Wednesday, May 31, 2017

PODCAST: Film Discussion "The Mission"

In this episode Cody Cook and I talked about the 1986 film The Mission, and particularly dissected its themes of love, forgiveness, violence, and the corrupting entanglement of church and state. 
Audio can also be downloaded below or found on iTunes if you search “Cantus Firmus.”

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

How Selective Tolerance Leads To More Violence

The tug-of-war with Christians who are committed to making lists of all the ways that Islam is wrong and Christianity is right continues.

After my previous posts about how Christians are too "right" for their own good, I received even more comments about - you guessed it - how wrong Islam is and how right Christianity is.


And on and on it goes.

Are Christians really unable to set aside their religious differences to embrace someone of another faith?

Not exactly.

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.

But why?

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.

I dare you.


Monday, May 29, 2017


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.

Choose wisely.

"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]

Did this post bless you or challenge you? Please consider sharing it with your friends on social media.

READ THE NEXT ARTICLE IN THIS SERIES: How Selective Tolerance Leads To More Violence


Friday, May 26, 2017


JUNE 23-25, 2017

Berry Street Worship Center
225 Berry Street
Nashville, TN 37207

Registration: $35 

Richard Jacobson [author of Unchurching]
Steve Simms [author of Beyond Church]


JULY 21, 2017, 2pm to 5pm

South Fellowship Church
6560 S Broadway
Centennial, CO 80121

Registration: $15 early bird tickets

AUGUST 19, 2017, 2pm to 5pm

A Place To Talk Event Center
1546 Brookford Church Rd
Hickory, NC 28602-5350

Herb Montgomery, [founder of Renewed Heart Ministries]

Thursday, May 25, 2017


Early Bird Registration for the Jesus Untangled: Colorado event is now available for just $15.

Sat, July 22, 2017
2:00 PM – 5:00 PM MDT

South Fellowship Church
6560 S Broadway
Centennial, CO 80121

BONUS: Those who register early will receive an exclusive 85 page ebook with new material not available in "Jesus Untangled".


What if the greatest threat to Christianity in America was actually "American" Christianity?

Join author Keith Giles as he leads a discussion about the dangers of mixing faith and politics and how Christians in America can rediscover unity in this volatile political climate.
In this interactive session, Keith will explain how entanglement with politics distracts us from the Kingdom of God, and how it is damaging the effectiveness of the Gospel.


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

SESSION 1: Jesus Untangled: Cincinnati - Keith Giles

This is a live recording of Session 1: Jesus Untangled:Cincinnati led by author Keith Giles.

Recorded live on Saturday, May 20, 2017 at Northstar Community Church, Loveland, OH.

In this session, author Keith Giles speaks about the need to separate our faith and our politics.

NOTE: Apologies for the final Q&A session cutting out at the end.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

FINAL: Podcast Dialog - "Does The Evangelical View of the Cross Lead To Violence?"

Awesome Part 3 of a conversation between Quoir authors Matthew Distefano, Keith Giles, and Jamal Jivanjee and about how Evangelical Christian views of the crucifixion relate to ideas about redemptive violence, and more.

In this Podcast we talk about:
  • 2:30 – Are we making claims for the Bible that it doesn’t even make for itself?
  • 9:55 – What is a “Flat Bible” perspective vs a “Jesus-Centric” perspective?
  • 14:50 – Why Jesus is superior to the Old Testament
  • 18:40 – Has the Bible hindered Christianity?
  • 26:00 – Is it appropriate to “chuck the Scripture”?
  • 30:25 – Why context matters
  • 31:50 – Why the Holy Spirit and community are essential to understanding Scripture

Monday, May 22, 2017


How can I summarize what God did this weekend in Cincinnati?
As someone who makes a living as a writer, it's not often I find myself at a loss for words.
Not that the event itself was something so remarkable that no one could explain it. It was a simple gathering of people - around 20 of us - who came together to hear more about Jesus and His Kingdom and our place in that Kingdom.
Not that the connections we made with one another were so unusual or out of the ordinary that the universe had to stop and reorient itself. We simply reconnected with people we hadn't seen in a long time, and made new connections with people who were family all along, but we just didn't know it until this weekend.
For me, the focus was that three hour block of time on Saturday. That was what I thought I was there for. That's what I had prayed about and prepared for. All my energies were on the presentation, the conversations and the "results" of that time.
What God showed me was that I was really in Cincinnati for everything that came before and after that window of time.
The private conversations. The tearful testimonies. The sincere expressions of love and affection. The gratitude expressed. The laughter around a table where a meal was shared together. The prayers for one another around a quiet living room.
That's why I was there.

And I am so blessed, my friends. I am so blessed and so honored to be so very loved.
Thank you, everyone, for making the drive, for taking the time, for giving your talent, and your resources to surround me with your love and support this weekend.
I know the Lord is doing something truly wonderful in Cincinnati. I know that He is stirring people up and nourishing seeds - some of them planted long ago - to grow towards the light and break through the soil.
The Kingdom of God is advancing in this place. The life and light and love of Jesus is pouring down in great abundance.
People there can smell it, like the scent of a rainstorm on the breeze. They are opening like flowers to receive the waters of new life and transformation is at hand.
I cannot wait to see what the Lord is about to do in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Just wait and see.....

Thursday, May 18, 2017

PART 2: PODCAST- Does The Evangelical View of the Cross Lead To Violence?

Part 2 of a conversation between Quoir authors Keith Giles, Jamal Jivanjee and Matthew Distefano about how Evangelical Christian views of the crucifixion relate to ideas about redemptive violence, and more.

NOTE: I personally do not believe that the Penal Substitutionary Atonement Theory is what ultimately leads to violence. 

Case in point: The early Christians did not embrace this PSA theory until John Calvin introduced it in the 1500s, and yet they did engage in a lot of violence against others, and even one another.

However: The PSA view does impact the way we see God and it does often provide justification for our own violence because, if God is violent can't we be violent, too?

In this Podcast we talk about:
*Why did Jesus have to die on the cross?
*What is the mechanism that creates the necessity for Christ's death?
*What is Mimetic Theory and how does it relate to the crucifixion?
*If Jesus wasn't killed by His Father to satisfy His wrath and make it possible for us to be forgiven, then what was the cross all about?
*Why did Peter deny Jesus? Was this a special character flaw or are we all wired to go along with the crowd?
*Why is Jesus' invitation to "Follow Me" crucial to our ingrained tendency to imitate the desire of others?
*What does it mean to say that "No one has ever seen God at any time [except Jesus]?"




Suggested reading for further study:
*Reading the Bible with Rene Girard, edited by Michael Hardin
*I See Satan Fall Like Lightning by Rene Girard
*From The Blood of Abel by Matthew Distefano
*Raising Abel by James Alison
*Desire Found Me by Andre Rabe

For more on the "Flat Bible vs Jesus-Centric" discussion:
*Jesus Untangled:Crucifying Our Politics To Pledge Allegiance To The Lamb by Keith Giles

Online Resources:
VIDEO: The Monster God Debate [Start with part 2 here]
VIDEO: The Beautiful Gospel by Brad Jersak


Wednesday, May 17, 2017


Discovered in the ruins of a Pompeii house covered in the ash of Mount Vesuvius' eruption in 79 AD, this was found etched into the wall of a home:


These are five words in Latin which roughly translate to: "The sower/farmer with his eye on the plough turns the wheel with care."

Essentially a veiled reference [some argue] to the sower parable told by Jesus, with references to the "plough" as a nod to discipleship and keeping our eye [and our hands] to the plough [which is yet another metaphor used by Jesus in terms of discipleship].

But that's not all.

Notice that the first word "ROTAS" runs left and right at the top of the square, but also runs north and south at the far left of the square.

Now, notice that "ROTAS" at the top and "SATOR" at the bottom are the same word written backwards and forwards.

Notice also that "OPERA" and "APERO" in the next rows are mirrors of each other.

Now, notice that the center word "TENET" is itself a palindrome [meaning it's the same spelled forward or backwards].

Also note that "TENET" runs left and right and north and south which forms a cross in the center of the square.

And please also notice that the letter "T" is fixed at the center top and bottom, and the center left and right. [The letter "T" was synonymous with the symbol for the cross].

So...what's the big deal?

Well, if you take those letters and scramble them - keeping the letter "N" at the dead center - you end up with the phrase "PATER NOSTER" which, in Latin is the beginning of the Lord's Prayer: "Our Father".

And also, there are two sets of "Our Father" which form the shape of the cross with the two letters "A" and "O" left over.

Why are those significant? Because "A" and "O" map to the words "Alpha" and "Omega".

For a more detailed explanation, watch this video:

Essentially, this First Century word puzzle was an early Christian way of sharing their faith in an interesting and creative way.

What do you think?

Leave your comments below.


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

PODCAST: Does the Evangelical View of the Cross Lead to Violence?

Excited to share part one of this amazing conversation between fellow Quoir authors, Jamal Jivanjee, Matthew Distefano and myself about the by-products of Penal Substitutionary Atonement - or the idea that God killed Jesus to satisfy His wrath so He could forgive us.

Listen to part one and let us know what you think!

NOTE: Part 1 of this conversation is hosted by Jamal. Part 2 will be hosted here on this blog and Matt will host Part 3 on his blog.

Why The Evangelical Message About The Cross Leads To Violence: An Interview With Quoir Authors Keith Giles and Matthew Distefano 

Although Jesus was the prince of peace and demonstrated love and non-violence throughout his life, evangelical Christians by and large have been the most consistent defenders of empire building, military action, and war. The reason for this anomaly among Christian behavior isn't simply hypocrisy, however. This behavior could very well be rooted in the way we have been taught to see the cross and the nature of divine justice. Because humans are reflective beings, people will always reflect the God they perceive.

At the 6:15 mark, we discuss the disconnect that penal substitution theory causes between our view of God as father, and our view of Jesus.

At the 10:00 mark, we discuss the fallacy of believing that sin separates us from God.

At the 14:30 mark, we discuss why Jesus actually was crucified.

At the 20:54 mark, we discuss why Penal Substitution Theory of the cross was not a view held by early Christians. Penal Substitution Theory, as commonly found in modern evangelical thinking, was largely a creation of John Calvin. 


Thursday, May 11, 2017

Why Did Jesus Die? by Kevin Carter

[Guest Post]

NOTE: This post was written in response to the previous post about whether or not the Father turned His face away from Jesus on the Cross.

[As] Rob Bell pointed out on one of his podcasts, the connection with those words [“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”] and a common prayer that was prayed based on the Psalms when one neared Death. That [revelation] was part of one of the original understandings that started to unravel my belief in God's hatred of sin requiring death and judgment.

I now realize, that there are many other ideas for why Christ had to die. There are two that are compelling to me, and I take them both seriously:


1. He died to show us how to live. Christ's entire life was meant to be something we followed. He was not interested in controlling people's moral actions, instead every action was meant as a means of self-sacrifice so that others may have life and have it more abundantly – right here, right now on Earth – not just in a reward in the afterlife.

As a result, His life could have ended no other way than in death as a proof to us that our lives are not ours, but are to be given out in service of others, even if it means we have to give up our own life so that others may experience better life.

His resurrection was then a reminder that even in death, it isn't an end to us, but that God has power over life and death and there is more for us. Death isn't an end, but only a beginning and so giving it up for another isn't a terrible end to life, but a beautiful beginning.

2.He died because we required a sacrifice. The view that resonates the most with me however is that Christ's death wasn't because God could not bear to look at sin and required death and blood to overcome his aversion to it, but that we could not look at sin without requiring blood and vengeance. The entire sacrificial system was simply man's best effort at serving a loving, Holy God in light of our own understanding of intrinsic evil in and amongst us.

[NOTE: Remember that Caiphas, the High Priest, said, “It is better for one man to die for the people than for the whole nation to be destroyed.” He meant that in a practical sense, not spiritually.]

God however has always loved us, always called us towards a more beautiful, peaceful life by overcoming that evil around us rather than having it control us. God has never required a sacrifice for His love, we simply assumed He did.

[NOTE: See Jesus in Matt. 9:13; 12:7; and also Heb. 10:8; Ps. 51:16, Hosea 6:6, 1 Sam. 15:22]

As a result, God also knew that humanity would never be free to truly bring about the Kingdom of God on Earth if they were hampered by a transactional system that left them in bondage. So Jesus died, not so that God could forgive us of our sins, but that we could.

To me that makes His death even more beautiful.

It's always troubled me that God set up such a broken and dirty system whereby God allowed sin into the world, but then required death of anyone entangled by it.

Instead [this view] shows us that God never required the death of Jesus for His own ends, but freely gave it for ours.

Those two ideas have radically changed the way I interact with the world around me in light of Christ's life, and I'll never go back to where I was before.


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Debunking the Myth that the Father turned away from Jesus on the Cross

On the cross, Jesus cried out, “My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me?”

From this single sentence, many bible teachers and pastors have theorized that it was in this moment that the Father looked away from Jesus – because of all of our sins being laid upon Jesus – and it was in this moment that Jesus experienced separation from the Father for the only time in all of eternity.

As dramatic and poetically compelling that might be, the truth is simply this: The Bible nowhere supports this theory.

So, where does it come from?

Well, apparently the teaching that the Father actually did forsake Jesus on the cross, and that Jesus experienced separation from the Father comes from a few assumptions:

First, the assumption that God is too holy to look upon sin.
Second, the assumption that Jesus’ cry from the cross at that moment was meant to communicate that His Father did actually forsake him.

Let’s take these two assumptions one at a time and see if they are true.

Is God really too holy to look upon sin? Not according to the scriptures.

Instead, we see all throughout the Bible that God does indeed look at mankind. We see that God’s eyes move to and fro over all the earth, searching the hearts and minds of His people. [See 2 Chron.16:9; Job 31:4; Jerem. 16:17; Zech. 4:10; etc.]

“And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.” – [Heb. 4:13]

Q: What would happen if God wasn’t able to look at sin?
A: It would mean that looking at us would be pointless because all He could ever see was a world full of sinful people [which is everyone].

The doctrine that God is too holy to look upon sin is actually based on one single verse of scripture in the Old Testament that says:

Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrongdoing.”  [Habbukuk 1:13]

But if you keep reading that chapter what you’ll notice is that Habbukuk wraps up that statement by asking: “So, why do you?”

In other words, the question is asked assumptively, but then the question itself is cast into doubt as the prophet observes that God does indeed look on evil after all.

Another verse that is often used to support this idea that God is too holy to look upon our sins is found in Isaiah where we read:

“But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.” [Isaiah 59:2]

But if we keep reading [a good idea as you can see], we read:

“The Lord looked and was displeased that there was no justice. He saw that there was no one,
he was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm achieved salvation for him,
and his own righteousness sustained him.” [v.16]

As for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the Lord. “My Spirit,who is on you, will not depart from you…” [v.21]

So, here, in the very same chapter, we read that God DOES look, and that He DOES see our sins, and that “[His] Spirit…will not depart…”

Finally, let’s look at Jesus. He was the “exact representation of the Father” and he was the only one who had ever seen God and who came to reveal the Father to us.

What do we notice about Jesus? Does He, as God in the flesh, avert his gaze when surrounded by sinners? Hardly! Instead, those sinners are his closest friends. He spends so much time with them that the religious elite [who, by the way, were too holy to spend time with sinners], criticized him for it.

So, is God really “too holy to look on our sin”?

Absolutely not!

Second: When Jesus says, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” doesn’t that mean that His Father really did forsake Him?


This statement from Jesus was a quote from Psalm 22 which begins:

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish?” [v.1]

But, this is a Messianic Psalm. In this Psalm we also read prophetic statements like:

“…they pierce my hands and my feet.” [v. 16]
“…They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.” [v.18]

Perhaps Jesus is quoting this Psalm because he hopes to point out how these exact words are being fulfilled in their midst?

Note also what this same Psalm has to say about what God is doing:

“For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.” [v.24]


The Psalmist says that they will pierce the hands and the feet of the Messiah, and that they will divide his clothes and cast lots for his garments…and that God “will not hide His face from him”.

So…once more I need to ask: “Did the Father turn His face away from Jesus when He was on the cross?”

No. Not even once.

Finally, notice that Jesus affirms that His Father will never abandon Him:

“Jesus replied. “A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me. I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” [John 16:31-33]

Notice that Jesus not only affirms that His Father will not leave him [even though the disciples will], but that this abandonment by the disciples and the ever-present nature of the Father occurs at the same time: While Jesus is hanging on the cross!

This really should not surprise us.

God promises all through the scriptures that He will never leave us or forsake us.
Jesus reminds us that He will be with us always, even unto the end of the age.
[See Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5; Deut. 31:6, Isaiah 41:10, etc.]

So, to recap:

The Father did NOT look away from Jesus while He was on the cross.
God is NOT too holy to look at sin. [Jesus did it all the time]
God will NOT leave or forsake us, either.

I hope that helps!
If this has blessed you, please share it with your friends on social media.


*NOTE: Written with assistance from insights gleaned from Brian Zahnd, Brad Jersak and others.

For more on this: