One of my favorite scenes in the Mad Max trilogy, starring Mel Gibson, comes when Max squares off against a brutal, masked bodyguard named Blaster in Thunderdome, a caged orb in which the only rule is: “Two men enter … one man leaves.” A fight to the death. Pass the popcorn.
Sometimes I think Christians favor the Thunderdome approach for determining proper interpretation of difficult Bible passages or theological issues. Let’s pit Calvinists against Arminians, young earthers against old earthers, and premillennialists against amillennialists. Toss them into Thunderdome. Two men enter … one man leaves.
But consider what happens when two Christians holding seemingly conflicting views actually have a great deal in common.
A case in point: Paul and James on the subject of faith and works.
Previously: What’s wrong with the Word-Faith movement?
This is the fourth in a five-part series on the Prosperity Gospel.
Following are a few examples of Scriptures prosperity preachers twist to promote their health-and-wealth gospel. A more complete treatment is available in The Apologist’s Tool Kit, available at mobaptist.org/apologetics.
Prov. 6:2 – You have been trapped by the words of your lips – ensnared by the words of your mouth.
Word-Faith leaders quote this verse to illustrate that our words have power. If we speak positively, we get positive results. But if we speak “negative confessions,” we get negative results.
In truth, this proverb teaches nothing of the kind. Solomon simply points out that whenever you enter into an agreement with someone, you are honor-bound to fulfill it. Nowhere does Scripture teach that our words create reality.
The apostle Paul penned his letter to the Galatians for several key reasons: 1) to defend his authority as a true apostle of Christ; 2) to affirm the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith; and 3) to illustrate that the Christian life is to be lived in the power of the Holy Spirit, not through self-imposed bondage to the law. Throughout this epistle Paul declares that true freedom may be found only in Christ.
Thirteenth in a series of short answers to questions about the New Testament.
Consider Matt. 8:10: Hearing this, Jesus was amazed and said to those following Him, “I assure you: I have not found anyone in Israel with so great a faith” (HCSB).
In Matt. 8:5-13, a Roman centurion appeals to Jesus on behalf of an ailing servant. The Lord offers to come with the soldier and heal the servant, but the centurion replies “only say the word, and my servant will be cured.” Jesus’ response acknowledges the centurion’s great faith. In fact, He says, “I have not found anyone in Israel with so great a faith.” So the question arises: Is the Roman centurion the person of greatest faith Jesus ever met?
That’s probably not the point of Jesus’ statement. Rather, Jesus declares that this Gentile soldier has a more accurate understanding of Jesus’ identity and purpose than most of the Jews throughout Israel, even though He came to the Jews (John 1:11). At times, Jesus limits His miracles due to a lack of faith (Matt. 13:58). He weeps over Jerusalem because the city will soon suffer the consequences of the people’s rejection of Him (Luke 19:41). And He wonders out loud whether the Son of Man will find faith on the earth when He comes (Luke 18:8). No doubt this centurion’s faith was a great encouragement to the Messiah.
As for faith, the apostle Paul writes that God has given all of us a “measure of faith” (Rom. 12:3), and the writer of Hebrews provides an extensive list of great people of faith (Heb. 11). But as for who has the greatest faith … that’s a judgment best left to God, who knows every heart and will judge righteously one day.
In Systematic Theology (Vol. I), Dr. Norman Geisler presents many lines of evidence supporting claims for the Bible as the Word of God. In unique fashion, he labels each line of evidence with a word beginning with the letter “S,” making his arguments relatively easy to follow and remember. This article borrows his headings and then incorporates some of Geisler’s research with numerous other sources, which are cited.
Reason 5: The testimony of structure
- Even though the Bible was recorded by some 40 different authors – from different backgrounds, occupations and levels of education; who spoke in three different languages; who wrote over a period of 1,500 years – there is remarkable unity amid the vast diversity of scripture’s 66 books.
- There is throughout scripture the unfolding drama of redemption, with Jesus Christ as its central person, seen in the Old Testament by way of anticipation and in the New Testament by way of revelation.
- The Bible proclaims a unified message: Mankind’s problem is sin, and the solution is salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ (Gen. 2:16-17; 3:16-19; Luke 19:10; John 3:16; 5:24; Rom. 3:10, 23; 4:4-5; 6:23; 10:9-13; Eph. 2:8-9; Titus 3:5-7).
Next – Reason 6: The testimony of the stones
Copyright 2008 by Rob Phillips