Monday, September 25, 2006

Nuggets from John Dickson

I found these in the second Appendix to John Dickson's 'Promoting the Gospel' (Blue Bottle Books, 2005), which I will probably attempt to review [without using the word 'massively'] in the next few days. But I thought these were great, so here we go.

JD is showing how the stories in the Gospels offer a rich vein of answers to the most common questions & statements we hear from non-Christians. He calls them Gospel Bites.
Now, of course such answers are far from the end of our apologetics worries - but I thought they were helpful... The statement or question is in bold, JD's suggested answer in indented text.

I've done too many wrong things ever to be a Christian
Well then, you're exactly the sort of person Christ was most interested in. He was at the home of a religious leader (Pharisee) one day when a prostitute came in looking for him. She was so overwhelmed she burst out crying. Everyone there wanted to condemn the woman and thought Jesus would do the same. Instead, Jesus condemned his self-righteous host and turned to the woman and said, 'Your sins are forgiven'. He forgave her and she was a changed person because of it. Christ didn't come for the 'good' people. He came to restore and forgive those willing to admit they are anything but good. Have you ever looked into Jesus' life?
I haven't got much time for religion; it often seems so judgemental and self-righteous
You've probably got more in common with Christ than you think, then. He always criticised that sort of religious attitude. On one occasion he was eating a meal at the home of a religious leader when a prostitute walked in and wept at his feet. She was obviously looking to him for acceptance. The religious leader was outraged but Jesus actually defended this woman. He even offered this woman forgiveness and insisted that the religious leader was further away from God than this humble woman. 'Religion' might be self-righteous but Christ came to overturn all that stuff. True Christian faith is forgiving not judgemental. Have you ever read much about Christ?
I'm just not the religious type
Being the 'religious type' is irrelevant to true Christian faith. Jesus was always attracting and befriending people who were 'not the religious type'. On one occasion a Roman centurion came to Jesus for help. Centurions were about as far from the religious type as you could get in Jesus' day. They were called the 'godless' and were political enemies and occupiers. But this man came to Jesus recognising something unique about this teacher. Jesus welcomed him and promised him a place in the kingdom to come - all without being religious. Have you explored much of Christ's teachings?
I might not be perfect, but I'm a fairly good person
I appreciate what you're saying but doesn't it depend on what definition of 'good' you're using? Jesus was once asked by a religious scholar what was the single most important thing to do in life. He responded by saying there were actually two things - to love your neighbour as yourself and to love God with all your heart. Being kind and honest with people is only half of it. He insisted we also have to love our Creator. Would you say you're 'good' on Jesus' definition?

According to Jesus, our fundamental obligation in life is to love both God and our neighbour. Most of us would rightly criticise people who claimed to love God but ignored their fellow human beings. On Jesus' teaching, the reverse would be just as open to criticism. Treating people well while ignoring the Creator falls way short of what Jesus taught was our obligation. So, I guess it depends on whose definition of 'good' we're going to accept. Have you ever looked into Jesus' life and teaching?
You Christians are so arrogant as to think that you alone have the truth
I understand what you're saying but it's important to realise that Christians don't think they possess the truth; not at all. They simply look at Jesus' life and find themselves convinced by his teaching and deeds. I mean, Jesus was the one who said he had universal authority over the world. He was once asked by a friend about the way to God. He replied 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.' Christians didn't make that up. You can't really blame a Christian for taking seriously the words of Christ, can you? What do you make of Jesus?


You ask: 'What makes a Christian so special?' Well, I think it boils down to a uniqu claim that Jesus made. One of his followers once asked him what God was like. You know what he said in reply? He said, 'If you have seen me, you have seen God the Father.' Jesus alone of all the great religious founders said that he himself was the revelation of God. People don't have to rely on religion or guesswork; they can just look at his life and see what God is like. Jesus is the 'photo' of God, if you like. For me, that's what separates Jesus from the other religious claims. Have you ever thought much about Christ?
What about suffering?
I don't have all the answers about suffering. But one thing I hold to, especially whan I'm going through hard times, is that the God of Christianity is not distant nor disinterested. In Jesus, God himself experienced human betrayal, horrible injustice and a gruesome death. The scene of his crucifixion, as described in the Gospels is very moving. He bears incredible insult and injury and continues to act compassionately. This, according to the Bible, is the God who rules all things. He willingly experiences what we experience. This God is able to sympathise with those who suffer not simply because he is all-knowing but because he has experienced pain first-hand. This helps me to trust God when I don't understand what he's doing in the world. Have you ever looked at Jesus' life and death?


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