Can you explain the Christian Worldview in less than 400 words?

Here’s my attempt to explain the Christian Worldview in less than four-hundred words. This activity helps you share what you believe when there isn’t much time to do so. Try it out!

Christianity is a monotheistic, supernatural, historical, evidence-based worldview centered on the historical person Jesus Christ rather than a system of ethics. Believing in Jesus Christ and the evidence (Scriptural, Historical, Miraculous) which supports his identity and work is the key to understanding this worldview.

Creation was made and is sustained by one eternal triune God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit), perfect in truth, power, goodness and love. It follows that creation is good. Humanity was made in God’s image. So, humanity was created good. Free will is a good thing given to people by God, but humanity used it to disobey him. God’s commands are not separate from his goodness. This level of goodness demands judgment when violated. But because he is love, God planned to save humanity before its creation and eventual disobedience. Salvation centers on the life, crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And through him, God enters our suffering, pays for our transgressions, and gives believers power to live morally upright.

All of humanity finds its meaning and purpose in knowing God in truth, glorifying (revealing) him in obedience, and worshiping him in love. God discloses himself to those who seek him in truth. Individuals who know him will understand their life’s general and specific purpose.

Right and wrong are knowable through God and his commands. There is also an intuitive or experiential disconnect between people’s knowledge of righteousness and their inability to live it out perfectly. Human disobedience echoes a sense of God’s moral standard in a feeling of guilt or shame when personally broken; or outrage and injustice when the standard is broken against them.

Human destiny extends beyond the life of the physical body. God’s judgment is coming to humanity for sin. Individuals who admit their sin, receive the Savior Jesus, and keep following him will live forever with God. Suffering and pain will be removed from creation at a point in the future. Individuals who persist in sin and refuse the Savior will enter conscious, eternal punishment, separate from God.

-Marty Parker

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Why the Cross and not Another Means?

I recently came across a question as to why Jesus had to die on a cross rather than by some other form of execution. So, I came up with a short list of some initial thoughts on this subject. I hope that you find them beneficial as you sort through the ultimate meaning of Christ’s crucifixion.

1. Execution by crucifixion satisfies the brutality foisted upon the ‘Suffering Servant’ in Isaiah 52:13-53:12 (read Psalm 22 as well) depicted according to Bible prophesy. The way I use the term Bible prophesy here is to indicate God’s overall plan for saving humanity from sin and the obvious Biblical passages which support this.

2. Roman Crucifixion is an official, public, shameful condemnation of the one being crucified. While this display of justice is over-the-top by today’s standards, there is no ambiguity about what is being communicated and accomplished by crucifixion.

3. Not only did the Crucifixion of Jesus match OT prophesy, it also specifically fulfilled the content of what John the Baptizer preached as it related to the then Jewish Sacrificial System. “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29)!” John the Baptizer’s message and persona were well known throughout the Jewish community in Jesus’ time and he was recognized as a prophet. It’s not surprising then that what happened to Jesus would match John the Baptizer’s admonition. There are also many  OT sacrificial images that fit the content of Jesus’ execution (i.e. being crucified outside Jerusalem, see Hebrews 13:11-14).

4. The Cross makes the most sense in terms of the lengths God will go to reestablish fellowship with people. Christian apologist Vince Vitale, indicates that the act of crucifixion is a dramatic display of God’s love for sinful people. Another Christian apologist, Michael Ramsden, elucidates that the Crucifixion of Christ Jesus reveals the mercy of God exercised through justice. God is just and holy so He could not let sin exist in His presence forever without condemnation; but because He is love, God aimed for reconciliation.

5. Also, one of my classmates indicated that Jesus was exonerated by Pilate before being unjustly executed (Luke 23). This point synthesizes the previous points quite nicely. There is nothing more painful than the public execution of an innocent man in fulfillment of God’s justice for the mercy of sinful people.

-Marty Parker

Are there any Jokes in the Bible?

Recently, I came across a 2009 Noisevox interview of Ian McCulloch. In the midst of which I discovered an apparent hermeneutical difficulty. Ian McCulloch made a statement which may resonate with many who enjoy Echo and the Bunnymen or similar artists. In an attitude of humor, I want to explore McCulloch’s statement. My assessment is not intended to harm anyone but to heighten the reader’s interest in the Scriptures. Personally, I enjoy a variety of literature and music which target my theological and philosophical yearnings. Ian McCulloch is the sort of artist who excites this curiosity for me. So, I handle the statements artists make with care and respect to the individual making them.

 
“There are no jokes in the Bible and I think that’s odd. […] There’s none of that in the Bible and that’s maybe what puts people off. So, if there were a few gags in there… (McCulloch, Noisevox).” Similar to McCulloch, I like a good laugh. If there were no jokes in the Bible, I might posit a number of questions. “How can a piece of literature claiming inspiration from God (2 Tim. 3:16) disregard humor as a way to instruct its readers?” Or “If God is love (1 John 4:8, 16), why would He communicate so austerely?”

 
One beauty of the Scriptures is that they are rife with laughs. The problem is that readers today cannot easily access the set up and punchline of ancient jokes from a cursory read. This is a matter of exegesis (explaining the text), and cultural distance. Discovering humor in the Bible happens when a passage is read in its immediate and larger context. Reading a Bible verse in isolation tends to change its meaning. Also, finding humor in the Bible requires study of the original reader’s culture (a.k.a., background—the things the writer and original reader held in common). By way of illustration, executing a joke across a cultural gap is challenging in public speaking due to dissimilar contexts; the problem is similar when people read ancient texts today.

 

Here are some related secondary issues. 1. Reading the Bible in a liturgical vacuum without inquisitiveness for its background creates a stern atmosphere. Apathy and ritualistic-asceticism divorces the text from its “natural environment” and obscures its message. If you attend a congregation that has no passion for comprehending the Bible, it shows. 2. Personal presuppositions about the subject in the text will distort a passage’s meaning. For example, if a reader does not believe that God has a sense of humor then said reader will miss it. 3. Pride. A reader may hate the moral implications of the irony in a passage. It is possible to understand a reading and reject its meaning. For instance, religious leaders Jesus Christ encountered wanted to kill Him even though they venerated Scriptures that pointed to Him (John 5:39, 7:18ff).

 

Are there any jokes in the Bible? Well, here are a few zingers in the broader category of humor. I will briefly reference them because my comedic timing is flawed:

In Genesis 18, the Lord appears to senior citizens, Abraham and Sarah, telling them that they will have a child. Sarah laughs at the idea for obvious reasons. The Lord calls Sarah on it and she lies about laughing. In Genesis 21, the child is born and Abraham names their son “He Laughs” (Isaac). The joke’s on you, Sarah.

In Judges 6:11, 12, the angel of the Lord appears to Gideon and calls him mighty warrior. The guy was hiding from his oppressors in a winepress threshing wheat. It’s pretty difficult to thresh wheat in a container. The joke is on fearful Gideon because his name actually means mighty warrior!

In Amos 4:1, the agrarian prophet calls a group of corrupt women fat (cows of Bashan). This is nearly a universal no-no.

 

God’s messenger—Jonah—hates Nineveh so much he refuses to share God with them. Jonah knows that God’s message of destruction to Nineveh will end in mercy if they repent. This genius would rather die than see Nineveh repent, as if his death could stop God’s kindness. This is a classic reversal narrative where villains respond better to God than the hero. Guess what? Nineveh repents, God wins, and Jonah remains heartless.

Did Jesus have a sense of humor? Absolutely! Every parable He spoke targeted members of His audience in a manner that exposed cultural norm, or carried assumptions to their logical conclusions. This often made Jesus’ opponents look silly. Read the Gospel’s and see how bystanders responded to these confrontations. This is God in the flesh teaching with humor.

Concerning the Apostle Paul… New Testament historian, Mark Goodacre, indicates that he had a rather dark sense of humor (my favorite podcast on the subject). I suggest you have a listen (Mark Goodacre – Did the Apostle Paul have a sense of Humor?).

In short, are there any jokes in the Bible? Sure! My encouragement to those struggling to find God’s sense of humor in Scripture is to keep reading the Bible and consult a good commentary for any confusing passages. Also, listen to preachers and teachers who excel at explaining the text.

 

The relational nature of God indicates communication, even with humor. It is because God loves people that He wants us to get the joke. Think of it like this… jokes only work if there is a standard of truth behind it.

 

-Marty Parker

The Bright Spotlight of Scripture and Church

A church cannot be all love and no truth, or all truth and no love. The Church must be both truth and love. Christians sometimes fail to see the combination of both virtues in the life of Christ, or the nature of God. The New Testament Epistles, especially Pauline letters, serve the backdrop of misinformed biases (from careless interpretation). The Apostle Paul’s letters are not carefully taken with this issue in mind. This causes some churches to wane in righteousness as they stress love or lack in love as they emphasize rules. In Galatians, Paul calls his audience fools (3:1) and later in the letter indicates they have done him no personal wrong (4:12). While Paul corrects his audience with invective language (tells them the truth bluntly) he softens the rebuke by indicating the correction is not from personal vengeance. Thus, Paul is framing the mode of his correction in terms of their dangerous departure from the Gospel of Christ (a violation that would end their relationship with God). If you are too far away to rescue a child out in the street—nearly run over by a car—you too might scream at the child in a manner uncommon to polite conversation.

So, what happened as God empowered His Scripture writers? Here’s a simple spectrum: when the audience showed a lack in specific righteousness, God permitted His writers to spotlight that missing virtue. God desires His people to express all of His moral attributes, not one without another. But when a Christian community lacks a specific moral then God calls them back to it. This shows up radically in the communication of God’s various messengers as a ringing alarm. In the Galatian example, they ran low on the truth about the Gospel message (by adding cultural works to salvation). In the Corinthian example, they ran low on love for one another by the evidence of their incessant veneration of knowledge. Paul had to take them down a few rungs, which climaxed in 1 Corinthians 13 when he spelled out what love is not.

In like manner, the Old Testament prophets sternly warned God’s people. God even kicked His people out of His land during such corrections for disobedience. Yet God has never wholly given up on His plan to save and love His people according to His covenant. Now that God has come to us in the flesh (in Jesus Christ) how much more intense will the correction be for rejecting Him and how great will the reconciliation be for following Him?

Ultimately, the best love occurs between two parties when the individuals are truthful. And the finest truthfulness occurs when a relationship is loving. When people reject God they reject His love and truth because these two attributes are inseparable in His being. God will spotlight these when either is absent in you.

“And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14, NASB).”

-Marty Parker

A Paradigm for Theologically Sound Music

There is a potential for coding poor theology in worship music. Many flaws appear to be innocent mistakes. However, by way of encouragement, here are a few tips for writing beautiful and theologically correct worship music.

The main infractions center on essential doctrine (a.k.a. dogma). The Holy Trinity, Incarnation, Atonement, and Resurrection—to name only a few—exemplify these uncompromising doctrines. The lesser, yet important, infractions pierce the doctrinal dividing lines between denominations or fellowships like Ordinances, Eschatology, etc.

Of course, a few things are assumed of the musician’s understanding for this paradigm:

1) You are a Christ-follower

2) You desire to worship God through Christ Jesus

3) The Bible is the decisive record of what God is like

4) Historically, the attributes of God are fleshed-out in song. In other words, worshipers learn about God by lyrical content long before Bible studies

5) Worship benefits the worshiper more than the recipient of worship (God)

6) Worship is a spiritual experience which engages the participant’s intellect and emotion

Your starting point is God. Now, there is no problem either writing about experiencing God or reading the Scriptures for an image of God first. Think of it this way, Abraham did not have a copy of Genesis to get inspiration from, because he was the guy being written about. So, Abraham validly experienced God in the framework of his worldview (group of beliefs) which someone wrote down later. However, your personal knowledge of God must be checked against the library of historical experiences people had of Him in the Bible. For instance, your perception cannot yield a new attribute of God; something different than what the people in the Scriptures encountered. The rule of thumb is this: if you have truly personally experienced God then the truth you get will match what the Bible says about Him. Discard what does not match.

In all kindness to Mark Schultz, there is a bridge in the song “I AM” which needs revision. It reads, “I AM the universe… I AM in every heart…” These two lines do not match sound doctrine and should be omitted from an otherwise great song. God is certainly not the universe. Genesis 1 and John 1 are plain that God is separate from His creation, the universe. God is not coequal with what He made. Also, the line “I AM in every heart” is too broad and tends to reduce God to an impersonal principle. What is universally present in every heart is an intellect and conscience which ques people in to the existence of God and morality. But those items mentioned in Romans 1 are dissimilar to God being in every heart. He is certainly in the hearts of His redeemed. Both of these lines indicate an encroaching worldview into the song—known as Pantheism—so they should be removed.

A pivotal ancient example of bad theology—in song—emerged from the Arian Controversy which ran against the coequality of the Persons of the Trinity. “A remarkably charismatic man, Arius wrote popular songs about his beliefs; people actually went around Alexandria singing about how the Son was inferior to the Father (The History of Christian Thought, Jonathan Hill, pp. 60-62).” You might readily see that if the Trinity contains a Person inferior to the other Persons then it’s no longer coequal. And that’s nothing to sing about! “Arius denied the full deity of the preexistent Son of God, the Logos who became incarnate as our Lord Jesus Christ (“the Word (Jesus Christ) became flesh” John 1:14 – NKJV). He held that the Son, while divine and like unto God, was created by God as the agent through whom He created the universe; thus that there was a time when the Son “was not” (http://orthodoxwiki.org/Arianism).” If worship songs diverge from essential doctrines like the Trinity or the Incarnation then they exist outside of Orthodoxy. Thankfully, during Arius’ time, most of the clergy and laity alike, stuck to what they knew was propositionally and intuitively true about Jesus Christ; and the error was condemned in the Nicene-Constantinople Symbol.

Here are the tips:

  1. Songs often contain strong emotional imagery so you need a way to generate this content. Two ways to accomplish this is to practice spiritual disciplines or in-depth Bible study. First, spiritual disciplines are things like prayer, worship, fasting, giving, Scripture memorization, Scripture meditation and the like. You must pursue Christ through spiritual discipline and discover what He says back. Consider using disciplines you already know from a discipleship class. Second, in-depth Bible study comes from utilizing what is known as the Grammatical-Historical method of interpreting Scripture. The goal is to first understand what the Scriptures meant to their original readers before making application to today. An introduction to Hermeneutics class at a reputable Christian College should help (hint: there are a few good hermeneutics courses on YouTube for free so watch them). Ultimately, something from your spiritual disciplines or Biblical studies should provide you with emotional imagery suitable for lyrical content. Take notes.
  1. Make time to understand essential Christian doctrine (the teachings which unite true followers of Christ). Then familiarize yourself with the teachings of your fellowship/denomination, hopefully the teachings are Biblically sound. These items, as well as what you learn in Grammatical-Historical Bible study, serve as a check against your lyrical content or strong emotional imagery. If what you experience in devotions or learn through study square with what the Bible and essential Christian doctrine teach then keep it.
  1. Write your song. Feel free to write about one or multiple subjects within your song about God. Then as you explain who He is lyrically, work in to the song pause for meditation (interlude) and instances of gratitude for what you found out about God. Be creative and use poetic devices to cast more light on who God is: rhyme, alliteration, onomatopoeia, contrast, comparison… you get the idea.
  1. Lastly, perform the song for other Christians and be open to their theological, lyrical and musical critique. A word of caution, music is intrinsic to cultural form and often well-meaning Christians mistake form for theological content. Do your best to convey the reality of who God is as the basis of your work. Be gracious and respectful to those who may not understand your song. For instance, if they can’t get passed your Redeemed-Black-Metal style (i.e. “Unblack Metal”), don’t play it around them. There’s probably a better suited audience elsewhere.

-Marty