While I realize that other faiths, particularly Islam and Jehovah’s Witnesses, will disagree with this point and assert firmly that the Christian doctrine of the Trinity is a form of polytheism, any informed Christian will tell you in the strongest of terms that the existence of only a single God is absolutely foundational to the core of Christianity. In fact, it was this point of contention which created so much of the strife between the early church and the Roman empire it was subject to during the first few centuries. Romans were essentially pluralistic, affirming the existence of multiple gods and often content to let their subjects believe whatever they wanted, that is, so long as they were willing to give the token affirmations of the Caesar’s deity. For the Romans, it was simple: if you want to worship Zeus, worship Zeus and say Caesar is lord. If you want to worship Mithras, worship Mithras and say Caesar is lord. If you want to worship Athena or Aphrodite or Mars or whoever, that’s fine as long as you say Caesar is lord. Christians, however, were unwilling to do that. Because of the teachings of Jesus and the apostles that we are to submit to the government God has placed over us as long as their commands or edicts do not conflict with the expressed commands of God, early Christians did not see themselves as political zealots or social reformers, but also recognized that they ultimately answered to God. The persecution of Christians under Nero and Diocletian and others was initially spurred by their resolute refusal to admit the deity of anyone other than Jesus. “Caesar is Lord” would not pass the lips of early Christians. Oddly enough, Christians were actually being accused of atheism by their Roman rulers because of their refusal to affirm the Greco-Roman deities of their day, which led to the story of the church father Polycarp, a student of the Apostle John, who was brought before a Roman council and given the chance to save his own life by simply declaring, “Away with the atheists”, referring to his fellow believers. He complied, but with a sweeping gesture to the Romans in the room. The crowd perfectly understood his meaning and he was martyred.
When I first began my journey into apologetics, I was primarily interested in the creation/evolution debate. That in turn led me into arguments for the existence of God, the reliability of the bible and several other topics. However, I am finding recently that a rigorous defense of the life, claims, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth is a far more versatile approach than, for example, the Kalaam Cosmological Argument or the rise of biological information within living cells. That’s not to denigrate someone who wants to take those approaches – I do think there’s value in being able to articulate and defend those ideas – but I have begun to realize that focusing on the person and work of Jesus will be useful with a far broader range of people. Arguing for the existence of God on the basis of the beginning of the universe may be a fruitful approach when dealing with agnostics or atheists, but by itself it only shows that God exists and gives us a few clues about his nature. If the Kalaam goes through, we still have to deal with the question of which God is responsible for creating the universe. Additionally, we are called to bring the gospel to all people, not just atheists, and a Jew or a Muslim does not need to be convinced that God created the universe. They’ll happily agree with you on that all-day long. The point of contention that nearly every other faith system has with biblical Christianity is simply this: Who was Jesus?
It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Christian apologist and former homicide detective, J. Warner Wallace. I listen to his podcast weekly, I own all of his books, I took my kids through the Cold Case Christianity for Kids curriculum and I had the privilege of hearing him speak at the men’s study at my church a few years back. Needless to say, when I saw his latest book show up on Amazon, I was on that “preorder” button like a fat kid on cake. It would be some eight months before the book actually showed up at my door.
I just wanted to put up a quick update. The last month or so has been pretty hectic and normally the first thing to go out the window when I find myself strapped for time is my writing. It’s not the best practice for someone who has far-fetched dreams of being a professional write, but that’s what it is. I don’t think CPA would appreciate it if I told them I couldn’t feed my kids or take them to school because I was too busy writing a blog post.
At about mid-March, we started to receive news from the other side of the country that my wife’s grandfather was nearing his end. He’d been battling leukemia, skin cancer, and diabetes for a few years and time was short, so she planned a last-minute trip to go visit him knowing that it might be the last chance she would get. I stayed home with the kids for about a week, during which time I gained a whole new respect for single parents.
We had a few days to recover before we started preparations for another trip, this time with the whole family, to go visit my grandmother for Easter. The day before we left, I came into the office to find that my supervisor at work had quit without notice and I was being asked to fill in for him – permanently if I wanted to, which I didn’t – or at least cover the administrative tasks he normally performed until a replacement could be found. I had plans to spend my trip writing both fiction and blog posts but, as normally happens when southern food is being forced on you in large quantities, I spent most of the trip sleeping off various food comas.
Once I returned, I began a deep dive into a new book, determined to take diligent notes so I could discuss the material and/or write a review here, but with increased hours, shrinking lunches and the weekly men’s bible study coming to a close at church for the season, my time to dedicate to writing was taxed heavily. The good news is that I finished the book – even if it took longer than I wanted – and am in the process of transcribing my notes so I can start the planned posts and review.
Now, as I write this, I am sitting in yet another in-laws house on the opposite side of the country. A week ago we received the phone call we’d been expecting. My wife’s grandfather’s health had finally taken a severe turn for the worse and he was given 24 hours to live. Sure enough, he died the next day and we began making last minute travel plans for the third time in a month.
Going forward, I’m hoping to have more time to dedicate to writing than I’ve had in some weeks. The men’s study at church is over for the season and not scheduled to start again until September which means less weekly homework, I’m done with traveling (probably for the year), the kids will be done with school soon which means no homework for them, and I’ve finished the reading projects I’ve been working on.
The plan for the moment is to review two books that I’ve read over the last few weeks: The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus, by Michael Licona and Gary Habermas, and Forensic Faith, by J. Warner Wallace, then going to set up a series of posts looking at the historical evidence for the resurrection. In the meantime, likely interwoven between the others, I’m going to continue my series looking at the Irreconcilable Differences, or incompatible doctrines, between Mormonism and biblical Christianity. Having attended a catholic funeral yesterday, I’m also considering a few posts looking at the simultaneous importance and danger of religious rituals as well as the importance of legacy and what we want to leave behind when we move on from this world.
Thank you to all who are still peeking in on the site to see what is new. You’d be surprised how even a handful of hits per day can be a motivator to keep going when the keyboard is dusty and the fingers are rusty.
Til next time...
Writer, artist, lay theologian, student of comparative religion.