not simply material beings. If they were, then they could be measured by their value to the group. But as individual image bearers "conventional social roles—whether of father, daughter, official, priest or slave—become secondary in relation to that primary role."3  This stands in stark contrast to how all other cultures saw themselves by either their position in the public sphere and their position within the domestic sphere, which Siedentop explains "was understood as the sphere of the family, rather than that of individuals endowed with rights. The domestic sphere was a sphere of inequality. Inequality of roles was fundamental to the worship of the ancient family."4

It is Christianity that makes any sense of individual rights at all. Without a very specific Christian theology of man, the assertion that human beings are equal and each person has rights is as meaningless as holding that individual cells have certain rights without respect to the body as a whole.  There is simply no other way to anchor the rights of human beings.

I don't agree on the bathroom issue. I believe it is ludicrous to think that one's desire can overrule reality. No matter how convinced an anorexic is that she is fat, the reality is her self-starvation is endangering to her person. The biology of her body is in conflict with her self-concept. Similarly, those with gender dysphoria are at odds with their biology. Restrooms serve a very utilitarian function, wholly built to serve human biological needs. Separating bathrooms by biological sex bathroom doesn't violate one's rights because it is our biology that makes us human. Sex is a real differentiator and shouldn't be ignored. But even more importantly, how can anyone consistently argue for their rights against Christian theology when it is Christian theology that provides the very foundation for having rights at all? The contradiction is striking.


1. Siedentop, Larry. Inventing the Individual: The Origins of Western Liberalism. S.l.: Penguin, 2014. Print. 25.
2. Siedentop, 2014. 60.
3. Siedentop, 2014. 62.
4. Siedentop, 2014. 18.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Atheists, Your Values Are Showing

The news report was startling. A group of children at Oakbrook Elementary School in wanted to do some good for those in their community who had little to nothing. So they raised some money to buy some groceries, planning on delivering them to the local food pantry, which is run by that giving food to the local food pantry, which happens to be run by Old Fort Baptist Church.

That's when the atheist group stepped in and put a halt to the whole thing.1 Representatives from the American Humanist Association (AHA) claim that the project is unconstitutional since the school is raising funds that will "the proceeds of which will go directly to an evangelical Christian Church" according to the letter AHA attorneys sent to the school district (emphasis in the original).2 They halted the project and the accompanying food drive by threatening legal action. The school is holding both the food and the funds for fear of litigation, so the local poor get nothing.

What's the real story here? Are the atheists so heartless that they would quash an attempt by school children to do good because it conflicts with their agenda? It seems so on the face of it. However, the AHA claims that they are not seeking to squash individual children from doing good, but that "there are innumerable ways in which the school can assist those in need that do not involve using public resources to promote a specifically religious agenda." They also claim "the fundraisers serve no secular purpose and constitute state-sponsorship of religion."3

Feeding the Poor Serves No Secular Purpose?

How is it that providing food for those struggling in the local community "serves no secular purpose"? While the church runs the food pantry under the larger umbrella of its missions budget, it is the only pantry in the area and the only one serving the poor of that community. There is no atheist food pantry in the area. In fact, I know of no atheist food pantry anywhere.

The problem highlights how different worldviews can create different values.  Christianity has a deep and rich history of helping the poor, weak, and sick. Since the very beginning of the church, believers have sought to provide relief to those who could not do so for themselves, as exemplified by Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan among other teachings. Christians have covered the globe in reaching out with relief efforts while seeking to raise the literacy and living standard of the poor. Such actions have clearly proven to bear substantial fruit,, creating more stable, healthier, and better educated nations. Secularists like those who belong to the AHA share in these benefits jst as much as others from the results of Christian altruism. Certainly the public interest is served by such actions.

Atheism Values Secularism over Compassion

Representatives of the AHA have shown that their values center on blocking any act or effort at relieving suffering if that act or effort encompasses any public institution and any religious organization. Basically, they feel no amount of good that results from an action trumps the fact that public institutions and religious organizations may both be involved. What are the fruits of valuing secularism above compassion? Hurting people are not helped, food is not distributed, and school children are bullied into doing nothing.

Anyone who has argued with an atheist about the impossibility of moral values without God has probably heard the retort, “Are you saying atheists are immoral?” Of course, that isn’t the claim at all. Christians argue that objective moral values and duties exist, a fact that is easily discerned by a majority of people, and that without God, such values would be meaningless. I’m quite confident that there are many morally upright atheists living today. However, because atheism undermines the grounding of morality, it shouldn’t be a surprise when atheists place a premium on their absolute separation from historically Christian activities, such as feeding the poor. Jesus said “Every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit.” What kind of fruit is the AHA bearing here?


1. Kreber, Monica. "Oakbrook Elementary Faces Lawsuit over Church Food Pantry." Summerville Journal Scene. Summerville Journal Scene, 25 Nov. 2014. Web. 04 Dec. 2014.
2. Miller, Monica. "RE: Constitutional Violation." Letter to Joe Pye, Superintendent;Monica O'Dea, Principal;. 20 Nov. 2014. MS. Appignani Humanist Legal Center, Washington, D.C. Web.
3. "Public Elementary School Can't Fundraise for Church, Says Humanist Group." American Humanist Association. American Humanist Association, 20 Nov. 2014. Web. 04 Dec. 2014.
Image courtesy Tony Fischer Photography and licensed by the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Christianity is a Thinking-Man's Faith

There are many ways that Christianity distinguishes itself from all other religious systems. Chief among these is the central doctrine that God became man to pay the penalty we could never pay and thus reconcile sinful man back to God. But there are many other points where Christian teachings are unique. One of these is just how much Christianity centers on thoughtful examination of belief.

When we look through the teachings of scripture, it turns out that Christianity is very much a thinking-man's faith. In fact, in order to be a mature Christian, you are commanded to not just seek God emotionally, but intellectually as well. When asked by an expert in the Jewish law as to what commandment ranks above all others, Jesus quoted from Deuteronomy 6, which is the passage that Jews use to distinguish themselves from their pagan neighbors. Yet, Jesus added something to it. While verse five in the original reads "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might," Jesus added the phrase "and with all your mind" in Matthew 22:37. Jesus cared about the life of the mind.

1. Christianity is Discriminating

From His model, Christians took the life of the mind seriously. They weren't simply believe simply any tale told as part of their faith, but they were to test the claims coming to them. Paul challenges the Thessalonians to "test everything; hold fast what is good" (1 Thess. 5:21). In Revelation 2:2, Jesus commended the church at Ephesus because they "have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false."

2. Christianity is Literate

Christianity became a very literate faith, relying on the teachings of the Apostles passed on through scripture. Paul exhorted Timothy to "do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth" (2 Tim 2:15-16). It's interesting that Paul tells Timothy he is going to have to work at discerning the meaning of the texts. In fact, Paul goes further in the next verse, warning against speculations when he cautions, "But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness."

Because the written word played such a key part in the development of the Christian life, it truly became the basis for the modern university. Alvin J. Schmidt writes:
Formally educating both sexes was also largely a Christian innovation. W.M. Ramsay states that Christianity's aim was "universal education, not education confined to the rich, as among the Greeks and Romans…and it [made no distinction of sex." This matter produced results, for by the fifth century, St. Augustine said that Christian women were often better informed on divine matters than the pagan male philosophers.1

3. Christianity is Fact-based

Beyond just seeking to be true to its own teachings, Christianity is a faith rooted in the facts of history. he concept of eyewitnesses plays a huge part in the Christian message. Like tells us that when he began to compile his account of Jesus' life he sought out "those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses" and that he himself "investigated everything carefully from the beginning" to provide "the exact truth." Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15, offers the testimony of not only himself, but over five hundred witnesses and says that if any of the people doubt his account, they could ask some of them, since most were still alive at that time. Peter tells the church "we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty."

Peter was even bolder than this when he preached before the Jews in Acts chapter 2. Here he stood in front of a hostile audience and he appealed to their own knowledge of the facts in order to convert them! He declares Jesus' story of ministry, death and resurrection and offers the phrase "as you yourselves know" as proof that he wasn't making up myths. Surely a hostile audience would not have stood for mistakes in his presentation of the facts.

Christianity values intellectual excellence. Christians are command to study, to examine the claims brought before them, to not accept just any attempt by a person to pass along what they say is Christian doctrine, but to rightly divide the word of truth. As Alastair Begg recently said "We need to do what the Bible has always instructed us to do: to think." It's time to reclaim the life of the mind for Christ.


1. Schmidt, Alvin J. How Christianity Changed the World: Formerly Titled Under the Influence. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004. Print. 172.

Monday, November 17, 2014

How Not to Show You Have Truth...

View of the Salt Lake Temple from the East.
In Utah, I was able to speak to several sister missionaries, some young and some old. After watching "Joseph Smith: The Prophet of the Restoration" in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, a pair of sister missionaries and an older one asked me a few questions. I explained what I was doing there – that I had questions about the LDS faith and that I was there to find out more about the religion and discuss how it differs from Christianity.

I later found out the older sister missionary got reprimanded for "debating" with us, that "debating was not what they were here to do," and that "if she continued to do this, there would be problems." But the discussion we had was highly civil, respectful and mutually enjoyed – which the sisters themselves verbally acknowledged. This was not an isolated incident, however. Most of my experience with LDS leadership has been that of discouraging questions that are not easily answered via 1) pushing any serious questions to the faith towards the LDS church’s website or 2) by asserting that I needed to test what is true by means of prayer or 3) by simply brushing me off. Obviously, these could possibly be isolated incidents, but the sheer consistency of these responses makes me think this is how the LDS faith actually responds to those sincerely trying to seek truth that have difficult questions.

I appreciate that in following Christ, critical thinking, testing, and transparency is not only a righteous ideal, but a command. The whole worldview of Christianity is strong enough to withstand testing and to be put through the ringer of reason and evidence. If it really is true, shouldn’t that be the case?  Would we really have anything to hide? Had the situation been in reverse, if they sought us for questions about Christianity, I can GUARANTEE we would have been there as long as possible.

It has once been said that, "And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." That same person did not say truth would be known by feeling, but by reading the word of God. And it is true: in Christianity, testing important truths is not really about feeling; it’s about reading the words of God: "Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, IF you continue in my word, THEN are you my disciples indeed; AND you shall know the truth, AND the truth shall make you free." John 8:31-32 (and essentially Psalm 119).

If you are truly serious about telling me you have truth, then please be intellectually honest: do not discourage sincere questions or stifle the gift of rational, critical thought.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Heart of Christian Mystery

Andrew Louth on the distinctiveness of Christianity:
For the central truth, or mystery, of the Christian faith is primarily not a matter of words,and therefore ultimately of ideas or concepts, but a matter of fact,or reality.The heart of the Christian mystery is the fact of God made man, God with us, in Christ; words, even his words,are secondary to the reality of what he accomplished.To be a Christian is not simply to believe something, to learn something, but to be something, to experience something. The role of the Church, then, is not simply as the contingent vehicle—in history— of the Christian message,but as the community,through belonging to which we come into touch with the Christian mystery.
Louth, Andrew. Discerning the Mystery: An Essay on the Nature of Theology (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1983).74. as quoted in Fred Sanders' The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything. Ithica, NY: Crossway,2010. Kindle Edition. 53-54.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

How will children be valued if Christianity is lost?

I've written before about how modern culture takes for granted many of the values and benefits that are specifically rooted in Christianity.1 Christianity has single-handedly improved the world in multiple ways. One very clear example of that is how Christians were unique in abolishing infanticide and child abandonment.

George Grant in his book The Third Time Around  writes, "Virtually every culture in antiquity was stained with the blood of innocent children." 2 Alvin Schmidt agrees, writing:
Frederic Farrar has noted that "infanticide was infamously universal" among the Greeks and Romans during the early years of Christianity. Infants were killed for various reasons. Those born deformed or physically frail were especially prone to being willfully killed, often by drowning. Some were killed more brutally. For instance, Plutarch (ca. A.D. 46 - 120) mentions the Carthaginians, who, he says, "offered up their own children, and those who had no children would buy little ones from poor people and cut their throats as if they were so many lambs or young birds; meanwhile the mother stood by without a tear or moan" (Moralia 2.171D). Cicero (106 - 43 B.C.) justified infanticide, at least for the deformed, by citing the ancient Twelve Tables of Roman law when he says that "deformed infants shall be killed" (De Legibus 3.8). Even Seneca (4 B.C.? - A.D. 65), whose moral philosophy was on a higher plane than that of his culture, said, "We drown children who at birth are weakly and abnormal" (De Ira 1.15). So common was infanticide that Polybius (205? - 118 B.C.) blamed the population decline of ancient Greece on it (Histories 6). Large families were rare in Greco-Roman society in part because of infanticide.3
Schmidt goes on to catalog that this practice wasn't reserved by the ancient near-eastern societies but that  "it was common in India, China, Japan, and the Brazilian jungles as well as among the Eskimos" as well as the pagan parts of Africa until Christian missionaries reached them.4

Grant goes on to list some of the Christians who changed this practice, even to their own detriment. He writes:
The heroes of the faith who demonstrated the grace of Christ through such deeds of kindness during the apostolic era were legion:
  • Addai ofEdessa was one of the Apostle Thomas's earliest disciples. Sometime at the end of the first century he was sent to what is now Urfa in Iraq. There he established the church and launched innumerable evangelistic enterprises. He also was forced to confront the barbarous program of child limitation and elimination practiced in that region. Eventually, he was martyred for his refusal to temper his pro-life fulminations.
  • Benignus of Dijon was a missionary from Lyons who was martyred in Epagny in the late second century. He was renowned for his generosity and charity especially to the sick and suffering. A mob of superstitious citizens in that pre-Christian Gallic region slew him because he nursed, supported, and protected a number of deformed and crippled children that had been saved from death after failed abortions or exposures.
  • Callistus of Rome was a Christian slave who was imprisoned and sentenced to hard labor in the Sardinian quarries late in the second century after becoming involved in a scandalous financial scheme. After his release he was emancipated and put in charge of the church's shelter and cemetery on the Appian Way which still bears his name. He faithfully occupied himself with his duties-caring for the poor, comforting the bereaved, and giving refuge to the dispossessed. His compassion for abandoned children was especially noteworthy-it was Callistus that helped to organize the famed "Life Watches" that placed hundreds of exposed children into Christian homes. Eventually, he was chosen to serve as Bishop of Rome.
  • Alban of Verlamium is widely venerated as the first Christian martyr on the island of Britain. During the last few decades of the second century he offered refuge to those fleeing the persecution against the church. He succored the sick, cared for the poor, and saved abandoned children from certain death. Bede the historian records his brutal martyrdom on Holmhurst Hill after he tried to intercede on behalf of a pitiful family of refugees.
  • Late in the third century, Afra of Augsburg developed a ministry to the abandoned children of prisoners, thieves, smugglers, pirates, runaway slaves, and brigands. Herself a former prostitute, she cared for the despised and the rejected with a special fervor, taking them into her home, creating an adoption network, and sacrificing all she had-that out of her lack they might be satisfied. Ultimately, her work came under the scrutiny of the authorities, and she was martyred during the great persecution of Diocletian.
  • George of Diospolis, patron of both England and Lebanon, was a Christian soldier who gained fame after several daring rescues of children in distress. He was known as the "Dragonslayer," not so much because of exploits with rare and dangerous reptiles, but because of his willingness to snatch innocent life out of the jaws of death. Eventually, he too fell victim to Diocletian's wrath in the persecution of 304, and was beheaded in Nicomedia. Later, innumerable legends made much of his exploits-romantically associating him with damsels and dragons-but it was his willingness to risk all for the sake of the sanctity of life that earned him his place in history.
  • Barlaam of Antioch was a cobbler for the imperial forces who devoted all his free time to the care of orphans and widows in his church. Because he himself had been saved from the infanticide wall outside the city, he was especially concerned for exposed children. Even though he was not a pastor or church leader, his good deeds were so widely known that the enemies of the faith sought to have his witness silenced. During the calamitous persecution in 304, they succeeded in having him martyred.5
It is Christianity's view that every person bears the image of God that stopped the horrific practice of killing or disposing of infants. As our culture now seeks to abort Christianity from its social moral fabric, they also abort the foundation that roots the equal value of all human life. How will the weakest among us fare in such an expulsion?


1. For an extended quote on this from scholar Alvin J. Schmidt, see my previous post "The Effects of Jesus on the Western World."
2. Grant, George. The Third Time Around: A History of the Pro-Life Movement from the First Century to the Present (Brentwood, TN: Wolgemuth & Hyatt Pub., 1991).27-29.
3. Schmidt, Alvin J. How Christianity Changed the World. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001).49.
4. Schmidt. Ibid. 5. Grant. Ibid.27-29.

Monday, June 09, 2014

Want a Democracy? Send A Christian Missionary!

I've spent the last couple of posts debunking the idea that "Christianity did not become a major religion by the quality of its truth, but by the quantity of its violence." You can read why this idea isn't true historically here and here. Today, I'd like to focus on a point that isn't immediately considered by such a screed. It turns out that in the 21st century, in the era of advanced science and instant information, the fasted growing religion in the world is: Christianity! That's right. Even today, Christianity is gaining more new adherents than any other faith system, according to Baylor University's Phillip Jenkins.1

Photo courtesy GPcardenas

Jenkins notes that while Islam has increased faster than Christianity in proportion to the total population of the earth (growing from about 12% of the population to approximately 22% today) while Christianity has maintained its 33% status, the real difference comes in the way that new adherents were added.2 Islam has expanded in its traditional countries simply through rising fertility rates. Christianity continues to expand in historically non-Christian countries, such as those on the African continent, where missionaries have been doing the work of spreading the Christian message.

Let me be clear that the truth value of any belief system is not determined by how many people believe in it. Simply holding to the majority position proves nothing. It is easy, though, to show that Christianity is not growing either by compulsion or by fertility. The Christian strongholds of Europe and other western countries are in a famously rapid population decline. In the last century, Europe went from comprising 66% of the world's Christians to making up only 25% today.3 The African continent has seen a boom, though. According to Jenkins, Christianity has exploded an astounding 4,930%.4

The Effects of Evangelization: Stable Democracies

Why does this matter? It turns out, it matters quite a bit. A very meticulous study by Robert Woodbury shows convincingly that those Christian missionaries that sought to evangelize Africa had an incredibly positive effect for the nations where they flourished.5 Woodbury's data clearly shows that nations who had conversionary Protestant missionaries do their work set those nations on a road to literacy and stable democracy.

A recent article in Christianity Today highlights some of the advantages:
"Areas where Protestant missionaries had a significant presence in the past are on average more economically developed today, with comparatively better health, lower infant mortality, lower corruption, greater literacy, higher educational attainment (especially for women), and more robust membership in nongovernmental associations.

In short: Want a blossoming democracy today? The solution is simple—if you have a time machine: Send a 19th-century missionary."6
The Christian worldview has proven itself time and again as the single best way to ease suffering and raise the standard of living for its adherents. This as it continues to spread even today through the same means it did for the past 19 centuries. No violence necessary.

So, to claim that Christianity spread through violence is demonstrably false. As to the claim about the truth value of Christianity, I've provided many arguments as to why Christianity is a faith based on evidence. No one threatened me to believe or else! I am convinced by the truth of Christianity's arguments and I'm not alone. I know of many atheists who looked at the evidence and converted to Christianity because of its truth value. And we have the real world effects of Christian missionaries spreading the Christian worldview to countries where the measurable effects are the betterment of lives.


1. Jenkins, Phillip. "The World's Fastest Growing Religion." Real Clear Religion. 11/13/2012. Accessed 6/9/2014.
2. "The Numbers." Accessed 6/9/2014.
3. "Global Christianity – A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World's Christian Population." Pew Center of Religion and Public Life. 12/19/2011.  Accessed 6/9/2014.
4. Jenkins, Ibid.
5. Dilley, Andrea Palpant. "The Surprising Discovery About Those Colonialist, Proselytizing Missionaries." Christianity Today. 1/8/2014. Accessed 6/9/2014.
6. Dilley, Ibid.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Who are Theudas and Judas of Galilee and why is Jesus Different?

There have been many teachers throughout the history of humanity whose life and teachings are supposedly word-changing—at least this is what their followers believe or have believed.  Such may be said about Jesus.  Of course, history has shown that Jesus' teachings did indeed reshape humanity. We even number our years by His coming. But have you ever thought about why? In the view of the movers and shakers of the day, Jesus of Nazareth was a backwoods preacher in a third-rate province of Roman Empire. With no army and no money or political influence, why is it that two-thousand years later people across all continents celebrate His birth with more fervor than the greatest of any of their heroes? It isn't because of Christmas; it's because of Easter!

As influential as Jesus' teachings were, they wouldn't hold nearly as much power unless there was something else accompanying it; something that proved His authority. I make such a claim because we see the same reasoning in the book of Acts. In Acts 5, the Jewish Sanhedrin was wondering what to do with this new sect of Jesus followers who won't obey their cease and desist orders.  Gamaliel, a respected teacher, comes before them and says,

"Men of Israel, take care what you propose to do with these men.For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a group of about four hundred men joined up with him. But he was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing.After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census and drew away some people after him; he too perished, and all those who followed him were scattered.So in the present case, I say to you, stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God."(Acts 5:35-39)

 The Sanhedrin should've understood this.  In John 2:19, when Jesus drove out the moneychangers, they asked Him what kind of authority he had to dictate what should and shouldn't happen in God's temple. Jesus replied "Destroy this temple and I will raise it up on the third day" speaking of His resurrection.

Some like to point to Jesus as being a great teacher as the explanation for His popularity.  But reducing Jesus to merely a good teacher neither explains the magnitude of His influence nor does justice to the things He actually said. Of course the teachings of Jesus were revolutionary and profound.  But Jesus was unique.  He claimed to speak with the authority of God, and backed up that claim by going to the cross, dying, and rising again. It is because of the resurrection that Jesus is held to be the source of authority on matters of God and mankind and it is because of the resurrection that we celebrate this season.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Can a Football Game Change Lives? Maybe - If You Cheer for the Other Side

I must admit that I've never been a big football fan. With a name like Esposito, maybe I was destined to like hockey instead. However, I recently read an incredible story of how fans at a high school football game were encouraged to cheer for the other side. As ESPN reporter Rick Reilly writes:
They played the oddest game in high school football history last month down in Grapevine, Texas.
It was Grapevine Faith vs. Gainesville State School and everything about it was upside down. For instance, when Gainesville came out to take the field, the Faith fans made a 40-yard spirit line for them to run through.
Did you hear that? The other team's fans?
They even made a banner for players to crash through at the end. It said, "Go Tornadoes!" Which is also weird, because Faith is the Lions.
It was rivers running uphill and cats petting dogs. More than 200 Faith fans sat on the Gainesville side and kept cheering the Gainesville players on- by name.
Why would someone go to their child's football game and cheer the other side? Well, because they wanted to be like Christ. You see, the Gainesville State School is a maximum security correctional facility and these boys have never had a home game or anyone cheer for them.

Faith's web site states that "The purpose of the athletic program at Faith Christian School is to develop and graduate authentic Christian leaders." That's what they were doing. They took Matthew 25:36 seriously where Jesus exhorts us to visit those who are in prison.

Reilly also reports, "As the Tornadoes walked back to their bus under guard, they each were handed a bag for the ride home-a burger, some fries, a soda, some candy, a Bible and an encouraging letter from a Faith player."

What impact could a selfless act like this have on tough kids? Actually, quite a lot. Reilly concludes:
After the game, both teams gathered in the middle of the field to pray and that's when (Gainesville QB) Isaiah surprised everybody by asking to lead. "We had no idea what the kid was going to say," remembers Coach Hogan. But Isaiah said this: "Lord, I don't know how this happened, so I don't know how to say thank You, but I never would've known there was so many people in the world that cared about us."
Christopher Hitchens says religion poisons everything. I think 14 football players and their coach can easily show how that statement isn't true.

If you'd like to read the entire article by Reilly, visit the link below.

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License.
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