- 2015Jan 12
One of the oddities of the Bible is how little it reveals about the life of its central figure: Jesus Christ. All we know of Jesus prior to age 30 are a few sketchy accounts by Matthew and Luke, with gospel writers Mark and John completely silent on His early life.
A yawning gap
Luke tells of Jesus’s circumcision and presentation at the temple; Matthew reports His visit from Magi as a young child followed by His flight to Egypt to escape the sword of Herod. After that, the biblical record goes dark until the “lost and found” report on Jesus at age 12.
According to Luke, Jesus went missing on a family trip home from the Passover celebrations in Jerusalem. After a frenzied three-day search, a harried Mary and Joseph found Him “in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.”
That’s it—the sum total of what the Bible says of Jesus’s first 30 years on earth.
While the omission has piqued the interest and imagination of many a Bible student, it is one that no mythmaker would have allowed. As C. S. Lewis has noted, “Most of the life of Jesus is totally unknown to us . . . and no people building up a legend would allow that to be so.”
The yawning biographical gap, while frustrating, adds authenticity and credibility to the biblical record; and the early details that are there, though few, are profound in significance—not the least of which, is that His first recorded public appearances are in the temple.
In the temple
At eight days old, His infant cries pierced the ears of His circumciser. Thirty-two days later, His coos warmed the hearts of Simeon and Anna. Then, at twelve years old, His thoughtful words stimulated the minds of His hearers.
Fast forward to the end of His public ministry, and Jesus is again at the temple, where His voice rumbles throughout the courts as He drives out the moneychangers, upbraids the religious leaders, and, finally, looks over the city weeping aloud for his countrymen. Even from the remove of Golgotha, His last words, “It is finished,” reach the temple in a thunderclap that shreds the veil from top to bottom.
The prominence of the temple at both ends of Jesus’s life points its importance in biblical history and beyond.
Earth as temple
In his book “Surprised by Scripture,” N.T. Wright notes that the biblical creation narrative “would have been seen in the ancient world as a story about a god building a temple, a place for his own habitation.” (Emphasis in original.) Wright suggests that God intended earth as a place to cohabit and fellowship with man, a “temple” facilitating human-divine congress.
One can imagine the original creation as a hyper-dimensional realm in which heaven and earth were not separate, but adjoined, overlapping and interlocking, allowing God, a hyper-dimensional Being, to be manifestly present for man to experience in complete intimacy.
The human design, in God’s image, is suggestive as it would be necessary for the kind of relationship initiated by God toward Adam and Eve (instructing them, authorizing them, empowering them, and commissioning them as partners in creation care).
Also suggestive are the closing chapters of Revelation that describe the new creation. Concerning the Holy City descended to earth, John writes, “I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.”
(As a teasing side note: Some scientists see evidence that our universe came from a higher-dimensional one, rather than from a “big” physics-defying “bang” in the quantum vacuum. But that’s a topic for another day.)
This doesn’t mean that the original creation was non-physical, but that it was more than physical, perhaps like Jesus’s resurrected body that could be seen, touched, and felt, but could pass through solid objects and move from place to place instantly and effortlessly, prefiguring the new creation.
But what was, was interrupted and changed with the Fall. Continue reading here.
- 2014Dec 14
“I just witnessed an event so mysterious that it shook my skepticism.” That from Michael Shermer, founder of The Skeptic Society and editor of Skeptic, its official magazine.
A skeptic’s skeptic
Michael Shermer, in short, is a skeptic’s skeptic, whose skepticism is most strenuously exercised against all things supernatural. With a full-throated materialistic bent, he argues that all phenomena are reducible to natural causes ultimately explainable through science.
In his writings, interviews, and debates, Shermer projects an intellectual swagger that has become fashionable in freethinking circles. A number of years ago in a PBS panel discussion on religion, when the topic of the Resurrection came up, he pressed a Christian physician for how (how!) God did it. By presuming that the Resurrection must have occurred through a clever medical manipulation to be credible, Shermer’s question was designed to ensure that naturalism wins.
It was also designed to make his Christian opponent appear badly misinformed, intellectually challenged, or worse. For in our enlightened scientific age, smart people everywhere know “there is no such thing as the supernatural or the paranormal,” Shermer reminds us. “There is just the natural, the normal, and mysteries we have yet to explain by natural causes.”
Such unswerving confidence in naturalism seals the imagination from any consideration of supernatural causation, even for things currently inexplicable by science (e.g., dark energy, quantum behavior, abiogenesis, consciousness, the Big Bang, etc.). However, when life collides with our worldview, it can create cracks in our ideological foundation and shake our confidence. This past June, Michael Shermer experienced just such a collision. Continue reading here.
- 2014Nov 16
Their moony embrace of multiculturalism has rendered modern liberals unable to connect the dots between beliefs and consequences. Rooted in moral relativism, multiculturalism is the notion that all moral codes are valid within their respective cultures, with no people group privileged to make moral judgments of others.
The person boorish enough to criticize the mores of another culture will quickly find himself banished from polite company for being racist, bigoted, intolerant, or (fill in the blank)-phobic. Just ask Sam Harris and Bill Maher, both establishment liberals, who were excoriated by Ben Affleck on an HBO panel discussion for their illiberalism. Their offense: calling Islam dangerous for the atrocities committed by Islamists.
To remain a member of the left in “good standing,” one can never, but never, attribute evil to the belief system that spawned it, even when the perpetrators themselves do so. One must stick to the liberal script, characterizing the actors as fringe, radical, extremist, misguided, and not representative of the true beliefs of their culture—except, that is, when those actors are Christian.
Had the target of Harris’s and Maher’s criticism been Christianity, I doubt it would have elicited so much as a raised eyebrow from Affleck. Indeed, it has become standard practice in liberal circles to blame Christianity for hate crimes against gays and abortion clinic bombings, among other things.
But when the crime in question is a suicide bombing by ISIS, Al Qaeda, or other Islamist group, the well-bred liberal will respond, first, with appropriate outrage, then, with an ever-so-reassuring explanation that such is not the action of Muslims, but of religious fanatics; because Islam, “true” Islam, is a religion of peace and Muslims are a tolerant people.
New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, who sided with Affleck on the HBO panel, commented that ISIS militants who cite Islamic teaching to justify their barbarism “give all Islam a bad name.” Former Muslim Ibn Warraq knows better...Continue reading here.