Woody Allen Interviews Billy Graham

While reading about the movie Billy: The Early Years of Billy Graham which was just released over the weekend, I came across a reference to this interview done by Woody Allen on his show back in the 60’s.

It’s fascinating how folks back then could be so civil and witty even as they make clear from the very start that they’re on opposite sides of the fence. That’s the way conversations should go.

Part 1 of the interview is here:


..
and Part 2 is here:


..

Good exchange between two people who respect each other.

..

..

BlinkAdd to Blinkslistdel.icio.usadd to del.icio.us digg.itDigg it StumbleUponStumble It! Redd.itredd.it Vineseed the vine
..

Advertisements

THE Big Story

Here’s an interesting presentation of THE Big Story of God, humans, and the world:

Please bear in mind that this is a three-minute summary, so do give the presenter some leeway if he does not include some details we would prefer to see if we were the ones to present a Big Story 😉 .

What do you think?

..
Note (added 10/10/08): This presentation was developed by James Choung, who explains it further here.

..
..
BlinkAdd to Blinkslistdel.icio.usadd to del.icio.us digg.itDigg it StumbleUponStumble It! Redd.itredd.it Vineseed the vine
..

Dying for Rebels

(…continued from To Understand, Stand Under)

..

And what does the Bible say?

That the Almighty Creator God, who is love [1], loves us so much that Jesus Christ died for us to take the penalty for our sins [2].

We are by nature rebels, shaking our fists at God, thumbing our noses at Him and declaring that we don’t need Him, and that our standards of right and wrong are better than His. Because of this we do not deserve to be in His presence. The penalty for our rebellion against the very One who created us is death—eternal separation from God. I have discussed this in my post Will Dead Babies Go To Hell?

But God loves us so much that Christ died for us—even while we were still rebels [3]! Even while we had not yet given any indication that we were willing to lay down our arms, to set aside our desire to live separate from Him, in fact even to live in a world where He does not exist—even while we were still sinners, as the Bible says, Christ died for us!

The King of kings dies for the sake of rebels against Him

The King of kings dies for the sake of his rebellious subjects

THIS is the difference between Christianity and other religions or philosophies. If you analyze them closely, other religions are ultimately about what human beings can or should do in order to gain the favor of the god or gods in that religion, or to progress from one level to higher levels of existence. There are rules to follow and specific behaviors or actions that must be performed. This is the common denominator among the other religions. Unfortunately, this common denominator, and the expectation among many people that it is a necessary part of ANY religion—that certain behaviors must be done first before the god(s)’s favor can be earned—has been exploited by various cults which have taken advantage of so many people through the centuries.

But Christianity is different. Where other religions would say that we have to earn a god’s favor, and teach what we should do in order to do that, Christianity says that God, the true God, the One who created us, already loves us—even while we were and are still rebels. His love, His favor, is already on us. We do not have to do anything to earn it. And His love is so great that He actually died for us, in the person of Jesus Christ, in order to pay the penalty for our rebellion, so that we can enjoy a blessed life with Him in eternity.

The other systems talk about what we should do in order to gain heaven (or higher levels of existence, or whatever else they call it in their systems).

Christianity is about what the Almighty Creator God has done so that we can gain heaven.

The other systems are about what human beings should do. The Christian God, the one true God, says, “I have already done what needs to be done. What you have to do, for your part, is to believe that I have indeed done it.”

If we do that, if we believe that Jesus Christ, in dying on the cross to pay the penalty for our rebelliousness, has done what needs to be done in order to reconcile us rebels to God and to make us deserving to live in eternity with Him—if we believe this first, then we will understand the rest.

Then we will be able to obey what needs to be done next—to lay down our arms, give up on our rebellion, and surrender to the One true God.

To be continued…

[1] Read 1 John 4:8
[2] Read John 3:16, 1 John 4:9-10
[3] Read Romans 5:8

..

..

This is Part 4 of a series. Other posts in this series:

Part 1: Judging God

Part 2: Original Sin

Part 3: To Understand, Stand Under

..

BlinkAdd to Blinkslist del.icio.usadd to del.icio.us digg.itDigg it StumbleUponStumble It! Redd.itredd.it Vineseed the vine

..

To Understand, Stand Under

(…continued from Original Sin)

..

Don Carson has called this the de-godding of God.

It is putting ourselves above our Creator, judging Him, assessing Him.

Which of course is impossible. How can a created being truly understand its creator? As the apostle Paul says,

Who in the world do you think you are to second-guess God? Do you for one moment suppose any of us knows enough to call God into question? Clay doesn’t talk back to the fingers that mold it, saying, “Why did you shape me like this?”

Romans 9:20-21

And as God Himself says, according to the prophet Isaiah,

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
….neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
….so are my ways higher than your ways
……..and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Isaiah 55:8-9

..

But the good news is, our Creator, God, is allowing us to have a relationship with Him. But it has to be on HIS terms. He has graciously taken the initiative and revealed Himself to us (and by “grace” I mean “unmerited favor”, meaning we did not do anything at all to deserve what He has granted). He has revealed Himself first through His messengers the prophets (like Isaiah, quoted above), and ultimately through Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1:1-3). This gracious self-revelation of our Creator is recorded in the Bible, rightly regarded by Christians as THE written Word of God.

And through His written Word, God has not only revealed who He is, but also who human beings really are—the only beings in all of creation who are created in His image, offered the incredible privilege of enjoying eternity with Him—forever!

Moreover, the Bible reveals not only  who God is, and what human beings really are, but also what is good and what is bad for us. Not just what is morally good and bad, but indeed what is truly good and truly bad for us, as graciously revealed by our Maker—who of course knows infinitely more about us than we ever can find out on our own.

But, just like Adam and Eve in the story, human beings rebel at this. We prefer to retain the idea that we can, in time, understand the whole universe, the whole of creation, including ourselves, without help from the Creator.

And some people, in response to the assertion that the Bible is the Word of God, get sidetracked in endlessly trying to prove that it is historically inaccurate and contains accounts which contradict one another and cannot be reconciled. The reasoning is that if it can be proven that there are errors or inconsistencies in the Bible, then it cannot be the revelation of an infallible God.

But so much precious time is wasted in this. I personally believe that everything in the Bible can indeed be proven to be historically accurate, and that the accounts there do not contradict one another. However, I also believe that concentrating in such efforts to “prove” and “disprove” every little account and detail could be a fatal waste of time.

As John Stott says,

The Bible is essentially a handbook of salvation.  Its overarching purpose is to teach not facts of science (e.g. the nature of moon rock) which men can discover by their own empirical investigation, but facts of salvation, which no space exploration can discover but only God can reveal.  The whole Bible unfolds the divine scheme of salvation—man’s creation in God’s image, his fall through disobedience into sin and under judgment, God’s continuing love for him in spite of his rebellion, God’s eternal plan to save him through his covenant of grace with a chosen people, culminating in Christ; the coming of Christ as the Saviour, who died to bear man’s sin, was raised from death, was exalted to heaven and sent the Holy Spirit; and man’s rescue first from guilt and alienation, then from bondage, and finally from mortality in his progressive experience of the liberty of God’s children. [1]

The pursuit of proofs pro and con the historicity and integrity of biblical accounts is, of course, useful—to a point. It is of course important to be assured that the BIble, in the forms that we have it today, is indeed a reliable transmission of the original documents. It is important to be assured that there are no historical errors nor unexplainable “contradictions” in the biblical accounts [2]. However, it is easy to focus so much on the pursuit of proofs and arguments pro and con these matters that one misses THE point: the need to have a right relationship with our Creator, and how God Himself has provided the means for such a right relationship.

No, created human beings can never fully understand their Creator. They cannot even truly, completely, understand themselves, and what is truly good and bad for them, without help from their Creator.

The only way to truly understand and know God, is to bow before Him in humility and to accept that He is God, and we are not. The only way to understand the Bible is to stand under it, accept it as the Word of the Creator, as indeed it is, and to obey His will as revealed in it [3].

We cannot stand in judgment of God, and say to Him, “Alright, big guy, if you can explain yourself to me, then I’ll do as you say.” No, that won’t work with God. Man’s way is “Let me understand first, then I will obey”. That may  work out fine in relation with other human beings and human authorities. But that is not the way we are to relate with our Creator. God’s way is: “Obey first, THEN you will understand“.

There is only one God, one Creator. We can have a relationship with Him, and we can know Him, and thereby also fully and truly know ourselves. But it has to be on His terms. The good news is, if we come to Him on His terms, He will reveal Himself more and more to us—as we continue to trust and obey Him. If we obey, then we will indeed understand. He will grant us wisdom and understanding—not only for this life, but for eternity.

He will not only guide us into the knowledge of good and evil, but also allow us to enjoy the fruit of the tree of life.

To be continued…

..

[1] From “The Message of 2 Timothy” (The Bible Speaks Today series: London and Downers Grove: IVP, 1973), p. 102, as quoted in the May 21 2008 issue of the John Stott Daily Thought e-newsletter. Emphases mine.

[2] See, for example, the posts Are the New Testament Documents Reliable? and Are the New Testament Documents Reliable? What About the Differences in the Manuscripts?, and the comments to them.

[3] In his post Are There Errors in the Bible?, Tim Challies says, rightly:

After all, if something is the ultimate authority, to what else can it appeal? Were the Bible to appeal to our reason to substantiate its authority, it would implicitly show that human reason is a higher authority. 

..

This is Part 3 of a series. Other posts in this series:

Part 1: Judging God

Part 2: Original Sin

Part 4: Dying for Rebels

..
..

BlinkAdd to Blinkslist del.icio.usadd to del.icio.us digg.itDigg it StumbleUponStumble It! Redd.itredd.it Vineseed the vine

 

Life After Life After Death

Since I mentioned Easter in my last post, here’s a good “teaser” regarding the concept of resurrection, which I stumbled on just today: N. T. Wright on Resurrection.

Good comments by the readers at the end, too.

Quotable quotes from Bishop Wright (possible answers to the question Where do we go from here? 😉 ):

Heaven is important, but it’s not the end of the world.”

There is life after life after death.”

..

I think the writer of the movie Gladiatormeant it in a different way, but the line that he gave for the character of Maximus is true: “What we do in this life will echo in eternity”.

God bless you, and by His grace and mercy grant you resurrection life through Jesus Christ, now and forever. Amen.
..
..

Will Dead Babies Go To Hell?

Somebody posted a question at the “Comments” section of an earlier post on the reliability of the New Testament documents. I thought the subject matter he was dealing with was very important, and so I have decided to answer him via this separate post.

His question, essentially, was: If it is true that all human beings are born as sinners, what about babies who die? As he puts it, “the baby would not have had the opportunity to accept Jesus as his personal savior and ask forgiveness for his ‘sins’.”

First, I would like to clarify that, even among Christians, there is no uniformity about what is technically termed the doctrine of “original sin”. And even among those of us who do believe in it, there are many who do not believe that the infant who dies is automatically condemned.

The question posed is similar in essence to questions asking about the fates of people who have never had a chance to hear the Gospel, whether in our days or in former times (e.g., what about the people who lived and died before Jesus Christ became man?), or who have no mental ability to understand the Gospel (i.e., mentally incapacitated).

To the questioner, doubtingthomas, I would say that, actually, the Bible is silent about this. But it is my firm belief that where the Bible is silent about God’s plans or programs, we can always rely on His character, which is sufficiently revealed in the Bible

In His self-revelation in the Bible, God has revealed that He is love (e.g., 1 John 4:8).

On the other hand, He has also revealed that He is holy and that He hates sin. In fact, a word often used in the Bible to describe how God looks at sin is “wrath” (e.g., Romans 1:18). Sin is not permitted to abide in His presence, and therefore no sinner can enjoy eternity with Him.

The problem is, all human beings do sin. Everyone breaks God’s standards and therefore are not worthy of spending eternity with Him. But God, who is love, wants human beings to be with Him and be blessed by His presence and glory—for all eternity. That is the eternal life which God offers to human beings. Death, on the other hand, is, essentially, separation from God. And God does not want anyone to die or “perish”. He wants everyone to come to know the truth, turn away from their sins, be saved from death, and have eternal life (2 Peter 3:9; 1 Timothy 2:4).

The solution to the problem of man’s sin and God’s love? THE CROSS! As John Stott, respected Christian scholar, author, and preacher says, “The cross is where God’s love and justice meet“.

As the Bible says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:16-17).

God, in the Second Person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ, became man in order to die on the cross as payment for the penalty of the sins of human beings. “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 2:2).

This is how the apostle Paul summarizes the Gospel, or Good News of how human beings are restored to a right relationship with God through Jesus Christ, and are made worthy to spend eternity in His presence: “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve…” (1 Corinthians 15:3-5).

So God is love, but God is also holy. He hates sin, and no one who sins can spend eternity with Him—except those who believe that what Jesus Christ did on the cross was a sufficient and effective payment for the penalty of their own sins, which is death. Only those who believe in Jesus Christ in this way can be saved from death, or what has been pictured in the Bible as hell, the outer darkness, or the lake of fire.

So there are only two choices: either eternity with God, in His presence, or eternity separated from God, in hell. Either eternal life or death. The first can only be obtained by turning away from sin, accepting Jesus Christ as Savior, and surrendering our lives to Him as Lord.

Now the Bible says that “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Jesus Himself says that He is the only way to God the Father: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

But what about those who cannot make this choice? What about infants or the mentally incapacitated, or those who lived and died before Jesus Christ became man?

To answer this, we depend on the character of God. He is love, and He is just. To hold this in conjunction with the essential revelation that no one can be saved except through Jesus Christ, C.S. Lewis has said “We do know that no person can be saved except through Christ; we do not know that only those who know Him can be saved through Him” (from Mere Christianity).

At this point in the development of my Christian thought, I agree with Lewis: we do not know, but we have to admit it is possible, that Christ, in love—and in justice—can save even those who have not had an opportunity to call upon Him as Savior or to surrender to Him as Lord. How? I do not know. But I do know His character, and because of this I trust Him completely to do what is just and loving vis-a-vis those who have not had an opportunity to hear the gospel and decide for themselves.

Some would say it would have been better if God had been more explicit in His Word about the fate of infants, thus saving us all this wondering. Author Philip Yancey has an amusing but correct answer to this: “What if God had made a clear pronouncement: ‘Thus saith the Lord. Every child under the age of ten, I will welcome into heaven’? I can easily see crusaders of the tenth century mounting a campaign to slaughter every child under the age of ten in order to guarantee their eternal salvation—which, of course, would mean that none of us would be around a millennium later to contemplate such questions.

“In view of the mess we have made of crystal-clear commands—the unity of the church, love as a mark of Christians, reliance on God’s grace and not our works, the importance of personal purity, the dangers of wealth—I tremble to think how we might act if some of the ambiguous doctrines were less ambiguous. We dare not repeat the error of Eden by assuming prerogatives in realms we cannot fathom” (from Yancey: The Encyclopedia of Theological Ignorance).

In such situations where the Bible is silent or nearly silent, reliance on God’s character is called for, and a humble attitude of simply obeying what is clear. There are some who make what is unclear into an excuse for not obeying a clear command—in the case of non-believers, “I will not accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior until you explain to me what happens to the babies and the indigenous peoples unreached by Christians”; or in the case of believers, “Well, if it is probable that Christ will somehow save them anyway, then I don’t need to obey His (clear!) command to share the Good News”.

So, dear doubtingthomas: Trust God’s loving, holy, and just character, humbly accept that His ways are higher than our ways, His thoughts than our thoughts, “just as the heavens are higher than the earth”, and seek Him and call upon Him—“while He may be found“, or while you still can (Isaiah 55:6-9).

God bless you!

..

..

PS: One possible clue regarding the fate of infants who die might be provided by the account of the death of King David’s eldest child with Bathsheba. The child was struck with a fatal illness, and David wept and fasted before God for the child’s life. When the child died, David ceased fasting and said: “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, ‘Who knows? The LORD may be gracious to me and let the child live.’ But now that he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me” (2 Samuel 12:22-23).

Shalom!

..

PS to the PS 🙂 , added Feb. 6: The interpretation of David’s statement would depend on our view of how David probably conceived of death and Sheol at that time.

..

..

BlinkAdd to Blinkslist del.icio.usadd to del.icio.us digg.itDigg it StumbleUponStumble It! Redd.it Vineseed the vine