But one of the Twelve, Thomas, called Didymus, was not there when Jesus came to them. So then, the other disciples said to him, “We’ve seen the Master!”
But he said to them, “If I don’t see in his hands those nail wounds, if I can’t put my finger in them, and if I can’t put my hand in his side, I will not believe.”
And after a week, again the disciples gathered together and Thomas was with them. The doors being shut, Jesus came and stood in the middle of them. He said, “Peace be with you!”
Then he said to Thomas, “Bring your finger here and see my hands. Place your hand in my side. Don’t disbelieve — believe!”
Thomas answered him, “Oh my Master and my God!”
Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen me, you believe. Blessed are those who don’t see and yet believe.”
“I don’t believe in the resurrection. I know. I’ve been around here for a while, and it’s just kind of the expectation for people like me. I know, I know. It’s been a week. I know everyone was celebrating last week, there were songs, there may have been some dancing somewhere, I know everyone was happy. I know everyone was happy, but I didn’t see it. I don’t have that kind of hope, you know. I can’t just believe. I know you’ve got your arguments. I know they’re there, and I think they’re pretty convincing sometimes, but it’s just not enough. It’s just that after everything I’ve seen in my life, since I was born, all the war, all the hunger, all the suffering … It’s just — how can you look at all that suffering, all that pain, all that misery and say he got up? I just can’t believe it. What makes you think that we’re so special, that we know the Messiah, the Savior? What makes you think somebody from Nazareth of all places was so special? Didn’t Nathaniel say it right? ‘What good can come out of Nazareth?’ What makes you think some carpenter’s son who could pull off some neat tricks is the Savior of the world — that he got back up. They killed him, guys. They killed him. If he could save himself, surely he would have done it beforehand. I just can’t believe this story, it’s too much. Peter, I know what you say you saw. Mary, I know what you think you saw. John, I know there wasn’t anything there — but there are so many kinds of explanations! I don’t have that kind of hope. Don’t get me wrong, I think what he said was right, I think what he asked us to do was right, I think building this Kingdom is still our job … at least I still think that most days. But some days I don’t have that kind of faith. Not today, not now. Not after what we saw last week — they killed him. I just don’t have that kind of faith. If I don’t see in his hands those nail wounds … if I can’t put my finger in them … and if I can’t put my hand in his side … I will not believe.” Read the rest of this entry
This week, Joe Carter of the Gospel Coalition published an article on their website entitled “When did idolatry become compatible with Christianity?” In his article he wonders when it became acceptable for Christians to “embrace and endorse homosexual behavior.” His answer is that there is no specific date, but it is part of a wider idolatrous movement in the church. He characterizes the issue like this:
At its root, the issue has more to do with idolatry than marriage, since same-sex marriage could not have advanced in America if believers had not exchanged the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob for the God of faux-love, cultural acceptance, and open theism.
This idolatry, he says, takes two forms. The first is essentially libertarian. Some Christians believe that because we live in a pluralistic society, and we do not have anything but a religious objection to marriage equality, we can’t really say it should be illegal. Carter says to do so is to replace
Jesus’ commandment—”You shall love your neighbor as yourself”—with the guiding motto of the neopagan religion of Wicca, “Do what you will, so long as it harms none.”
The second form of idolatry is essentially just liberal theology he doesn’t care for. He says that they have “completely rejected the authority of Scripture and embraced the idol of open theism, a god who changes his mind over time.” He proceeds to use Rob Bell as a punching bag, which is becoming a pastime for Reformed theologians, I think.
He concludes that Christians who agree with him (as opposed to the idolatrous Christians who don’t) need to speak up. He concludes:
We fear that if we point out too clearly or forcefully that you can’t both serve God and endorse sin that they may leave our congregations. We seem more concerned with losing the volunteer for the Sunday morning nursery or the regular check in the offering plate than we do with the souls of those in open and unrepentant rebellion against God. We seem more worried about the judgment of the kids in the youth ministry than we do with the judgment of a wrathful and holy God. We are so troubled by the thought that same-sex advocates will fall away from the faith that we fail to see that they’ve already rejected the faith of historic, orthodox Christianity and replaced it with an idolatrous heresy—one that is as destructive and hateful as any that has come before.
I don’t need to tell you that I have problems with this article, but let me outline them.
[[This past week I had the privilege and pleasure of attending the Academy of Preachers' National Festival of Young Preachers. I spent the week with fellow Christians of all theological temperaments, races, ages, denominations, and preaching styles. The themes this year was the Gospel and the City. You can also find the collection of last year's sermons, in which I also have a chapter, here. Also, this marks my 250th post and the first post of 2013! Happy Epiphany!]]
He went to his hometown, Nazareth. As was his custom, he went to the synagogue that Sabbath day. He stood up to read and they handed him the book of the Prophet Isaiah. He opened the book and found where it is written:
The Lord’s spirit is upon me,
because God anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
God sent me to proclaim
pardon for prisoners,
sight for the blind,
freedom for the oppressed,
to proclaim the time of God’s favor.
He closed the book, returned it, and sat down. Everyone’s eyes were on him.
“Today, this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing,” he said.
They all started talking about him, amazed at the words of grace falling from his lips.
“Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked.
“Surely, you will remind me,” he said, “‘Doctor, fix yourself!’ and ‘Do what you did in Capernaum here in your hometown!’ But I’ll tell you that no prophet is well-liked in his hometown. Truthfully, there were many widows in Israel during Elijah’s time when the sky closed up and there was a great famine for three and a half years. And Elijah wasn’t sent to any of them; instead, he was sent to a widowed woman in Zarephath in Sidon. There were many lepers in Israel while Elisha was around, but none of them were cleaned, only Naaman from Syria.”
Everyone in the synagogue was enraged when they heard these things. They got up, kicked him out of the city, and brought him to the cliff at the edge of town so they could throw him off it.
He passed through the middle of them and left.
Luke 4:16-30 (author’s rendition)
There is an old story that Irish theologian Peter Rollins like to tell about the second coming of Jesus. “It is said that he arrived anonymously one dull Monday morning at the gates of a great city to go about his Father’s business. There was much for him to do. While many years had passed since his last visit, the same suffering was present all around. Still there were the poor, the sick, and the oppressed. Still there were outcasts, and still there were the righteous who pitied them, and the authorities who exploited them. For a long time no one took any notice of the desert wanderer with his weather-beaten face and ragged, dusty clothes — this quiet man who spent his time living among the sick and unwanted. The great city labored on like a mammoth beast, ignorant of the one who dwelt within its bowels.” The story goes on, but that first part has always left me disturbed. A question plagues me; a realization haunts me. At this point in my life, when I hear that story — and when I read the Gospels — I cannot escape the sinking, nagging feeling that we might be missing something. I read about the life of Jesus, I read about what he said and did, and I read about how God chose to spend God’s time on the earth, and I am perplexed. All of it seems so foreign to me, and not necessarily foreign in a first-century Palestinian sort of way. Read the rest of this entry