My name is Keith Giles. I love to write so that people can know Jesus and experience His life in their own.
So, I started this blog to help people understand who Jesus is, and how He reveals what the Father is really like.
This is a safe place to talk about all those questions you've had about the Bible, and Christianity. It's also a place to learn how to put the words of Jesus into practice.
Here is another refreshing perspective from Keith Giles:
During Christianity’s first three hundred years Christians were not entangled with politics nor tempted to advance their cause by passing laws. Interestingly, however, there were many Roman soldiers and political officials who converted to the faith. In fact, this happened often enough that several early Christian teachers gave instructions on how to respond to this trend.
This morning I had an informal debate, of sorts, with a friend online.
He wanted to talk with me regarding the "Flat Bible vs Jesus-Centric" approach to the scriptures which I introduced in chapter two of my book "Jesus Untangled:Crucifying Our Politics To Pledge Allegiance To The Lamb."
At first, we were just comparing the two views, but then it started to turn into more of an actual debate when my friend said that he believed we still needed to read the words of Jesus "in the light of the Old Testament."
This set me off into a much longer exploration that I wanted to share here on the blog with all of you.
Here's how I responded to my friend:
We don't read the words of Jesus "in the light of the Old Testament" because the OT has no light. Jesus is the light that has come into the world. He is the light. He shines on the Old Testament, the Old Testament does not shine on Jesus.
Now, yes, the Old Testament scriptures point to Jesus, so in that sense it does "shed light" on Jesus, but those scriptures do not modify His teachings or His life. He modifies everything.
Jesus is the source. The Old Testament scriptures are the shadow. He is the light.
We are told that there a veil that covers the eyes of those who read the Old Testament apart from Christ; a veil that is only removed when read through the lens of Christ.
[This process is not reversed].
As Brian Zahnd says in his latest book, "The only thing the Scripture does inerrantly and infallibly is point us to Christ."
Once we see and receive Him, then He illuminates the Old Testament for us - to show us more of Himself. But without Him we do not have light, or life.
The Law brought death, not life. It points us to Life and Light in Christ, but it, by itself, does not contain "the Words of Life" as Jesus does."For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ." - John 1:17
"Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." - John 6:68
We can agree that, yes, the OT and the NT are inspired by the same Spirit, but with different purposes and audiences in mind.
But I would add that we begin with Christ and read those scriptures in light of who He is and how He revealed the Father to us, because no one has ever seen God at any time in the past. Only Jesus reveals the Father to us in perfect clarity. [See John 1:18]
It's about a process, I think. There are degrees of "knowing".
We know God best of all in Christ. He is the clearest picture we could ever have of what the Father is really like - and has always been like - and anything that conflicts with the image of the invisible God revealed in Christ must bow and conform to His image [not the other way around].
I think we can agree that my Flat Bible definition [in the book] isn't actually "flat" because in practice the OT scriptures are used to modify Christ's teachings [not the other way around].
I use that term "Flat Bible" because it reflects the mindset of the approach that all scriptures [theoretically] have equal weight, even if, in practice, they obviously don't. All too often, the Old Testament scriptures are used to modify the words of Jesus.
The question is: When there is an apparent conflict between the teachings of Jesus and an OT scripture - who overrides who? Who "wins" in that conflict ?
If the words of Jesus are not the one and only standard by which all other scriptures are measured, that [to me] is a "Flat Bible" approach.
Or, call it whatever you like, but it is certainly not "Jesus-Centric", is it?
Does that help? If not, I have written quite a bit on this subject here on the blog.
Yesterday in our house church meeting, one of our dear sisters in Christ shared something that she had heard someone else share last week.
Her friend had looked up the names of the 12 Tribes of Israel and discovered that the meaning of each name actually formed part of an amazing promise when placed alongside all the other names.
She shared it with us and it was really inspiring so I asked her to send it to me.
The list she sent me only had the sentence, but not the corresponding name of the tribes to go with is, but I started to look it up on my own.
Here's what I found:
Reuben: See, a son!
Simeon: The Lord has heard that I am unloved
Levi: I have become attached to my love
Judah: Yahweh be praised!
Dan: God has judged my case and heard my voice
Naphtali: I have wrestled and prevailed
Gad: Good fortune has come!
Asher: I am happy and called blessed.
Issachar: God has given me my wages/reward
Zebulun: now my love dwells with me
Joseph: The Lord will provide the increase
Benjamin: [by] the son at his right hand.
All together these names read:
“See, a son! The Lord has heard that I am unloved and I have
become attached to my love. Yahweh be praised! God has judged my case and heard
my voice. I have wrestled and prevailed. Good fortune has now come! I am happy and blessed. God has given me my wages [reward]
and now my love dwells with me. The Lord will provide the increase by the Son
at His right hand."
Wow. Isn't that awesome?
I hope that blesses you today.
If it did, why not share it with your friends on Twitter or Facebook?
BONUS: I shared this with my friend Steve Kline over at Living Room Theology and he, of course, already knew all about this and had written a post of his own a few months ago. Check out Steve's perspective on this here>
One thing I have found very fascinating in N.T. Wright’s
newest book, “The Day The Revolution Began” is the exploration on what is meant
by “forgiveness of sins” in the context of the story of Israel.
Throughout the Old Testament scriptures, we read over and
over again how God established His people in a “Promised Land” only to have
them rebel against Him – or sin – and then being exiled as
This is the consistent picture throughout the Bible story:
God blesses His people – They sin – He exiles them from this good land – They repent
of their sins – He restores them to their land.
This pattern is first established in Genesis chapters one
and two. God creates a beautiful world, places His wonderful creatures in a
garden, they sin and are exiled from the garden.
The rest of Israel’s story is simply this same narrative repeated
over and over again with slight variations.
So, if we keep this in mind, then “forgiveness of sins”
means the end of exile and the opportunity to return once again to the good
land where the people are once again living under the rule and reign of God.
Jesus, the Messiah, arrives on the scene and proclaims that
the Kingdom of God is at hand and the gates are wide open to anyone who wants
to return to the “good land” provided by the King Himself.
Because of the death of Christ, we are no longer exiled from
God or His “good land” [Kingdom] but freely encouraged to return home, once and
Wright also makes another interesting point later on in his
book about how Jesus was falsely accused and crucified for “our sins”. He was
not a violent revolutionary, although the people of Israel certainly wanted Him
to be. In fact, this violent rebellion was in their hearts – not in His heart. Yet,
Jesus suffers the penalty for their sin of violent rebellion, which under Roman
law was crucifixion.
Think about that: The people’s sin was that they wanted a
violent rebellion against Rome. Jesus did not want this. The penalty for
violent rebellion against Rome was crucifixion. The people were eager for this
rebellion and in their hearts this desire for violence against Rome was equal
to actually committing the sin.
Remember Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount about how
looking at a woman with lust was equal to actual adultery? The same principle
is in effect here: The people wanted a violent rebellion and the wages of that
sin was crucifixion on a Roman cross. But who suffered the punishment for that
sin? Was it the people whose hearts were crying out for armed rebellion? No. It
was Jesus, the Messiah who came urging them all to love their enemies, bless
those who persecuted them and walk the extra mile whenever a Roman soldier
handed them their pack to carry.
In this way, Jesus died "for their sins". Their sin was a
desire for rebellion. Their penalty was crucifixion, but Jesus took their place
on that cross and suffered their fate.
This act of love indicated that their sins were forgiven and
that now their exile was over. They could now return home and live once more in
the “good land” of the Kingdom of God where Jesus would be their King.
This is Good News. The exile is over. We are free to return
home, forever. Our Abba is throwing wide the gates of His Kingdom and welcoming
any and all to come and live in his “good land”.
“Repent! The Kingdom of God is at hand!” – Jesus, Messiah.
I love to read. Ever since I was very young, my parents would read to me. I think that’s why I love stories, and why I, eventually, became a writer.
When I was in Elementary school, I read anything and everything I could put my hands on. My earliest favorites were Sherwood Anderson, Ambrose Bierce, and Isaac Asimov. But soon I moved on to Ian Fleming, Alistair MacLean, Alan Dean Foster and Ray Bradbury.
One day, while visiting our pastor’s house, his wife noticed I was carrying a satchel of books with me and asked me an interesting question: “Have you ever read the World’s Best-Selling book?”
I stopped to consider her question and then said, “No, probably not. What is it?”
She replied: “It’s an amazing old book full of adventure, danger, love, betrayal, war and redemption.”
“Sounds cool,” I said. “What’s the title?”
Of course, she was talking about the Bible, and based on her challenge I started to read it every night before going to bed.
My routine was to lay in bed and read whatever adventure novel I was devouring at the moment and then setting that down to read at least one chapter from the Bible before I went to sleep each night.
In just over a year and a half, I had read through most of the entire Bible.
Why so quickly? Because, first of all, I often read more than just one chapter, and second of all, I skipped most of Leviticus because it was just too boring.
But that was the first time I read the Bible.
Later, as a Junior High student I started to read the Bible because I was helping our youth pastor to lead Bible Studies. As a High School student I was leading book studies in the Gospel of Luke [which I immediately regretted because each chapter was just a marathon to get through each week], and Isaiah [because things in the Middle East were heating up and everyone – including me – was convinced that the End Times were upon us].
In college I read through the Bible because I discovered a renewed love for Jesus at a Baptist Retreat Center in Glorietta, New Mexico. Some of the seminars and workshops I attended got me interested in Spiritual Warfare so I started studying that topic on my own.
Of course, as a college student with a minor in Philosophy I quickly encountered opposition to my dearly-held faith. A few of my professors really attacked Christianity and that sent me back to my Bible to find out if what they were saying about Jesus and the Scriptures was true or not. Because of this I started really getting into Apologetics, and Young Earth/Old Earth evidences and even put together a little 4 part series of lectures about Evolution and Creation.
But all through this I read and re-read my Bible. I underlined. I circled. I made notes in the margins. I stuck notes all through the Bible on folded slips of paper. I wrote references to important verses in every blank page and white space I could find.
Eventually that Disciples Study Bible I bought in college started to fall part. First the cover began to come lose. I wrapped the spine in duct tape and kept on reading it and studying it.
About five years ago I was leading a Men’s Bible Study for some guys from Saddleback Church. They took up a collection and bought me a brand new ESV Study Bible to replace my raggedy duct tape Bible, but I honestly still use that one more often because it has all my notes and I know where to find everything in it.
I love my Bible. I really do. If you tried to come over to my house and take my Bible away from me, you’d have to cut my arms off to get it out of my hands.
But, as much as I love my Bible, I love Jesus even more. A hundred thousand million times more.
See, that book told me all about this magnificent person named Jesus who loved me and gave Himself for me. It pointed me to a God who would rather die than live without me. I fell in love – not with the Book which told me about Him – but with Jesus, Himself!
I’ve told you about my relationship with that Book, but I haven’t mentioned my incredible relationship with Jesus: I haven’t told you about how He revealed Himself to me; how He called me by His Spirit; how He answered my prayers; how He worked miracles in my life; how He whispered in my ear to stop me from getting shot dead by a prison sniper while performing with my band at a minimum security prison; about how He healed my Dad’s shattered spine and re-formed his vertebrae so he wouldn’t be paralyzed; about how He provided for my family financially while I was out of work for over a year and a half [the first time] and another year the time after that; about how He fulfilled His specific promises to me during that time in ways I could have never imagined; and about how He called us to start a church where 100 percent of the offering would go to help the poor in our community; and so much more.
But if I told you about those things here in this blog article and your response was only to say, “Wow! What a glorious article!” you would have missed my entire point, wouldn’t you?
Because what’s really glorious and awesome isn’t the blog or the article about what Jesus did for me. No, what’s amazing and awesome is Jesus and the article only informs you of how awesome He is.
The Bible is wonderful. I do love and appreciate my Bible so very much. But my love for Jesus is so far and away greater and more precious to me than anything else in the universe, that I can’t even begin to compare it to anything else.
Does this mean my Bible is useless? Hardly. I will use it today and tomorrow and every day for the rest of my life here on this earth. It is very useful to me.
But my relationship isn’t with a book about Jesus – it’s with Jesus, whom the book is about!
“In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.” – Hebrews 1:1-3
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” [John 1:1-3]
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth….” [v.14]
God’s Word, at one time, was only written down on a page and bound in a book or wrapped in a scroll.
But when Jesus arrived that Word took on flesh and blood; laughed and cried; breathed and sang; taught and healed like never before.
There were some men who wrote down what they saw this Living Word do and say, but those words about that Word are not the Word. They are still words about Him, and our worship belongs to the God who is the Word – and to Him alone.
Thank you, Lord Jesus, for the Bible which tells of your excellent greatness. But thank you, even more, for your living presence within us that testifies day and night of your enduring love for us and causes us to cry out “Abba! Father!” and listen for your answer in the still, small voice of the Good Shepherd that every one of your sheep knows so well.
"You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me,yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life." - Jesus [John 5:39-40]
In our first ever debate on the Libertarian Christian Podcast, author Keith Giles returns to debate author/activist Mark van Steenwyk on Two Kingdoms theology and Christian involvement in formal politics.
As he explained in our earlier interview, Giles holds that formal politics is not a proper task of the Christian life. Van Steenwyk counters that Christians must be involved in direct political activism so as to undermine oppression and promote God's justice in the world.
Nick serves as moderator and asks some critical questions of both debaters. We haven't heard of anyone advocating for a Three Kingdom theology, but if you're such a person and are offended that your position didn't get any press here, you might consider lobbying the FCC to implement the so-called Fairness Doctrine, but as much as we'd like to see Christian libertarian thought get air time on MSNBC we still wouldn't recommend that course of action.
the last week or so I have been engaged in numerous online debates [mostly on
Facebook] about Jesus being the “Word of God” [as opposed to the Bible], and
Jesus being greater than the Scriptures.
of those arguing against these ideas are assuming [wrongly] that I take a low
view of scripture. But that’s not at all what I’m saying.
My single aim is this: To point people to Jesus. If anything gets in
the way of people knowing Jesus and following Jesus, then I am going to do my
best to point it out and help people turn their faces and their hearts back to
For some Christians – not all of them – their Bible actually does get in their
way. It takes the place in their hearts that should belong to Christ alone.
But, more and more I am encountering brothers and sisters in Christ who cannot
separate the book from the person that book points to.
Some have even flat-out argued that Jesus and the Bible are the same. Others
have asked if there is more of God to know outside of the Bible, as if He could
be bound in a book.
In response I have tried to point out that the Father gave
Jesus a name that is above every name, [see Phil. 2:1-11]. If so, then wouldn't
that also mean His name is above the Bible?
I realize that if I simply wrote about how awesome Jesus was, most Christians
would have no problem with any of that. The problem comes only when I dare to
suggest that Jesus' awesomeness eclipses the Bible.
that’s the problem, isn’t it?
affirms that He is greater than Solomon, and that He is greater than the
Temple, and Jonah, Moses, Elijah, Jacob and Abraham.
that is presumably ok. [At least no one has challenged me on those claims yet].
once I suggest that Jesus is greater than the book which was written by those
guys and that points to Jesus, that, apparently, is going too far?
“Does this mean we should just throw out our Bibles?”
[I hear this all the time]
Short answer: No.
Longer answer: I think I've said this a few dozen times, and I am more
than happy to say it again now:
I will not, would not, could not, and do not suggest throwing out the
I love the scriptures. I read them. I teach from them. I study them. I memorize
them. I turn to them for guidance.
I value the scriptures.
If you tried to come over to my house and take away my Bibles you would have to
cut off my arms to get them away from me.
Nowhere - not in this post,
or in any of my blog articles, or in my books - never do I suggest that the
Bible is worthless, or irrelevant, or that we should not read it or study it.
That is not what I am saying.
Maybe that is part of our ongoing misunderstanding? When I say that Jesus is greater than the book, or that
the Word of God became flesh and not paper and ink, what some keep hearing me
say is: “The Bible is useless”.
For the record: I love, love, love,
LOVE the scriptures because they point me to Jesus.
But I love Jesus a
bazillion times more!
My relationship is not with a book. Even an amazing book like the Bible.
My relationship is with Jesus.
Yes, I would not know about Jesus if it wasn't for what I have read in
scripture about Him. For that I am sincerely grateful. Very, very grateful.
But now that I DO know Jesus, I have a relationship with Him that is greater
than my relationship with the book.
That does not mean I do not continue to read or study the book. Because I do.
All the time.
What it does mean is that Jesus is more amazing and mysterious and astounding
than any book - even the Bible - can ever fully describe.
Jesus is not the Bible. The Bible is not Jesus.
Jesus is the Word of God made flesh. He came to dwell among us, and now He
lives within us by His Spirit.
I can hear His voice because He is the Good Shepherd and I am one of His sheep.
Does that mean I don't hear His voice through the Scriptures?
No, I do still hear His voice through the Scriptures.
But, I also hear His voice through the Holy Spirit.
I also hear His voice through other people, and sometimes through
dreams, or through circumstances and events, and sometimes even music and art.
Does any of that devalue the Bible?
No. I still value the Bible very much. [see above]
But none of that eclipses Christ Himself. He is not limited by any of those
things but magnified.
"How do we fulfill the Great Commission if we don't teach, instruct and persuade? What about Galatians when Paul told us to rebuke (he said more than rebuke) any who bring a different Gospel? Are we in danger of allowing the Gospel to be subverted if we are soft? I'm asking sincerely, without judgement because I struggle with this issue."
Here's my response: We can't make a disciple until that person is asking to follow Jesus. We don't force people to agree with us and call that disciple-making.
Stage 1: We demonstrate the love of Christ to people and model His character.
Stage 2: We answer them when this behavior begs the question: "What is the reason for the hope [and love] that you have within?"
Stage 3: We slowly introduce them to Jesus and pray for the Holy Spirit to make Himself [and Christ] known to those who are exhibiting hunger for the Bread of Life.
Stage 4: We collaborate with the Holy Spirit in the work that He - and only He - is doing in their hearts, minds and lives.
Stage 5: We teach those people to follow Jesus in their everyday life so that they can start to practice Stage 1 [see above].
If our emphasis is on informing people of another faith - or no faith at all - how "wrong" they are and how "right" we are, we are not obeying Jesus' commands to "go into all the world and preach the Good News of the Kingdom, teaching them to obey all that I have commanded...".
Because the Gospel is not about mere "information", it's about "transformation" and if we are not first transformed by the Gospel into people who love and live differently than those around us, then we'll never convince anyone that this Gospel has the power to transform them either.
We cannot properly speak of the ministry of reconciliation
without first experiencing the very deep and profound ache of separation and
the ruthless brutality of life apart from the love of God.
Once we truly know the overwhelming despair of being so
separated from the Father, then we might begin to understand how a word of
condemnation from our lips could never, in any way, be confused with the kind
of self-giving agape love that Jesus calls us to demonstrate to people who have
never experienced it as we have.
"Love one another as I have loved you." - Jesus
This means that our mission is to love people sincerely, and from the heart.[1 Peter 1:22]
We have to stop first and ask: "How has Jesus loved me?"
And then we take from that list and find ways to duplicate that kind of self-sacrificing, others-focused love to people who need it the most.
How do you know if you're loving people the way Jesus commanded?
Simple: If they feel loved, then you're doing it right.
If they don't feel loved by you, then you're doing it wrong.
No Christian should ever cause anyone to doubt that God loves them.
Honestly, this is a very challenging topic for me. Not only
to write about, but more so to walk out in a practical way.
Here’s why: Because quite often people will mistake engaging
the culture with being political.
For example, systemic racism is a pervasive reality in
America. For many, this is seen as a political issue and not a moral issue.
Therefore, if I write about the evils of racism, or if I point out the injustices
suffered by people of color in this nation, I am often accused of being political.
But justice and politics are not the same thing.
Justice is about pointing out what is wrong [injustice] and
working to make it right again.
So, feeding the hungry, caring for the outcast, standing
alongside the LGBTQ community, speaking out against exploitation, and shining a light on racial inequality isn’t
about politics – it’s about justice.
Politics is about choosing sides, advocating for laws to be passed
or struck down, aligning with a particular ideology and standing for a certain
Those who follow Christ cannot ignore issues of justice. We
cannot turn a blind eye to suffering. We cannot allow people who are made in
the image of God to be marginalized and exploited, especially if there is
something we can do about it.
But, this is where the question arises: What can we do about
For some, a political solution makes the most sense. They rally
around a particular party or politician hoping to bring about justice in that
For others, they are convinced that politics isn’t the best
way to transform a culture or influence society. Instead of pursuing the
political path, these people might instead seek to bring about a change at the grassroots
level. This is often the slower approach to change, but in the long run, it is
the most enduring one.
In the meantime, there are those from both sides who take
the time to care for the broken, comfort the oppressed, and feed the hungry. This
is how we should respond to the immediate needs of people who suffer injustice,
long before we take the justice path or the political option, if we hope to
alleviate the pain.
So, for someone like me who has abandoned the political
option. It can sometimes be challenging to walk the line, so to speak, on
issues of injustice.
There is still a need to critique the culture and to point
out the contrasts between the glorious Kingdom of God and the pathetic kingdoms
of the world.
For some, these critiques are interpreted as being political.
And in some cases they may be right about that. But as long as we can critique
the culture without taking sides, and without becoming nationalistic in the
process, this critique is still valid.
Why? Because our main goal is to transform the culture from
the inside out. One of the ways we do that is to point out how Jesus’ Kingdom
is better and how He has a better plan to transform the world with preemptive
love and proactive agape.
Many Christians take this too far, in my estimation. They
not only want to speak out against injustice and point out the better way of
Jesus, but they continue on to seek out political power and influence of their
own. This, to me, is a mistake.
Why? Because the best way to change the world is through the
Gospel, not through political influence.
Did the early church impact their culture? Yes, they most
Did they do so by infiltrating the Roman government or
political process? No, they did not.
And let’s keep in mind that they most certainly could have
done so if that was their intention. There are numerous examples of Roman
officials and civil magistrates who came to faith in Christ in the early
Instead of seeking to install Christians at the highest
levels of power, they required every one of those new converts to resign their
positions of authority in the Roman government and renounce political entanglements.
"A military commander or civic magistrate must resign or be
rejected. If a believer seeks to become a soldier, he must be rejected, for he
has despised God." (Hippolytus of Rome)
Remember: Their own brothers and sisters in the Body of
Christ were being arrested and put to death during this time. How tempting it must
it have been for them to leverage their political influence to set those people
free and to end the persecution of their faith?
Still, they remained true to their Lord’s example and
refused the temptation to entangle their faith with politics. They were willing
to obey Jesus and remain loyal to His Kingdom even to the death.
What’s more, they didn’t wait for the government to change
the world. They got busy changing it themselves with the best weapon possible:
The Gospel of Jesus.
The Gospel that had transformed their lives from the inside
out was more than powerful enough to transform their neighbors, and their
community, and yes, even their empire – one person at a time.
Untangling ourselves from politics doesn’t mean that we unplug
ourselves from the culture around us. Far from it.
If anything, we must become more engaged with the culture –
and more acquainted with those who are suffering at the hands of the Empire – so
that we can administer the love of Christ and spread the virus of His Kingdom
to those who are broken under the crushing weight of injustice.
We cannot transform the world by disengaging from the culture.
Being salt and light involves getting our hands dirty. We must step into the fight.
We must carry our cross and suffer with those who are suffering.
As my friend Jackie Pullinger once said, “The Gospel is
always life for those who receive it and death for those who bring it.”
Our lives belong to the King. Let’s walk in the power of His
resurrection and bring life and light to those who are in darkness.
I've just finished reading Brian Zahnd's newest book, "Sinners In The Hands Of A Loving God" and it's breath-taking.
I was nearly wrapping up volume one of Greg Boyd's latest book, "Crucifixion of the Warrior God" when the book arrived in the mail.
Both Boyd and Zahnd are coming at the same ideas here, but from slightly different angles of approach. Where Boyd has taken a longer view and a more in-depth scholarly apologetic plan of attack, Zahnd opts for more of a practical, simplified and conversational tone.
Both of them are attempting to describe a Christ-centric hermeneutic or framework for understanding scripture, which is something I also did in my latest book, "Jesus Untangled: Crucifying Our Politics To Pledge Allegiance To The Lamb".
In fact, in chapter 3 of his book, Zahnd covers almost exactly the same territory as I did in chapter 2 of my book, namely the "Flat Bible vs Jesus-Centric" perspectives on scripture.
Honestly, I'm very grateful that my book came out a few months earlier than Zahnd's, otherwise people would claim that I ripped him off. [I know that no one is going to think that Zahnd took his cues from my book].
Still, the good news is that people like Zahnd are affirming this approach and helping to popularize the Jesus-Centered perspective. So, if the "Flat Bible vs Jesus-Centric" approach was challenging for you in my book, perhaps reading Zahnd's take on it might help you get a better grip on what this is all about.
For me, the book really took off on page 30. That's where the author begins to unpack his views on the differences between God as we see Him in the Old Testament and God as Jesus reveals Him in the New Testament:
"It seems obvious that we should accept that as Israel was in the process of receiving the revelation of Yahweh, some unavoidable assumptions were made. One of the assumptions was that Yahweh shared the violent attributes of other deities worshiped in the ancient near east. These assumptions were inevitable, but they were wrong. For example, the Torah assumed that Yahweh, like all the other gods, required ritual blood sacrifice, but eventually the psalmists and prophets take the sacred text beyond this earlier assumption." [page 30]
Finally, Zahnd concludes by saying:
"The Bible is not the perfect revelation of God; Jesus is. Jesus is the only perfect theology. Perfect theology is not a system of theology; perfect theology is a person. Perfect theology is not found in abstract thought; perfect theology is found in the Incarnation. Perfect theology is not a book; perfect theology is the life that Jesus lived. What the Bible does infallibly and inerrantly is point us to Jesus, just like John the Baptist did." [page 31]
Zahnd further develops his thesis around page 60 where he notes:
"Today, Moses and Elijah (the Law and the Prophets) do one thing: they point to Jesus! I'm a Christian, not a Biblicist. The Bible is subordinate to Christ...The final testimony of Moses and Elijah is to recede into the background so that Jesus stands alone as the full and true Word of God. Jesus is what God has to say! "The Bible is the written word of God that bears witness to the living Word of God. God did not become a book, but God did become a human being. The Incarnation is not the creation of the canon of Scripture, but the virgin birth of Jesus Christ. The Bible is not perfect; parts are now obsolete. Surely you admit this. Do you ever worry about violating the biblical prohibition found in Leviticus 19:19 "Nor shall you put on a garment made of two different materials"? Of course not. You understand that part of the Bible to be obsolete as a contemporary command. But nothing about the risen Christ is obsolete. Christ alone is the perfection of God." [Page 60-61]
Zahnd also covers similar territory in this book as N.T. Wright does in his latest book regarding the crucifixion and what is - and what isn't - happening on the cross. Wright's book, "The Day The Revolution Began" is excellent, but it takes a long time to set up the topic and work its way through the various texts.
But, Zahnd takes a more logical and practical approach to those same ideas and does more in one chapter than Wright accomplishes in an entire book. [Not that Wright's book isn't wonderful, but Zahnd's ability to cut to the chase and communicate the truth in a few words is priceless].
For me, one of the truly great chapters of the book is chapter 7 where he explains how to understand the book of Revelation. Honestly, if all you did was buy this book and read that chapter, you'd have your money's worth. I have honestly never read anything that so clearly and simply explained the right way to approach Revelation before. It's amazing. Really, amazing.
Overall, "Sinners In The Hands Of A Loving God" goes a long way towards clarifying what a truly Jesus-Centered approach to scripture looks like, in contrast to the usual "Flat Bible" perspective that has plagued the Church for too long now.
I'm excited to read books like this one, and others mentioned here, that provide a refreshing view of Jesus as the full revelation of God.
For many, this book will be a huge stretch. I understand that. For some, the ideas in this book will be strange, and possibly even scandalous. But keep in mind that Jesus was scandalous in his day, and that the Gospel is scandalous and extremely controversial.
If Jesus version of the Kingdom was so radical and dangerous, why is our faith so safe and predictable?
Christians today need to rediscover the dangerous Gospel and the unsafe Jesus. Brian Zahnd puts Him on full display in this book. It's a glorious and beautiful thing.
I highly recommend you pick up this book and rediscover a more dangerous faith and a more radical Jesus.
In Exodus 33:20, Moses tells us that no one can see God's face and live.
But in the Gospel of John we learn that "no one has ever seen God at any time." [Jn 1:18]
No one, that is, except Jesus.
Jesus is the "exact representation of God's nature" [Heb. 1:3]
In Jesus "the fullness of the Godhead dwells in bodily form" [Col. 2:9]
Jesus says that "if you have seen me, you have seen the Father." [Jn. 14:9]
And the Apostle Paul tells us that "in the face of Christ" God has "shone in our hearts the light of the knowledge of the glory of God." [2 Cor. 4:7]
So, where Moses and the Old Testament proclaims that no one can see God and live, Jesus and the New Testament scriptures reveal to us that is only those who have seen the face of God [in Christ] who really have life.
Have you seen the face of God and lived?
If you have seen Christ, then you have seen the face of God.
"This is eternal life, that they may know...the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." - Jesus [Jn. 17:3]
Now, keep your eyes on Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face.
He has promised to stay with you, and to never leave you.
You will never know another moment of time, or take another breath, without Him.
Are Christians really unable to set aside their religious differences to embrace someone of another faith?
For example, most Christians I know fully embrace Judaism. They love the Jewish faith. They use Jewish terms for Jesus and Messiah ["Yeshua", "Mashiac", etc.]. They wear the Star of David proudly. They observe the Jewish Passover meal. They even pray for the peace of Israel.
The Jewish faith denies that Christ is the Messiah. They refuse to accept that Jesus is born of a virgin. They do not believe that Jesus performed miracles. They do not believe that Jesus ascended into Heaven. They do not believe that Jesus is alive today or that Jesus is returning to judge the world.
But none of that matters to most Evangelical Christians today.
They are totally capable of enthusiastically overlooking all of that for the sake of what we have in common with Judaism - which is namely the Old Testament scriptures.
Now, just imagine that the Jews DID believe all of these things. Could you imagine American Christians rejecting the Jewish people?
But they DO reject Muslims who happen to affirm all of these things about Jesus!
Islam teaches that:
- Jesus is the “Word of God”
- Jesus is the “Spirit of God”
- Jesus is “the Messiah"
- Jesus creates life
- Jesus cured a man born blind, and a man with leprosy.
- Jesus gives life to dead people.
- Jesus went to heaven.
- Jesus is still alive today.
- Jesus will come again to judge the entire world.
[See chapter 3, verses 45-55, the Qu’ran]
Can you imagine rejecting someone who believed all of these things about Jesus?
Can you imagine refusing to engage in a dialog with someone who already had such an amazing foundation of faith in Jesus?
Yet, somehow, Christians feel totally ok embracing one faith which denies all of these things about Jesus while rejecting another faith which affirms all of the same things about Him.
Does this make any sense?
Not to me it doesn't.
You have a choice. You can either:
A) Keep making lists of all the ways you are right and Muslims are wrong
B) Look for how much you have in common with them about Jesus and enter into a fruitful dialog with a Muslim about Him.
One path will result in more division and violence.
The other path will result in an amazing conversation of Jesus with a Muslim and the opportunity for understanding and peace.
So...what are you most interested in here?
As long as you are only interested in seeking a path for opposition and division, you will keep on making those lists of how "wrong" they are.
But, if you are ready to start seeking a path for peace, and for reconciliation, you will take full advantage of an amazing opportunity to talk with a Muslim about Jesus.
What would a religion of peace really teach you to do here?
If you really belong to a peaceful religion, then take the path of peace: Engage in an open dialog with a Muslim about all you have in common about Jesus.
The other day I shared something on social media about the common ground we have with Muslims. Essentially, it's a very long list of things that both Christians and Muslims agree about when it comes to Jesus.
You can read the post where this common ground is outlined here>
But the response to this post was what really bothered me.
Instead of Christians affirming this common ground, or celebrating what we have in common - which is Jesus - mostly what I heard instead was a long list of what we disagree with Muslims about.
"But, they don't have the same Jesus."
"They don't believe Jesus was crucified."
"They don't believe Jesus was the Son of God."
And on and on the comments went.
Yes, I am well aware [I think we all are] that Christians and Muslims disagree on many things.
But the point is this: If we want to find a way to share with them about the Jesus we know, we have a very natural place to start that conversation.
However: If all we want to do is to prove that we are right and they are wrong, then we will continue to remain in an "Us vs Them" posture.
The irony of this is that Christians who refuse to accept what we have in common with Muslims are the ones who are also refusing to take any steps towards peace and reconciliation.
And while they are in the process of refusing to move towards peace and reconciliation, they are at the very same time arguing that is is the Muslims who are violent and uninterested in peace.
If we are truly committed to peace-making and ready to embrace the ministry of reconciliation, then we cannot continue to refuse to seek common ground for dialog about Jesus.
Please remember: Our ministry is not to prove that we are right and they are wrong.
Our mission is to love others as Christ has loved us.
As long as we make this about who is right or wrong, we will always have division.
But, if we can be mature enough to set that argument aside long enough to engage in a conversation about what we all agree on, there is hope for peace and understanding.
Especially if what we agree on involves a conversation about Jesus.
In other words:
If you want to see all that divides us, then that is what you will find.
If you are looking for what brings unity, then you will find plenty of that, as well.
So, what are you looking for?
Are you looking for a fight? Then you will only think in terms of who is right and who is wrong.
Are you looking for peace? Then you will only think in terms of what you have in common and build a bridge from there.
"Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God." - Jesus [Matthew 5:9]
"Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation..." [2 Cor. 5:18]
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