• Church,  Culture

    Not All Christians are True Christians

    According to World Atlas, there are an estimated 2.2 billion Christians in the world. The United States makes up the most significant percentage of Christians by country, with an estimated 230 million Christians. However, are all of these statistical Christians genuine Christians? How does one determine whether one is a genuine Christian or not? The Troubling Beliefs of General Christianity In 2020, the Ligonier State of Theology survey revealed some troubling findings concerning Christian beliefs in America. In response to the statement, “Only those who trust in Jesus Christ alone as their Savior receive God’s free gift of eternal salvation,” 40% of those surveyed disagreed. In other words, many of those who are supposed to be Christian denied the exclusivity of Christ (a core teaching of Christianity)! This trend is not limited to lay Christians. A recent survey conducted by Arizona Christian University found troubling trends in the beliefs of…

  • Church,  Hermeneutics,  New Testament

    Is the Book of Acts a Template for the Church?

    Many readers struggle with the book of Acts because they assume that it has to be a model for us to follow. Reading through the book of Acts we might wonder why we don’t speak in tongues, perform miracles, or exercise control over demons. But even on the more practical level, some read the book of Acts as a pattern for church growth. Similarly, I once heard a well-known Christian speaker say that he was in the process of rethinking how his church operated because when he compared his church with the church of Acts, he didn’t see enough similarities. The problem with this view is that the book of Acts was not written to be a template for the church to follow. Rather, the book of Acts is a historical record of how the church developed. The Connection between Acts and Luke One of the ways we can tell…

  • Culture,  Ethics

    The Bible and Death with Dignity

    Over the last couple decades there has been a substantial push to accept what has been called “death with dignity.” Many in the culture view death with dignity as the final right of an individual—the right to decide when and how to die. After all, who wants to suffer at the end of life? This is not just an idea that exists in the secular culture. Death with dignity is an idea that is embraced by some who call themselves Christians. In a 2016 Time article, Corrine Johns-Treats wrote an emotional argument advocating death with dignity. In the article, the self-proclaimed Christian concludes by noting, “I think what God was showing me, This is the alternative. This is the peaceful way that I’m granting you to go.” Earlier in the article, rather than attempting to support her ideas with Scripture, she admits, “I think when you look at a personal experience,…

  • Old Testament

    Calendar, the Bible, and Ancient Israel

    A calendar is a cultural convention of tracking extended time. It is internalized without much thought by a culture, but it is interesting (and important) to note that calendars have changed significantly over time. In fact, it may come as a surprise to some readers that the current method for date reckoning that Western nations use is called the Gregorian calendar, which was recently (1582 AD) put into place by Pope Gregory XIII to improve the former Julian calendar, which had been used utilized since the time of domination by the Roman Empire. The Julian calendar, named after Julius Caesar (40s BC), was largely accurate but was off by about 1 day per 100 years. Thus, Pope Gregory instituted a new calendar that would align even more precisely with the times and seasons, and would avoid having a regression (however slight it may be). So, the present calendar we use…

  • Misc,  Scripture

    What is the Longest Book of the Bible?

    There are 1,189 chapters in the English bible, and 31,103 verses. But which book of the Bible is the longest? The answer surprises most people! Hint: It is not Psalms! At least depending on how you are counting. I am at least partially motivated to write this blog post on the issue of the longest book of the Bible because it makes such a great youth group trivia question! But, it also helps puts things in perspective for what you can expect when reading through the Bible. There are a variety of ways to calculate the longest book of the Bible. You can count chapters, verses, or words. You could also technically make a differentiation between Greek or Hebrew, and the common English translations that we use. Of course, it should be noted that we are not combining any books of the Bible. So, although 1 & 2 Samuel, 1…

  • Old Testament

    You Become Like What You Worship

    Human beings are created to worship the Creator. The psalms in particular are replete with calls for all of mankind to worship the Creator (cf. Pss 66:4; 95:6; 99:5; 150:6). But, as Paul points out, it is part of fallen humanity’s penchant to exchange the truth about God for a lie and worship creation rather than the Creator (Rom 1:22-25). This idolatrous worship practice can take place in many ways. Buddhism, Hinduism, and many African religions are examples of pagan idolatry. Even secularism, which claims to be empty of all religious components, takes the form of idolatry by replacing God with the autonomous self. Idolatry at its core is the epitome of human pride, arrogance, and foolishness. Psalm 115 on Worship and Idolatry Psalm 115 gives insightful commentary on the subject of idolatry and worship. Psalm 115 depicts the false idols who have mouths, eyes, ears, noses, and hands; yet,…

  • New Testament,  Old Testament,  Theology

    Where did Baptism Come from?

    When we read through the Bible from the Old to New Testament, a few things jump out when we get to the New Testament. One major surprise is the prevalence of baptism. Where did baptism come from? There doesn’t seem to be any indication of baptism in the Old Testament. However, the New Testament puts a significant priority and importance on baptism. What is the background to the baptism process? It seems unlikely that John the Baptist invented baptism. There is no indication that the Pharisees or Sadducees asked John what he was doing. Instead, the New Testament paints the picture that people were familiar with baptism. Scholars have attempted to explain why people were already familiar with the process. There are typically four possible options that scholars put forward as the historical background for New Testament baptism. Mystery Religion Adaptation Qumran Lustration Proselyte Baptism Jewish Purification and Washing Rituals…

  • Old Testament

    Was Samuel a Levite?

    How is it that Samuel was able to work in the Tabernacle? Wasn’t the Tabernacle work reserved for Levites? Samuel was born in Ephraim, so wouldn’t that disqualify him from service? These are some significant questions that readers of 1 Samuel often think about. The book of 1 Samuel opens up by talking about “a certain man of Rammathaim-zophim of the hill country of Ephraim whose name was Elkanah” (1 Sam 1:1). Elkanah is married to two wives, one of whom is Hannah. Although barren, Hannah prays for a child, and the Lord answers her prayer. This child is Samuel! After giving birth, Hannah names her son Samuel, and dedicates him to tabernacle service with Eli (1 Sam 1:28). Samuel stays with Eli and serves the Lord (cf. 1 Sam 2:11, 18). Throughout the story, it is obvious that Samuel is ministering in the tabernacle (cf. 1 Sam 3:3). This…

  • Culture,  Theology

    Are All Cultures Equal? A Biblical Paradigm

    There is a growing belief today that all cultures are equal and that differences between groups are cultural, but not moral. In other words, no culture can claim moral superiority over another because it is just cultural expression. Although this is a common idea, it has met resistance from some who have demonstrated that, on a pragmatic level, productivity and the standard of living are better in some cultures than in others. Although that is undoubtedly true, that in and of itself does not necessarily mean a certain culture is better than another. As Christians, I think it is important to be in the habit of using Scripture to inform any kind of comparison—including culture. Speaking from a biblical standpoint, there are cultures that are better than others. The cultures which are better are the cultures that are more closely aligned with God’s standard for living, and these cultures thereby…

  • Old Testament

    The Ketef Hinnom Scrolls and the Antiquity of Scripture

    Discovered in 1979 by Gabriel Barkay, the Ketef Hinnom scrolls made news because they contained the text of Numbers 6:24-26 and thus represent the oldest testimony of an Old Testament text that we know about. Funny enough, the discovery of the scrolls took place because the lead archaeologist, Gabriel Barkay, an archaeology professor at Tel Aviv University, told a young boy to go clean up a cave. This young boy ended up hitting the floor of the cave with a hammer (as young boys are wont to do), causing the false floor to collapse and reveal a trove of bones beneath. This hidden tomb, within walking distance of Jerusalem, had been preserved from tomb raiders and so revealed its treasures to the archaeologists working the scene. The tomb complex found at Ketef Hinnom followed the Old Testament burial practices (basically from Abraham’s time to around 522 B.C.). The procedure of…