It is a phenomenon reported by pollster George Barna, observed by many of us and experienced by some – feeling dissatisfied with church. Not just complaining that something isn’t perfectly the way we like it, or disliking the people, but feeling deeply alienated from the church system and knowing deep down that Jesus never meant it to be like this.
The question is, what to do about it? Tell yourself everyone else can’t be wrong so it must be you, and just grin and bear it? Quit church altogether? Join another church (often only to find it’s different, but still the same)? Give all your energies to making change? Or start a new church?
None of the four gospels explicitly states who the author(s) is/are, and the names given to them reflect the understanding of the early christians. So scholars are left to determine as best they can whether the names we have were indeed the authors.
Knowing the author probably doesn’t change all that much, but I have always found it an interesting question, especially regarding John.
The Anabaptist are a often forgotten part of the christian church. We know about the split which separated the eastern Orthodox churches from the Roman church. In the west we are more familiar with the Reformation, where the Protestant churches split from the Roman Catholic church. But there was a third group in the Reformation, persecuted and maligned by both sides, but growing in influence today – the Anabaptists.
This book outlines what Anabaptists believe, and why they are coming into greater prominence.
I don’t believe in labelling myself, apart from being a follower of Jesus – Paul points out the dangers of this in 1 Corinthians 1-3. But it remains true that my formative years as a christian were within a moderate, moderately reformed, evangelical church. And I am very thankful for that time.
But evangelicalism is under attack, not just from without, but also from within, as evangelical believers increasingly question its underpinnings. This well-written, absorbing and thought-provoking book (A Restless Faith: Leaving fundamentalism in a quest for God, by Keith Mascord) is another milestone along that path.
Most christians are familiar with missionary stories, where brave christians battle great odds and dangers, but end up triumphant. Most of us are encouraged by these stories, written by christians for christians.
But here are stories of incredibly persevering christians written by a Chinese non-believer who clearly respects each hero he interviews.
Creation out of nothing (ex nihilo) is one of the fundamentals of the christian faith. The Cosmological argument attempts to use the universe to show that God exists. The universe couldn’t cause itself to exist, the argument says, nor could it exist for no reason, so an external agent (what else but God?) must have caused it.
Despite various attempts to refute the argument, it remains a strong one, not least because of its basic common sense. But some atheists have argued that quantum physics shows that the universe could indeed have arisen out of nothing.
Over the past two centuries, historical scholars have argued over what we can know about Jesus. Virtually all scholars (regardless of religion) now agree Jesus was a real person whose life followed the general outline in the gospels. However enthusiastic amateurs are still promoting the idea that Jesus didn’t exist. Books have been published and a thousand internet arguments launched, with little response from the scholars, who regard the Jesus myth as refuted. Now an eminent scholar has assessed the Jesus myth.
You may think this is of no interest to a christian who believes the New Testament, but I think it is important.
The resurrection of Jesus is obviously one of the central teachings of christianity, and is also under attack from sceptics. Disciples need to know why they believe it in the first place, how to defend their belief, and even perhaps how to use the resurrection as a challenge to non-believers.
Over the years I’ve read a lot of books about changing the church. Probably out of desperation, I think. Things really must change, and they are, but too slowly. I’ve read a lot of good books in that time, and bypassed a few that didn’t look so good.
But here’s four books I can recommend wholeheartedly. If you read them and take notice, they can hardly fail to challenge you and lead to your church being at least a little more effective in carrying out the mission Jesus left for us.
Not only did Jesus re-interpret many Old Testament passages (see Interpreting the Old Testament), but he sometimes undermined the authority of the Old Testament. This has some interesting implications.
If you’ve spent any time on the internet this year, you probably know that Rob Bell is a much-loved and much vilified US pastor whose latest book Love Wins has caused a great deal of comment and even anger. The cause of the anger is many commentators’ fears that Bell has subtly espoused a doctrine they regard as heretical.