Issue #20

Athanasius, Free for Responsibility, Francis Chan, and more...

Issue #20
Photo by Caleb Woods / Unsplash

Athanasius and the Proof of the Resurrection through Christian Fearlessness

Recently I read St. Athanasius’ On the Incarnation 📚. Athanasius was a bishop of the early-mid 300s A.D. church in Alexandria, Egypt. He was one of the most important church fathers because he was influential in discovering and explaining Trinitarian theology against the popular Arian heresy of the time (Jehovah’s Witnesses are modern Arians).

In the book, I found a peculiar “proof” that Athanasius gives supporting Jesus being the true God and Christianity being the true religion.

Of old, before the divine sojourn of the Savior, all used to weep for those dying as if they were perishing. But since the Savior’s raising the body, no longer is death fearsome, but all believers in Christ tread on it as nothing, and would rather choose to die than deny their faith in Christ. For they really know that when they die they are not destroyed, but both live and become incorruptible through the resurrection…And the proof of this is that human beings, before believing Christ, view death as fearsome and are terrified at it. But when they come to faith in him and to his teaching, they so despise death that they eagerly rush to it and become witnesses to the resurrection over it effected by the Savior. For even while they are still young in stature they hasten to die, and not only men but also women practice for it with exercises.

This “proof” that Christ has been raised is interesting. If I’m not mistaken, this was after the point that Christianity was legal in the Roman Empire, but the memory of the Christian martyrs lives on. So powerful was their commitment to Christ in the face of intense persecution, including death, that Athanasius can use their witness as proof that death is dead. And if death is dead, then Jesus lives.

Of course, people of other religions may die for what they believe to be true. Still, the witness of these Christians through their willingness to die was immense, even to the point that they would prepare and rehearse their deaths to ensure they would not deny Christ when the time came. We don’t see that in the modern west today. There are martyrs all over the globe, but by and large, the Christian church is so self-centered that we think the Kingdom of Heaven rises and falls on our political successes.

I think that we need a new revival of humility, service, and commitment to suffer for the name of Christ. That is when the church of the modern West will be at its most powerful. Those who are last will be first.

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Christianity Is True ✝️

Do We Need God to Be Good? | Unbelievable with Andy Bannister and Peter Singer 📽 →

This debate between atheist ethicist Peter Singer and Christian philosopher Andy Bannister was really fun. I profoundly disagree with Singer on most of his ethical reasoning, but I respect the consistency that he approaches his atheistic philosophy with. Andy is funny but also insightful in his questions and attempts to poke holes in Singer’s reasoning.

Explore the Scriptures 📖

What Does ‘New Heaven and New Earth’ Mean in 2 Peter 3:13? | Donald L. Morcom 📃 →

The Logos blog uses an excerpt from Morcom’s commentary on 2 Peter to answer the question: will the present age be destroyed and rebuilt, or will it be transformed? Here is the context:

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief; on that day the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, the elements will burn and be dissolved, and the earth and the works on it will be disclosed. Since all these things are to be dissolved in this way, it is clear what sort of people you should be in holy conduct and godliness as you wait for the day of God and hasten its coming. Because of that day, the heavens will be dissolved with fire and the elements will melt with heat. But based on his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.

— 2 Peter 3:10-13 (CSB)

According to Morcom, many commentators see the present creation being completely wiped away and destroyed, and we will see a completely new creation. This may seem obvious from the text, but it may surprise you to know that many Christians have held a different view.

The alternate view is that this fire will test and purify everything that doesn’t meet the standard of the new creation, like in 1 Corinthians 3:12-15. Creation will be liberated (Romans 8:21), not destroyed.

6 Questions about the Book of Job | Christopher Ash 📃 →

Christopher Ash answers six questions about Job from his book (linked below). The book of Job is difficult. It begins with a strange scene in God’s kingly court and is followed by intense suffering that is difficult to understand. Then Job’s friends arrive and it’s difficult to know if we can trust them or not. Then God starts speaking, and while his words are impressive, it seems to end unresolved. I’ll leave you with the six questions Ash answers:

  1. Is the book of Job about suffering?
  2. What are we to make of Job’s comforters?
  3. Did Job deserve his sufferings?
  4. Why is the book of Job so long?
  5. Who or what is Leviathan?
  6. Is there any hope in the book of Job?

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Read and Reflect 📖

The Holy Spirit Sets Us Free For Responsibility, Not From It | Chris E. W. Green 📃 →

While I don’t think I would describe myself as a pentecostal, I certainly believe in the Spirit’s continued work in the life of a believer. I believe that the gifts of the Spirit outlined in 1 Corinthians 11-14 are still operative today.

Chris Green, looking at Christians who claim a continued public work and inward speech of the Spirit (as opposed to Cessationist Christians, who mostly look at inward transformation as the Spirit’s enduring work), observes:

Although it is surely not what anyone intended, many Pentecostals have come to think of the Spirit as a kind of ultimate life hack, a means of avoiding pain, eliminating difficulties, overcoming obstacles, and assuring success.

Otherworldly Pentecostals tend to think the Spirit’s work is limited to the domain of personal spiritual experience. This way of imagining the Spirit-led life gives rise to a kind of dissociative state. Believers become more and more absorbed in their own experiences, and less and less concerned with the needs of their neighbors.

Dominionist Pentecostals, including those who feel driven to fulfill the “Seven Mountain Mandate,” tend to go another step and think the Spirit’s work is to exalt believers into positions of authority and influence. This way of imagining the Spirit-led life leads to collusion with political and economic powers and a weaponizing or instrumentalizing charismatic gifts for partisan and commercial gains.

Green cautions that there is a better way to look at the Spirit’s work than as a “life-hack,” but as the one who frees us to be responsible. We are called, first and foremost, to discern and reason with the wisdom of God and by the power of the Spirit. We are called to see injustice and, by the wisdom of God and the power of the Spirit, work to bring justice. We are called to see those who are hurting and help them through the gifts God has given us, and by supernatural giftings of power if God so chooses.

Listen and Learn 🎧

The C.S. Lewis Podcast | Premier Christian Radio with Alistair McGrath 🎧 →

Alistair McGrath, like Lewis, is an Oxford-educated Irishman and Christian Apologist. Because of the similarities in their backgrounds, McGrath wrote a biography of Lewis’ life and now has started a podcast discussing various topics about Lewis’ life and writings. Each episode is short—less than 30 minutes—and the first season has covered mostly Lewis’ background but has also dipped into his books on Narnia and other topics. The second season seems to be focusing on his book Mere Christianity.

The second season recently started, but I recommend starting from the beginning.

For More:

Living This Christian Life 🤴👸

The Book I Keep Rereading—Even though It Gets Less Funny Each Time | Randy Newman 📃 →

This is the second link about C.S. Lewis in this letter. A part of the Rediscovering Forgotten Classics series for The Gospel Coalition, Newman writes about The Screwtape Letters | C.S. Lewis 📚, which is also a favorite of mine.

If you haven’t read it before, The Screwtape Letters is a fictional compilation of letters from a demon to his nephew and protogé Wormwood. Screwtape, the uncle, tries to help his nephew lead his assigned human astray from God in various situations and ways.

When I first picked up The Screwtape Letters, I thought it would be funny. How could a fictional series of letters from a senior demon to a young trainee not be hilarious?

And it is funny. But the humor has a bite:

But I soon found the book far more probing than entertaining. Lewis shines the light of Christian reflection on sin and temptation in revealing and disturbing ways. He does cause me to chuckle—but that only makes me drop my guard long enough to feel conviction and repent.

It is simultaneously easy for a child to read, and difficult for an adult to read. The difficulty doesn’t come from big words or difficult to parse sentences. It’s difficult because while the book is fictional, the topics it addresses are not. This is a book that you could breeze through in a (long) sitting, but I recommend only reading a chapter a day. This is a perfect book for a reading group too; it simply begs to be discussed.

For More:

Best with a Cup of Tea ☕️

An Interview with Francis Chan | The Remnant Radio 📽 →

I enjoyed this interview of Francis Chan by the Remnant Radio crew. Chan has become one of the most polarizing, or perhaps bewildering, names in evangelical Christiandom. From the video description:

What do the POPE, TODD WHITE, AND HANK HANAGRAPH all have in common? They all know Francis Chan. Francis is a riddle wrapped in an enigma that has caught the attention of the conservative evangelical movement. As a graduate of Masters seminary and a pastor of a thriving megachurch, Francis Chan was a rising star in the conservative evangelical movement. He was a regular guest to the Passion conference, Desiring God, and IHOP's One thing, Francis was one of the most popular names on the conference circuit and amongst publishers. 

That is until he started making decisions that were "self-sabotaging" in the eyes of western evangelicalism. Francis left his megachurch to start a network of house churches that were centered around authentic discipleship. Only to leave his now thriving home churches to do missions in China. All the while Francis begins to share stages with those on the evangelical blacklist. Who is Francis and what is driving his consciousness into the spotlight of controversy?

All of these topics and more are talked about in this 1-hour 20-minute interview. I enjoyed the discussion of Church unity vs. truth. We know that the Gospel requires unity in the church (Galatians 5:13, 1 John 3:11, etc.), but it also requires truth (John 14:6). How can we bridge the church’s divides over what is true? Chan doesn’t have a silver bullet answer, but I think that he has been embodying it better than many.

Keep Your Mind on Things Above

I will be praying for you this week.

Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.

— Matthew 5:8 (CSB)

Joel Fischer