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Here's my dialogue with Adnan Rashid from 2 December 2015. Unfortunately the video seems to have been lost but not the audio.

AUDIO

My opening talk is from 27:08-48:30 and then Adnan and I took questions from the audience before finally questioning one another.

With Adnan RashidI absolutely loved the evening. We were well hosted by the Postsmouth Uni Islamic Society who provided the refreshments. There were about equal numbers of Christians (from the Christian Union) and Muslims in the audience. At the end scores of Muslims personally requested John's Gospels. I drove home buzzing. When you talk to Muslims about the gospel you speak about the things that matter: Who is God? Who is Jesus? Is the Bible the word of God? What is salvation? How can I know I'm right with God?

My approach for the opening 20 minutes was to unpack John's Prologue a little bit (as a taster to encourage folks to keep reading John). In particular I explored Jesus as the divine "Word of God". If Jesus is the revelation of God then it is not a question of whether He passes the "divinity test" set by others.  Divinity is what we see in Jesus. And, as you read through John's Gospel, what an attractive divinity we see!

The first objection to this would naturally be: What about the Old Testament? But of course John is talking about the Old Testament. He is emphatically not saying that Jesus-the-Word is a New Testament novelty but an eternal reality - since the very "beginning."

Therefore I took time to demonstrate that Jesus is the divine Word of God from Genesis onwards. I think this is vital in Muslim evangelism. Whenever the Muslim is able (either tacitly or explicitly) to present the Trinity as a New Testament novelty they score a massive advantage. Whenever the Christian is able to demonstrate the Trinitarian Old Testament they make a devastating case. It really is that important.

Of course it's that important - it's essentially the question, "Is Jesus really "the Word of God" or is He merely the best Word of God, the seal of a series of improving words about God??" If we falter here then we have begun on the Arian trajectory that, historically, flowered with Islam.

For this reason I pointed people to these 24 Old Testament Scriptures that cannot be understood with a unitarian doctrine of God. Moses and the Prophets were emphatically not unitarians and their writings cannot be understood unitarianly.

A monadic doctrine of God is not primary historically, it is not simple philosophically/theologically and it cannot be basic methodologically. In short, Trinitarianism is not an offshoot of some more fundamental Unitarian understanding. Quite the reverse. Unitarianism is an heretical offshoot of Trinitarianism.

---

Recently the question has been raised of whether Christians and non-Christians worship the same God. Many who say Yes have based their case on the Old Testament and/or the claim that, of course, we worship the same God as the Jews (e.g. Miroslav Volf and Bruce McCormack). The argument goes, if we're content to say that Christians and Jews worship the same God, then the door is open to say that those other monotheists - Muslims - also worship the same God.

It seems to me that many evangelicals are uncomfortable with this "same God" position, but they don't have a sufficiently Christ-centred, Trinitarian understanding of the Old Testament to be able to refute it. I'd urge them to revisit the issue of Christ in the Old Testament (perhaps start with this series of posts). This is not a needlessly divisive distraction but a crucial point about the basic nature of our God.

Look out in the next week or so for a podcast follow up (you are subscribed to The Evangelist's Podcast I hope??). I'll discuss the debate and some of these implications in greater depth. But before then, have a listen to the debate. And it might help if you saw the POWERPOINT SLIDES for my opening talk.

 

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bdcIl-Ff-IM

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Because click bait.

Anyway, here is yesterday's Reading Between The Lines video: One Flesh

Essentially I just want to clear a space for a distinctive Christian sexual ethic and give some reasons for why we think in the peculiar way we do. In comments, a thoughtful YouTuber made some points (there weren't any "accusations flying" at all I just put that in my heading to be sensational). "CaptainMikul" (not a Christian) made some excellent points. I've interspersed his questions with my answers.

 

CAPTAIN MIKUL

I respect your view that I should have freedom in my own sexual ethic, but I don't think you get the (rather nasty) sub text of what you are saying...

Marriage, man and woman, sex: Ferrari, beautiful.
Not marriage, man and woman, sex: Beat up old car, not beautiful.
Marriage, man and man, sex: Beat up old car, not beautiful.
Not marriage, woman and woman, sex: Beat up old car, not beautiful.
etc etc.

 

ME

Hey, thanks for commenting. You're right that I didn't go into the male-female aspect of marriage here which I know is a huge issue but I'm trying to keep the videos under 8 minutes.

This means that the Ferrari/Lada analogy is not about hetero/homo-sexuality. I don't have that issue in view at all in this video. The car analogy is simply about how we use sex. Is sex cheap? Is it for anyone or is it just for that one special person? Christians want to keep sex to "one careful owner" so to speak. That's the point with the car analogy.

 

CAPTAIN MIKUL

You're assuming that all Christians must share your sexual ethic. You're fine with me having my own and don't want to legislate against it, and I respect that. But to other Christians who have a different sexual ethic to Christians like yourself, who say their relationship is a beat up old car and that Christians believe that, can have a really damaging effect on them.

 

ME

On the issue of wanting other Christians to agree with me... well there are Biblical texts to be wrestled with. And I think I'm on safe ground to say "This is what Jesus taught about sex" and I think there are interpretations of Jesus' teachings that are valid and interpretations that aren't. People are free to believe what they like, but they are not free to re-write what was written. To use an analogy, You can be a free-market capitalist if you like, but you can't claim that this was the true meaning of Das Kapital. "Marxism" is not infinitely flexible in what it affirms and denies and neither is Christianity.

 

CAPTAIN MIKUL

And then your saying that this is because Jesus gets to dictate what is beautiful in your life. So the Son of God himself thinks that a guy and a guy are not beautiful? Why does he get to decide that, why does He even think that?

 

ME

Jesus gets to tell us the deal with sex if He created it. I'd totally agree that, if He was just one more wise guru we could weigh His thoughts as an interesting 1st century, Jew. But if He made us and knows how life works then His teaching takes on a different character. That's why the big question for a non-Christian is not "what do I think about Jesus' sexual ethics?" but "Who does Jesus think He is to be speaking like this?" That's the question I'd like non-Christians to be wrestling with.

Why does Jesus think sex operates like this? Well heaven and earth, man and woman, Christ and His people are these parallel pairings throughout the Bible (from the very first verse). And the Bible sees these pairs as "made for each other." Man and woman coming together is part of a cosmic love story. It mirrors the way God loves the world, the way Christ gave Himself for His people. It's about equal opposites combining in this life-giving way. No wonder then this how life comes to our species. Man and woman becoming one has been the way of life from the beginning. If man or woman "plays the field" that tells a different story to the cosmic love story. Likewise, Man sticking with man or woman sticking with woman tells a different story. For the Christian, sex means something beyond the sexual desires of the individuals involved. It is a proclamation of profound truths. Once again, I don't expect you to agree with this sexual ethic because you don't agree with the underlying "profound truths" but you asked why Jesus would even teach this stuff. And that's the beginning of a sketch of an answer.

 

CAPTAIN MIKUL

You seem alright, I doubt you have a bad bone in your body, but can you not see the problem of presenting as loving and beautiful a deity who dictates that others relationships are not worthy?

 

ME

Thanks so much for the tone and thoughtfulness of your comment. I don't see any problem with "a deity who" tells us what sex means in the world that he has made. The implications of that teaching are that there are more faithful and healthy uses of sex and less faithful and less healthy uses of sex. That seems absolutely consistent with a loving, beautiful God.

Let me finish with an analogy: If I was a Buddhist and this was a 7 minute video on the crazy-beautiful way of vegetarianism, would that be offensive? Imagine if I said in the video that "For Buddhists, meat is murder"? I imagine that most people would be completely fine if I said "Buddhists have a cosmic vision of life and meat-eating does not fit into it, so for us meat is forbidden." I don't imagine that there would be comments saying "I eat meat and I'm offended." Or "Some of my best friends work in an abattoir, how dare you say they are unworthy!" I imagine everyone would shrug their shoulders and say "Fair enough, I disagree, pass me the bacon sandwich." Why is this video different to that?

 

I haven't yet received a response from him. But I'm thrilled that people are interacting on the issue.

 

 

The first week of my daily vlog for 2016.

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