Theology

Category Archives: Theology

U.S. Senators Characterize a Central Christian Belief as “Indefensible” and “Violation of the Public Trust”

If you stated publically that believing in Jesus Christ is necessary for the true worship of God, do you think there would be any repercussions?

In the case of Russell Vought, it meant two U.S. senators questioning his fitness for a job in the federal government. Vought has been nominated for the deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, and during his recent confirmation hearing, he came under fire as a result of his role in a previous controversy at Wheaton College, an evangelical Christian institution and Vought’s alma mater.

In December of 2015, Wheaton political science professor Larycia Hawkins made news for a Facebook post in which she wrote, “I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book. And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God.” In response, Vought wrote an article in which he argued that “Muslims do not simply have a deficient theology. They do not know God because they have rejected Jesus Christ his Son, and they stand condemned.”

Those are undoubtedly strong words, but in terms of representing historic, orthodox Christian belief, Vought’s position is anything but controversial. Christians have held to this doctrine for nearly two millennia, based on the teaching of Jesus himself. For example, in John 14:6 Jesus famously states, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” And consider another famous passage, along with the verses that immediately follow:

5 Things to Keep in Mind When Christians Blow It

What are we supposed to think when Christians fail to live out their faith? Occasionally, those failures grab headlines—like nationally known pastors who have to step down from their leadership positions for various reasons, or politicians disgraced by morally compromising situations. More often, it’s the everyday sins of average Christians that never seem to be in short supply: being insensitive or selfish in a relationship, failing to carry out responsibilities at work, being harsh and impatient with kids, speaking poorly of others behind their backs, and so on.

Understandably, the gap between what we say we believe and what we actually do can make Christianity less credible to those on the outside looking in, and it can genuinely discourage the faith of others who are trying to follow Christ. Either way, we need to keep a few important truths in mind:

Is Following Jesus Really Worth It?

My eight-year-old daughter has many strengths, and I love her dearly. But when she needs to take some medicine that doesn’t taste good to her, I’ve come to suspect that something goes mysteriously wrong with her ability to communicate. I’ll say, “Hannah, you really need to take your medicine.” But judging from the look on her face, what she hears is something like, “Hannah, you need to swim with poisonous jellyfish.” And the high pitched, inarticulate sounds that escape her mouth seem to confirm this. It doesn’t really matter how badly she needs the medicine. She’s just not convinced that whatever benefit she’ll get from it is worth it.

I wonder if the same dynamic can be true of us when it comes to following Christ. Whether consciously or not, we all ask ourselves whether it’s really worth it.

But what does Jesus himself have to say about that question?

Do You Believe in a Pharisee Jesus?

If you close your eyes and picture Jesus looking at you, what kind of look does he have on his face? I don’t know where I first heard someone ask that question, but I think answering it can be very helpful in revealing what we believe—on a day-to-day, real life basis—about who Jesus is and how he relates to us.

For example, do you see a Jesus who is constantly tallying up your sins and failings? Do you see a displeased Jesus, one who condemns you for a failure? Or maybe you see a Jesus that has little empathy for your problems and sufferings, one who either doesn’t care or is content for you to “get what you deserve.”

I’m convinced that a lot of Christians tend to see Jesus (and God the Father) in this light. Even so, this picture has more in common with the Pharisees that he repeatedly clashed with than in does with the real Jesus, the one we find in the pages of the Bible. So if you’re someone who is prone to think this way, consider the following truths about Jesus:

What Would Your Jesus Do?

The next time you hear someone ask the now (in)famous question “what would Jesus do” in reference to a real-life situation, try to pay careful attention to the answer. I’ll bet that more often than not it will involve something to do with helping, accepting, and/or loving people.

And that’s certainly understandable. After all, Jesus wasn’t afraid of getting his hands dirty to help people (figuratively and literally!). He often associated with people that others found culturally and morally objectionable. And of course, no one has ever loved like Jesus loved.

It’s hard to overestimate how important these descriptions are to understanding who Jesus is. But as crucial as they may be, they don’t give us the whole picture.

Is Your Jesus the Real Jesus?

In one exchange recorded in the gospel of Matthew, Jesus asks his disciples who people think he is. They reply with what they’ve heard: “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets” (see Mat. 16:13-20). One of the interesting things about the possible answers they report is that each is somewhat understandable given first century Jewish culture. Another notable thing is that every one of them is wrong.

Jesus’ next question for his disciples is one we’d do well to ask ourselves today: “But who do you say that I am?”

Whether you’re new to Christianity or been around it all your life, you might be surprised at how much your understanding of Jesus comes from the people and culture around you.

Seasons of Waiting: Walking by Faith When Dreams Are Delayed

“Most women are waiting for something, but some women are waiting acutely. The thing missing from their lives is in such sharp focus that they aren’t sure they’ll ever feel complete without it.” This opening line from Betsy Child Howards in her book Seasons of Waiting immediately grabbed me. My experience of waiting acutely was