Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Hours in the Office



I began my current youth pastor job with great fear that I would fall into workaholic patterns. However, after six months in this position, and after many talks with my senior pastor and my husband, I've averaged about 45-50 hours a week (not including weekend retreats, lock-ins, etc.). This feels pretty reasonable.

My father is a pastor and set very good examples for me in this arena. Unless there was the occasional board meeting, he was home every night at 5:30 pm for dinner and consistently took Friday's off.

About a month ago a friend of mine asked me to e-mail him my job description and weekly schedule. His response was:

"Are you sure that'’s all you do? You'’ve got to be kidding me, right? (OK, that's not a slam if you'’re not kidding me… it'’s more just a depiction of how surprised I am and how different our roles look right now)."

I think my 45-50 hour work week is uncommon among pastors (Nate Kingsbury's recent post confirms my suspicion).

My questions are:

Who is responsible for keeping reasonable hours? The pastor or the church? Can a pastor legitimately blame the church or her or his senior pastor for long hours and limited days off? Are there different rules for singles, or whether of not you have kids? If you're a pastor, what does your schedule look like?

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Affair-proofing your Marriage

For his birthday, I suggested John and I meet at the Steak and Hoagie Factory for lunch. John arrived before me, put in our order, and sat at a table. When I entered the restaurant a little later I noticed the woman behind the counter turned a little pale. She watched me wide-eyed as I walked past and sat down next to John who had before him a tray full of food.

As he unwrapped the hoagie we were going to share, we noticed some writing on the wax paper:

John--call me
215-xxx-xxxx
Lucy

While this was not my idea of a birthday present, it certainly explained the horrified look Lucy had on her face when she realized she had just tagged a taken man.

My friend Matt Milliner shared with us a prayer he learned from Pastor Rich Nathan of Columbus Ohio Vineyard Church--it's a prayer to affair proof your marriage (I know, I know, there's no such thing as an "affair-proof-marriage," but a "prayer-that-helps-diminish-the-chances-of-having-an-affair" didn't have as good of a ring to it).

The prayer is simply:
"Lord, I pray that "she/he" might find me unattractive."

The pastor explained that this prayer cut to the heart of an affair, which he said was not as much about lust as it is pride and vanity.

Poor John is so good looking I imagine he's having to pray this prayer all the time. I, on the other hand, am spending my free time slipping little love notes in John's pockets from Lucy! Hee hee hee.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

My New Best Friend Part 2

Okay, okay, okay. I finally grew some guts and took your advice.

After an afternoon of baking, I packaged up some "Ma Magee" cookies and trudged over to my new best friend's house and knocked on the door.

"Oh, can I help you?" asked my best friend when she opened the door. (I gave a sigh of relief that she hadn't recognized me from my earlier reconnaissance work).

I explained to her that I was new to the area and was trying to get to know some of my new neighbors (okay, so I'm not technically a CLOSE neighbor of hers, but didn't Jesus pose the question, "Who is my neighbor?"?)

After stating my reason for knocking on her door, she let me in!! I have now been inside my new best friend's house!

We chatted for a bit before I went in for the kill. "So, um. Maybe sometime we could kinda get coffee together..."

She agreed and gave me her number!!

And that's all I can share with you. After all, best friends have to protect each other's privacy.

This was the closest I've ever come to asking someone out on a blind date. And now I'm left agonizing over the question, "How long do I have to wait before I call her?"

Monday, November 28, 2005

My Mom Thinks I'm Cool--Part 3

Not long ago I had a car full of teenagers. Two high school girls in the back, and a sophomore guy in the front...we'll call him Joe-Joe.

I felt rather hip as I was going to be cruising through town with three fashionable teenagers. I put the keys in the ignition of my Volvo (which, by the way my students want to submit to "Pimp My Ride" and turn it into a Jesus-mobile), and went to shift gears. Apparently my depth perception was off because instead of grabbing the gear stick, I grabbed Joe-Joe's leg. Not a brief touch, not a brushing of fingertips, but a full out leg grab. My action was met with a yelp and cry, "PASTOR AMANDA I'M UNCOMFORTABLE!"

Sorry about that, Joe-Joe.

Friday, November 18, 2005

My New Best Friend

I've lived in Doylestown for 4 months and 17 days and I've already found my new best friend.

I first saw her back in July. She lives in my favorite house in our neighborhood. The house says, "I'm big enough for a guest room to house old college friends, but too small to be in the kids-run-my-house realm". She's very good at gardening--nothing cutesy, just nice landscaping. She drives a teal Honda (her husband drives a Nissan) which she leaves out at night on her gravel driveway. She has a two-year-old daughter (but I'll forgive her for that). She's very attentive with her kid--they've got one of those little toddler swing sets in the backyard which they make good use out of.

Overall, she's very sweet and kind. Perfect B.F.F. material. I don't really know what her name is yet...we haven't exactly met, but I'm sure we will soon. I just need to watch her house a bit more to see if I can figure out her schedule and "accidentally" bump into her on her morning stroll or something. She's just the sort of person that would take a morning stroll.

John calls what I'm doing stalking. I call it homework. I researched churches before sending resumes, why not do the same with friendships? I think she's gonna like me.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Is the world shrinking or is it just me?

An extraordinary adult leader at youth group pointed out this phenominon to me...

Consider the progression of American magazines:

Time
Life
People
Us
Self

Anyone else notice a pattern? Am I missing any?

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Truth be Told

I used to think that as long as a person was actively pursing truth there was nothing to be worried about. That as long as she was passionate and sincere about finding truth, she would eventually find her way into the arms of Jesus Christ.

I am no longer convinced this is the case. Why? Because the pursuit of truth (regardless of whether or not you want to capitalize the "T") is too abstract. Christians don't worship an abstract idea. We worship a person. Christianity rises and falls on the person of Jesus Christ born, crucified, and raised.

Perhaps as you are reading this post, you are taking the safety off of your scriptural dart gun and asking, "What about John 14:6, Amanda? 'Jesus answered, I am the way and the truth and the light, no one comes to the Father except through me.'"

Once again we are brought back to a person.

If you search for Jesus, you find truth.
If you search for truth, you don't necessarily find Jesus.

There are enough "truthes" out there that one could pursue true things for multiple lifetimes without ever coming to the cross. The pursuit of truth could lead someone many places.

Jesus can be difficult to find. His way is narrow and foolish. His way is confusing...he tells you to pick up a sword but then you get in trouble for using it. His way is offensive...he tells you to eat his flesh; or to be more true to the Greek, to gnaw on his flesh. Jesus is not the logical conclusion.

And so no. I don't breathe easily when when I hear, "I'm searching for truth." Because all too often the truth can become an idol.

Is it possible for someone to "pursue truth" and become enveloped in the person of Jesus Christ? Yes. Does a pursuit of truth automatically lead to the cross? By no means.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

The 3/52 Challenge

Now comes the post where I tell you all how to run your churches.

When my present church was looking to fill my position, the senior pastor gathered three students to serve on the interview panel. He prepped the students on what the interview would look like and began to give them examples of certain questions that would be asked. The first question was: "How do you feel about women in ministry?"

The students were perplexed by this question. A sophomore girl voiced their confusion, "Do you really mean that there are people who wouldn't want a woman pastor?"

My heart was warmed when I heard this story. The students at my church have a hard time comprehending why this is even an issue. These students have grown up with women pastors. They don't bat an eye when a woman steps up to the pulpit.

I've spoken with many pastors who are strong advocates for women in ministry but for whatever reason do not currently have women ministers on staff. Either:

1. They don't have any current opennings
2. They can't seem to find the "right" woman
or
3. They say that they support women in ministry, but their congregation just isn't ready for it (and just between you and me, I don't buy this answer. What would the pastor say if the congregation" just wasn't ready to care for the poor"? Maybe preach a sermon on the topic?)

Well, to all the pastors who, for one reason or another do not have a woman pastor on staff, my advice is this: invite women pastors to guest preach at least 3 times a year. With 52 Sundays a year, giving up 3 won't kill you. (Actually, I'd like to suggest pastors do this 10, 15, or 25 times a year, but I'm trying to be realistic...baby steps).

If you really want to awaken sleeping calls on young girl's lives, you must give them models of ministry. I think I struggled with my call for so long simply because I didn't know it was an option. No one blatantly told me that I couldn't be a pastor...but no one was telling me that I could, either. It was in seminary where I first remember hearing an ordained woman preach in a Sunday morning service. I remember trying to hide my tears as I shook her hand after the service.

If you are a pastor of a congregation, youth group, prison ministry, etc. and you are not presently in the position to hire a woman pastor fulltime, I encourage you to share the pulpit.

By the way, if you take the 3/52 challenge, a woman pastor speaking on Mother's Day doesn't count...nor do sermons on Ruth or Esther. Sorry.

3/52--that's my challenge for churches. My challenge for college campuses would be to have at least 1/3 of their chapel speakers be women (preferrably 50/50). College campuses are full of women who are convinced their calling is to marry a pastor when perhaps they are the ones being called into ministry (I spent the first 20 years of my life in that boat...it's a good thing I ended up pursuing ministry, otherwise I'd be smothering my husband with all my "helpful hints").

While I'm on the subject, would someone please invent a lapel mike that doesn't need to clip onto pants? I'd like to occassionally preach in a dress, but it's just not practical. Whoever invents such a device would be the champion of women pastors everywhere.

I wish I could end this post the way my students end their chain e-mails ("If you don't follow these instructions, something bad will happen to you at 11:11 pm"), but that probably wouldn't be very professional.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Big Sick Baby

I'm sick. Very, very sick. After a whirlwind weekend in Michigan I returned home with a fever, sinus infection, strep throat, and fluid behind my ears. I was kept awake last night by a throbbing fingernail. I had to sleep sitting up so I could breath. I'm sick. Very very sick.

When I went to the doctor she said, "Now I'm not going to give you the 'wash-your-hands-a-lot-and-cover-your-mouth-when-you-cough' lecture because you're a woman and probably do those things anyway. Men are a different story. They're just big babies." I gave a nervous laugh (mostly because John could beat me in a cleanliness competition any day of the week).

John was sick last week. Whenever someone finds out that John has been sick, they always ask, "Is John a big baby when he's sick?" I normally say "yes." He asks for tea, medicine, movies, etc. He sits on the couch, blanket wrapped around his shoulders while giving the "Pop-I-think-I-have-the-black-lung" cough (ala "Zoolander").

Normally, when I get sick, I'm just a little baby...I ask John to pour me a drink of water, but I get my own medicine. I ask him to adjust the temperature while I get my own book.

But then I started thinking: what do I possibly have to gain by suppressing the big baby inside of me? What do I get out of being a martyr? Why do I try to prove to John that I can take care of myself? Am I trying to impress him? Surely walking around like a zombie in my bathrobe, with Marge Simpson slippers, and Kleenex stuffed up my nose won't impress anyone. If anything, it shows a lack of intelligence.

So yesterday, on my way home from the doctor, I decided that I was going to try being a big baby. I got home and sat on the couch. I asked John to do menial task after menial task. He adjusted the temperature, volume, my feet, etc. He fetched lunch, dinner, water, snacks, books, movies, etc. I was a complete baby, and John rose to the occasion...he even seemed honored!

So that's the little lesson that I recently learned--that sometimes it's better to just be the big baby.

By the way, with the gravity of my illness, I have been unable to keep up with normal e-mail correspondence...So I apologize to anyone who is waiting on e-mails from me. I'll have John respond to you ASAP. I am very, very sick after all.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Youth Specialties Blogservations

The National Youth Workers Convention: Where the men's line is longer than the women's.





I just returned from the National Youth Specialties Conference in Pittsburgh. Wow! What an amazing experience. Here are some of the highlights:

*Doug Fields from Saddleback increased my newly acquired addiction to pre-packaged curriculum.

*If you are single and looking for a spouse, sign up for NYWC regardless of whether or not you're a youth pastor. People were looking. People were looking very openly. Once woman posted her personal information on a bulletin board. When checking out women, most guys try to slyly lower their eyes to check out a figure. Not Youth Specialty guys. Youth Specialty guys still look down, only they're checking out the all important finger.

*They give out AMAZING bags. Paul Kind told me about these bags. He specifically said, "Don't worry about bringing a bag, they give you really cool bags." At the time I thought he simply had some kind of bag fetish. But he was right. They were really cool. Sorry, Paul.

*If you go to a NYWC be sure to sign up for a free consulation with a youth group consultant. Wow. You get an hour with an expert who scrutinizes your youth group (I actually signed up twice to meet with two different guys, but don't tell anyone).

*If you ever get the chance to hear Tony Compolo speak on politics, take it. Even if you don't agree with him, he'll get you thinking. Compolo's lecture of politics somewhat summed up my political shaping at seminary. I picked up a few copies of this lecture if you want to borrow it...This was the highlight of my NYMC experience.

*I can tell who is from California just by looking at them. I'm serious. I can.

* I echo Paul Kind's suggestion to sign up for a small group. I met up with a handful of strangers and greatly enjoyed their company.

*Biggest take away thought from Doug Fields: "Jesus left people unhealed. He left questions unanswered."

*I lost count of how many illustrations were given where the youth pastor sweeps in as "the Jesus" of the story. I lost count how often I heard the rough equivalent of, "Jesus did it like 'X', therefore we should do it like 'X'." As someone who struggles with somewhat of a Messiah Complex (ie: I MUST do this...If I don't do this, no one else will...I must bring this person to faith, etc), I had to keep stepping back and say, "Yes, Jesus lives a sinless life. Yes, I want to live a sinless life. But I am not Jesus. I cannot die for people's sins. I cannot WWJD because I am not the Son of God." I'm still pondering this issue...where is the line? When does my trying to act like Jesus become idolic?

*I needed to get away for a few days to break my newly aquired "Alias" addiction brought on by our recent subscription to Netflix. I knew I was watching too much when I packed my luggage and asked myself if I "had all my intel."

*My main suggestion to NYWC: Have a funny woman on stage. Right now it seems like the men are funny and the women pray. (I also told them to put cookies in our dinner boxes, but I didn't think this suggestion was as important.)

*I had some conversations I wanted to pass on to you. Some unbelievably funny...others just unbelievable.

Conversation #1:
Person 1: So Amanda, where did you go to seminary?
Me: I went to Princeton Seminary.
(Long Pause)
Person 1: Oh. Um. Uh. I don't really like to think that much.

Conversation #2 (I wish I could say the below conversation only took place once):

Person 1: What do you do at your church?
Me: I'm a youth pastor.
Person 1: A volunteer?
Me: No, I'm a youth pastor.
Person 1: You mean you assist the youth pastor?
Me: No, I'm a youth pastor.
Person 1: So you're like a director.
Me: No, I'm a youth pastor.

The people I had the above conversation were not necessarily against women pastors, actually they were just suprised--they hadn't seen many. Most of them were women, who after they finally got it said, "Oh! Great! I want to do that too, someday." (By the way, I'm currently working on a women in ministry post that I hope to put up next week...stay tuned.)

Conversation #3:


Man 1: Are you married, Amanda?
Me: Yes, I've been married for 3 years.
Man 1: Do you have any kids?
Me: No.
Man 1: Oh. Are you waiting for your husband to be ready?"
Me: (Long pause) Uh, no. Not really. We're both fine where we're at right now.

*Another highlight for me was realizing how much I missed being at DUMC. I couldn't wait to get back to my job. I like what I do.

*Next year I'd like to coordinate all the Wesleyan Youth Pastors going to this event...let's talk...

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Eatting Crow

Throughout seminary I scoffed at "those-lazy-youth-pastors-who-used-published- curriculum-instead-of-writing-their-own." I guess I was kinda like the nursing mom who looks down on the mom who uses formula...kinda.

I now recant that scoffing. I can officially be counted among the lazy. I've sold my soul to Group Publications. Don't worry, I don't use curriculum straight from the book; I do the appropriate tweeking for my students. But I can't write three sermons a week...not even three sermonettes. Nope.

So consider this an open apology to any youth pastor I may have offended over the years. Sorry.

I'll post again soon...I'm currently preparing for the Youth Specialties Conference in Pittsburgh. Ah! Curriculum heaven.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Sex and Violence

Did that title get your attention??

I was somewhat startled as a freshman in college when I read Malachi 2:16 in its entirety. I had often heard the first part quoted: "I hate divorce," says the Lord God of Israel." But up until that moment, I had never heard the remainder of that verse: "...and I hate a man's covering himself with violence as well as with his garment," says the Lord Almighty. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith.

While I never would have said that God loved violence, I was startled to see this verse in this context and was also a little annoyed that I had not come across it earlier. Up until this point I had made sins of sex the ultimate no-no. Could it be that acts of violence were just as bad as premarital sex? (Please forgive the sarcasm.)

All of these thoughts came rushing back to me at a Middle School Bible Study this week. I was working my way through curriculum that had retellings of the story of Saul and the Amalekites and David and Bathsheba.

In the story of King Saul, the writer of this curriculum included all the details: God told Saul "to kill all men, women, children, babies, cattle, sheep, camels, and donkeys."

However, when the writer was retelling the story or David and Bathsheba, he conveniently left out a few pertinent details: "One evening, from the roof of his palace, King David of Israel saw a beautiful woman..." That's it! No bathing. No nudity. Just this G-rated description of how these two star-crossed lovers discovered one another.

I guess the writer assumed that I as a youth pastor would have an easier time explaining to 13-year-olds why God told Saul to kill babies as opposed to explaining why David watched a woman bathe.

This is not a post calling for censorship of the Bible...not at all. However, I am questioning why it is sometimes easier for Christians to ignore violence while playing sex as the trump card. (Feel free to insert whatever political parallels you may choose here.)

By the way, I read the PG-13 version of David's encounter with Bathsheba which led to an amazing discussion among these 7th graders... "Wait! This is the same David that killed Goliath?" "David was supposed to be a good guy." "And God still forgave David after he did all that stuff?" I really like my job.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Problematic Vision Preaching

I'm preaching my first vision casting sermon this Sunday. October is stewardship month at DUMC, and rather than throwing a bunch of numbers at the congregation, we are attempting to present a "narrative budget." Which means this Sunday I will attempt to cast vision for student ministries in an attempt to encourage people to give of their time, talents, and tithe.

I finished the 2 Timothy 1:1-14 sermon yesterday--I'm focusing on Paul's charge to "fan into flame the gift of God," and how this church is full of "small sparks" that are in need of fanning...cute, right?

The sermon was flowing smoothly and I was actually quite excited about it until I came to the end and realized that I said "we" a whole lot more than "God." I'm not sure I'm comfortable with this, but I'm having a difficult time finding an alternative. What I am planning on preaching is true. I believe/hope it is edifying. I believe/hope it will engage the congregation to serve with their time, talents, and tithe...but I'm not sure that the congregation will be leaving with a clearer understanding of grace, mercy, justice, etc.

I realize that in a perfect world I should be able to preach on the attributes of God; out of which would flow an ideal vision for the church, but...

Please don't leave a comment telling me I need to re-write my sermon (unless you feel very strongly that I should...and then only if you also attach a downloadable, uncopyrighted sermon).

Is it okay to preach a sermon that focuses more horizontally than vertically? Where is that line?

Sigh! My Princeton friends would shake their fingers at me and say, "This is what happens when you stray from the lectionary!"

Friday, September 30, 2005

Sleep...it's overrated.

This summer, the high schoolers met at my house every Wednesday from 9-10 pm for a bible study (aka dive). Once school started, it became very clear that between swimming, soccer, National Honor Society, and homework, an evening event was not going to fit into their schedules.

So it was with much fear and trembling that I announced to the high schoolers that dive was going to switch to an AM event--we were going to meet from 6:15-7 AM.

Their responses had an interesting progression:

"WHAT?!?!"
"Hmmm."
"Okay."
"Cool!"

All throughout seminary, my teacher Kenda Dean continually claimed that the higher we set the bar, the more we'll encourage participation...while I thought this was true in principle, I was nervous about actually acting on this assumption.

Last Wednesday a small group of us met with our Starbucks and bagels and dove into the book of John. We were all tired, but the atmosphere was electric. Since showing up at 6:15 am had such a high price, the students were even more eager to glean insights from the Bible...they wanted to get their money's worth.

By the way, I just came across this Starbucks commercial that I'm going to play at Elevation to advertise for this early morning study...Check it out!

Friday, September 23, 2005

Welcome to our Apartment


Hello. Welcome to our apartment. I've been meaning to post these pics for a while...the only reason I'm posting them now is to get certain people off my back (ahem, Kari). John and I are living on the third floor of a house built in the 1840's. The second floor holds two apartments.The first floor is a pediatric dentist's office. On an occasional morning, I am welcomed with the sound of a drill buzzing and a child crying as I walk out the front door. Very pleasant.


You enter on the second floor and take the stairs to the third floor.

This is the living room/dining room/kitchen where we spend the majority of our time. There are six skylights off to the right which make lightening storms very enjoyable. The piano that you see straight ahead is new...well, new to us. Someone gave it to us. It's horribly out of tune, but hey! Free piano!

This is what John has dubed "the listening station". If you were to come for an unexpected visit, you would probably find John sitting on the floor listening to records. (We rescued this chair from the dumpster.)

Some of you will notice that we have a new t.v. So long to the little 14-incher with its own handle. (We pulled the two chairs from the side of the road.)

The dining room. (Todd and Lisa, you may recognize the wicker chairs...let us know when you want them back.)

The kitchen--complete with dishwasher (almost as exciting as the washer and dryer).

Hallway (duh)

Our bedroom #1

Our bedroom #2

Our bedroom #3 (The red chair was rescued from the dumpster)

Office #1 Where John does lots of thinking.

Office #2 (the black chairs in the office were given to us by a friendly D-town relator who was getting new furniture...are you noticing a pattern with the chair in our house?)

The bathroom--only one shot of the bathroom. There's a shower and toilet as well, but I didn't think you'd be interested in seeing those.


Thanks for checking out our pictures. Come see the real thing. If you're ever in NYC or Philly let us know.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Youth Room Make-over

Step 1. Find a boring youth room.



Step 2. Find students to paint and lots of plastic to cover the room.



VOILA! You've got a youth room!




The students were hoping to play "Trading Spaces" with the synagogue next door but agreed to forego their desires.

We had our official Elevation kickoff (aka youth group) last night. Thanks to those who prayed.


Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Ah!

Through the generosity of some new friends at church, John and I were offered an amazing vacation home in Eagles Mere, PA.



This is Fitch Cottage--there is a beautiful wrap-around porch where we spent the majority of our time reading.



When we weren't reading, we spent quite a bit of time on the lake in kayaks and canoes.



Ah! The perfect vacation...books and a fireplace.






Lance and Amy Peeler joined us for our last few days at the cottage. We then expanded our activities to include: reading, kayaking, canoing, and endless games of Risk.




Some of you have been at me to post pictures of our new apartment...and I will eventually. However, I'm currently trying to extend this vacation for as long as I can. Ah!

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

The best youth activity of the summer...

Okay youth pastors, here's our most popular event of the summer...





Thanks to the good folks at Home Depot, our youth group now owns a 20x50 foot slip-n-slide. The slip-n-slide along with some bubble bath and a hose proved for a mighty fine time.

I am always amazed by the things these students will do. I had to tell one boy not once, but twice that he couldn't go down the slip-n-slide on his head. On his head.

So there you go. It's a fun one.

Friday, September 02, 2005

What I remember. What I forget.

Not long ago, my Volvo stalled in the middle of a busy intersection (my Volvo with 253,000 miles). I sat there trying to start the engine while people honked and cussed. Right as my panic reached mile high proportions, two men in their 60's jumped out of their cars and pushed me to safety.

All day long, some of the more colorful expletives played in my head. I could vividly recall the angry drivers' facial expressions. Altogeth I could argue this unfortunate event wasn't my fault, I nevertheless felt ashamed.

As my day came to a close, it dawned on me that I had been dwelling on the negative reactions of others all day long. Not once had I stopped to think about the two men who helped push me off the road. The two men, who I might add, left their 1965 Mustang and 2004 BMW with the keys still in the ignition at the stop sign while they gave me a push.

Why is it that I tend to remember the negative over the positive? The worst over the best? Why is shame stronger than gratefulness?

When I was in college, I was reading through the book of Ezekiel and was overwhelmed with how often the phrase, "But they forgot me" was used. That seems to have been the most troubling aspect of these people...that they forgot God.

I'd like my memory to be a bit more selective. I want to remember the graces of God before recalling my personal injustices.

I love God's response in the book of Hosea when Israel forgets about him:

"'She decked herself with rings and jewelry and went after her lovers, but me she forgot,' declares the Lord. 'Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.'"

Just when I think Israel is going to get zapped for her forgetfulness, God responds with words designed to allure. There's a sermon in there somewhere...in fact, I think I'm gonna go write it.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Shaking dirt and finding money

Help! How are we to respond to people we encounter that want nothing to do with Christ? Do we "shake the dust from our feet and leave"(Matt. 10:14)? Or do we keep searching and searching until the lost coin is found(Luke 15)? Do we write the person off as being "bad soil"(Matt 13), or do we look search for the lost sheep (Luke 15)?

Perhaps my problems lies in trying to identify too much with Jesus in the parable...I'm not the one searching for coins, he is...I'm the coin. I'm not the one sowing the ground with seed, he is...I'm the soil.

Nevertheless, I'm still stuck. When do we push and when do we pull away? How do we know when the time comes to shake the dust from our feet? Do I pursue the teenager who wants nothing to do with Christ and lessen my time with the hungry, committed students? Or do I pour into the students who are coming and "release" the students who could care less?

Any thoughts?

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Pretend you haven't heard this one...

Three years ago I was called in as an emergency substitute teacher for fifth grade Sunday School.

I had the ten-year-olds act out the story of Joseph. They were into it. We went through all of the highlights of his complicated life. They eagerly acted out their parts as Joseph was thrown into the pit, sold into slavery, falsely accused, and thrown into prison, and eventually ended up as second-in-command in Egypt.

They were jittery with anticipation when I spoke of Joseph's brothers coming to ask for food. They were positively bouncing when I told how Joseph cleared the room of guards just prior to his revealing his true identity.

"And do you know what Joseph did to his brothers after they found out who he truly was?"

"KILLED THEM!" Came the gleeful, joyful shout. The girls were jumping up and down, fists were thrusted into the air; the boys had wide smiles pasted across their face.

I was shocked. Kill them? Joseph killing his brothers? No! Where did these murderous desires come from? That's not how the story goes. What type of sick stories do they think we have in this Bible? Don't these 10-year-olds know the basic stories of Genesis?

My shock quickly turned to jealousy. While I knew more about the bible than these kids, they had the priviledge of being surprised by grace. I know these stories a little too well. I know things like how when the "Word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time," it was not in order to smote him.

I'm jealous of their "fresh eyes." I cannot read with new eyes. I know the ending. I know what happens.

After some contemplation, I am realizing that perhaps there is freshness in the text for me. My first theology class in seminary consisted of reading James Cone's God of the Oppressed. The following summer I read the gospel of Luke. I'd read this gospel numerous times but had never before noticed the social justice elements that were now glaringly obvious. Same story. Same eyes. New lenses.

There is something to be said about revelation--a living revelation, that is. This is not simply a story I learn, but a person with whom I enteract. Jesus Christ cannot be contained in black and white text.

Even as I type, I can feel the triteness creeping up in this statement, but I appreciate the Holy Spirit. The ever-present counselor--the one who is sent from the Father to tell truth about the Son.

It's okay that I already know the ending. There are still so many angles to see.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Baby Got Book

This is worth posting for the three of you that have not had the pleasure of viewing this link.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Spitting on the Bride

The wedding started off quite typically: organ music, cute but distracting flower girl, etc. etc.

But the timbre of the evening completely changed when the bride stepped out into the aisle. Immediately I could hear the murmurs. The bride looked different. I guess the months leading to the wedding were stressful, because she had put on a bit of weight and her normally clear face was spotted with acne. And while she was wearing a wedding dress, it looked like it was straight from the 80's--you know the kind I mean. She had a veil on, but unfortunately it didn't hide her scraggly hair. She looked nervous. She was walking very slowly and shakily.

I took my eyes off her for a minute and looked at the people sitting around me--some had pained expressions on their faces. A few kids were giggling. There were some who looked absolutely disgusted, as if they could not believe this woman was allowing herself to be seen in public. It was an uncomfortable, embarrassing atmosphere.

The worst part, however, was just as she was nearing the front of the sanctuary, a man in the third row leaned over the pew rail and spit on the bride. You'd think the congregation would have been outraged by this act--and some were. But there were others who applauded--actually applauded.

************************

Okay, okay. So this is isn't a true story. But I've been thinking..if Christ is the bridegroom, and the Church is truly the bride, than why are we so quick to criticize the church? How do we purify the church without "spitting on the bride"?

Monday, August 01, 2005

The Democrats Dobson must love

Last week, a group of Democratic senators introduced a bill that would force Internet porn sites to pay a 25% tax to go towards a trust fund to protect children on-line. (12- to 17-year-olds are the top consumers of Internet porn.) Full article.

By the way, did you know that October 9th is National Porn Sunday? (Endorsed by Willow Creek and Mars Hill).

While we're on the topic, my dad-in-law just posted an article on overcoming internet porn.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Maybe it is all about me.

In a recent conversation, a friend remarked:

"As I was reading my Bible this morning, I felt like God was talking directly to me. But I don't really want to say that, because I know this was written to Israel, not to me. I don't want to take this out of context."

I can symapthize with her hesitancy to read the Bible "for herself." I grew up reading Scripture with the belief that there was something in there that would personally affect my life.

As I've grown older, I've worried that this was being ignorant and selfish. (No, Isaiah 40:30 was not written to encourage me to finish a hiking trail.) I've been trained to pull myself out of the Scriptures to search for the authors true intentions. While I have benefitted from this training, I've missed the "speaking into my life" quality the Bible can have.

This morning I read John 20:30-31
Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which
are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe
that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have
life in his name.

"You?" Does that "you" mean me? It seems to me like John is inviting...pleading with his reader to read herself into this book. This book was written in order for me to believe. For me to believe. I like that. Thanks for the permission, John.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Why Theologians Should Not Be Pastors

I've always assumed that theologians who have spent time pastoring a local church are better equipped than those who have not. They're more practical. More down to earth. They are in touch with the "real" world.

In the past few months, however, my position has been changing. I'm currently of the belief that theologians do not need to pastor...I might even go so far as to say that theologians should not pastor.

I've heard it argued that theologians should spend time pastoring because it keeps her from staying in the "ivy tower" and forces her to present her findings in a way that connects with the common layperson...

I don't want my theologian to tell me what "works." I want my theologian to tell me what is true. I don't want my theologian concerned with what makes sense. I want my theologian to tell me what is right. I don't want the lure of what is "easily applicable" to outweigh truth.

Bashing on the theologian/pastor is certainly not my intention. I appreciate the sensitivity and wisdom that can be gleaned from time spent in the local church. But I want my theologian to speak of various doctrines in blunt honesty without being hampered by questions of rationality and relatablity.

Just gimme the theology straight.

Monday, July 18, 2005

My Mom Thinks I'm Cool--Part Two

Last night was my first parent's meeting at church. I wanted to wear an outfit that said to the parents, "I'm-adult-enough-to-take-your-teenager-whitewater-rafting," while saying to the students, "I'm-cool-I'm-hip-please-like-me." I thought I was pretty successful in my endeavor until I got home...

Just as I was stepping into my apartment, John said, "Did you know that you have a tag sticking out of your pants?"

Jeesh.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Don't be Yourself.

I'm noticing how often the phrase, "Just be yourself," keeps popping up--often as an answer to quelch my desire to be like someone else. They way this phrase is used, you'd think it was found in scripture--Jesus would be talking to Zacchueas saying, "Yeah, I know you're shorter than the other guys. But quit comparing yourself to others--God just wants you to be you. Not just any you, but the best you you can be."

While we read about people comparing themselves to others, the response that Jesus gives to such wonderings is far from the "Just be yourself," answer.

Prior to Jesus' ascension, he tells Peter what kind of death Peter will endure. After hearing the news, Peter points to John and asks, "Lord, what about him?" Jesus responds: "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?" And then comes the challenge, "You must follow me."

Jesus does not say, "What is that to you? Just be yourself." No. It's "You must follow me." Not only does Jesus keep Peter from focusing on John, Jesus also keeps Peter from focusing on Peter.

I don't need anyone else to tell me to just be myself. I do a pretty good job of being myself. The goal is not to be myself. The goal is to follow Christ. Transform. Change.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Christianity and Other Religions Part 5

Question 6: Do all religions lead to God? Aren’t all religions just saying the same thing?

In the past two hundred years, there has been a lot of speculation on how all religions might lead to the one true God. Some speak of religion as being a great mountain. We all climb up different sides of the mountain to reach God on top. Others say all religions are like husks—these husks all look different and are composed of our own traditions and variables, but all of these different husks have the same kernel inside. Jalalu’l-Din Rumi describes it this way: “the lamps are different, but the Light is the same.”[1] The general term for this understanding of all religions leading to God is called pluralism.

People with this understanding of religions say that at the core, all religions are saying the same thing. At the core, we all recognize a greater force and strive to do good for the sake of humanity. At the lowest common denominator, we are all saying the same thing.
At first glance, this is a very comforting thought. With further reflection, however, this understanding is vague at best and offensive at worst.

To speak of all religions as have a lowest common denominator is like saying that apples and cardinals are red. Yes, both apples and cardinals are red, but this does not get us anywhere. To be content with the lowest common denominator of religions is not to engage in fruitful, exciting dialogue.

Will Willimon from Duke University explains it this way:


If you keep your attributes of God abstract enough—God is omnipotent, God is
omniscient, loving, just—all three “Abrahamic” faiths appear to be on the same
page, or talking about the same God, because to be Muslims, Christians and Jews
all believe that God is omnipotent, loving and just. Trouble is, this sort
of abstract reasoning is about as revealing as saying that ‘Mary Jones is a
Caucasian, female android.’ You haven’t said much. And who wants to
talk to someone who is just like us?[2]

Two years ago I was at Home Depot and was approached by a Hindu woman who wanted my opinion on paint—this led into a deeper conversation. After hearing that I was a seminary student, her eyes lit up. “I have been wanting to talk to a Christian about theology. I want to know what you believe.” This woman was not interested where our faith intersected. She did not want to know what we both believed on the lowest common denominator. She wanted to know what made Christian faith Christian. (By the way, she painted Raj’s room a lovely shade of blue).

We can partake in truly exhilarating, life-changing conversations if we are willing to speak from our own point of reference without betraying our own identity. When I speak clearly from my Christian perspective, I am able to have a true conversation where I explore the nuances of my faith. By speaking from a Christian perspective to a friend from a Muslim perspective, I can better understand what makes Christianity unique. This takes courage. It feels much safer to speak on lowest common denominator levels. Nevertheless, when we are able to articulate a Christian understanding of salvation, we enter into true dialogue.

When we assert that all religions are saying the same thing, not only are we entering into a vague conversation, we are also entering into a potentially offensive conversation. To say all religions are the same is to not respect other religions. To tell a Muslim that actually, deep down she believes the same thing as her Hindu friend is not doing justice to either religion. It does not show respect for the particulars of convictions.

Some people do not go quite as far as to say that all religions lead to God. Theologian Karl Rahner makes a different suggestion: all religions find their fulfillment in Christ. Rahner suggests that whenever people surrender themselves to a higher being and dedicate themselves to the well being of humanity though peace and justice, they have implicitly accepted Christ without know it. Rahner calls these people “anonymous Christians.” They unknowingly possess the spirit of Christ.[3] The term for this idea is inclusivism, because all religions are “included” into Christianity.

However, this concept of anonymous Christians can also be offensive. A devout Buddhist will probably not enjoy being told that even though he thinks he is a Buddhist, in actuality he is an under-cover Christian.

Simply put: the reason why there are so many different religions is because religions are different. And this is what makes talking with people of different faiths worthwhile. It is an exercise in mutual learning about others and ourselves.[4]

Another common thought is that what I believe is true for me, but is not necessarily true for you. Therefore I can believe what I believe to be true without having to disagree with what you are saying. However, this logic breaks down. Faith cannot be personal. Faith must be public. This idea is held by Lesslie Newbigin and is explained by Veli-Matti Karkkainen:


When a Christian says, “I believe,” he or she is not merely describing an
emotion or even a value statement but affirming what he or she believes to be
true—and ‘therefore what is true for everyone.’ In other words, since faith is
more than personal, it has an objective reference point; it is necessary to
bring it out to the public arena. This is what Christian witnessing is all
about. [5]
Logically speaking, there is no such thing as a personal belief. If I believe I am breathing oxygen, I also believe that you are breathing oxygen. If I say that I believe that I am breathing oxygen but that you may be breathing some other substance, than I have not expressed a belief, but a mere opinion. I believe what I believe is true.

Belief cannot be merely a personal decision. If it is true belief, than according to Newbigin: ”I am bound to publish it, to commend it to others, and to seek to show in the practice of life today that is it the rational tradition which is capable of divine greater coherence and intelligibility to all experience than any other tradition.”[6]

If I have decided to speak courageously from my Christian context as best I understand, then I must allow other religions to make their truth claims as well. My goal is not to overwhelm others with my beliefs, but to enter into dialogue. In dialoguing with people other faiths we are able to test our faith in public, thereby understanding both our similarities and differences better. We can be open to learning things about God from people of other faiths. Other religions can have revelations of God without being a path of salvation.

When we enter into an authentic, particular conversation with someone from another faith tradition, we are given the opportunity to gain greater insight into our faith and what makes the God of Christianity unique.

[1] Miroslav Volf, “Be Particular,” Christian Century. 120:2 (2003) 33. From hereon referred to as “Volf.”
[2] William Willimon, “Arguing with Muslims.” Christian Century.121:21 (2004) 35.
[3] Veli-Matti Karkkainen. An Introduction to the Theology of Religions. (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2003) 196. From hereon referred to as “Karkkainen.”
[4] Volf 33.
[5] Karkkainen 252-253.
[6] Lesslie Newbigin. The Gospel in a Pluralist Society. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1989) 88.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Christianity and Other Religions Part 4

Question 5: My Muslim friend tells me that I believe in three Gods. What does she mean?

Although one of the similarities between Christianity and Islam is belief in one God, there are major differences in how that oneness is expressed. Islam states that God is one and that to believe in the trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), is tritheism (believing in three gods as opposed to monotheism which is belief in one God). Muslims accuse Christians of tritheism, which they consider shirk. Shrik is associating partners to Allah (or polytheism) and is the unforgivable sin.[1]

The Qur’an addresses the issue of the trinity in the following verses:

  • “Thus, in regard to the Trinity, the Qur’an says, ‘Say not ‘Three’—Cease! (It is) better for you! —Allah is only One God.” Surah 4:171

  • “They surely disbelieve who say: Lo! Allah is the third of three; when there is no God save the One God. If they desist not from so saying a painful doom will fall on those of them who disbelieve.” Surah 5:73

  • “Say: He is Allah, the One! Allah, the eternally Besought of all! He begetteth not nor was begotten. And there is none comparable unto Him.” Surah 112

The Trinity

Muslims take extreme care to protect the oneness of God. Christians also take care to protect the oneness of God, but Christians understand the identity of God differently. Christians believe that God is a trinity—three in one. The Muslim critique can serve as a challenging reminder to Christians that we serve a God who truly is one. Often times Christians can make the mistake of falling into tritheism. We see the Father doing X and the Son doing Y without grasping that the Father is the Son and the Son is the Father.

In the trinity, God is made known through Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit. None of these aspects of the trinity exist without the other two. When Christians speak of the trinity, there is a danger of going to one of two extremes. Some Christians make the mistake of trying to over-explain the trinity; they use pictures and analogies to make the trinity “make sense.” On the other end of the spectrum, there are Christians who believe the trinity is so mysterious that we should not even try to understand how it works.

Both of these extremes are a problem. Over simplifying the trinity does not do the trinity justice. Anytime we think that we have grasped the trinity and completely understand how it works, we deceive ourselves. However, if we simply give up thinking about the trinity because it is too “mysterious,” we begin to despair and don’t experience the benefits of contemplating this mystery. The difficulty for the Christian lies in finding a balance to these two extremes.

When Dale Bruner speaks on the trinity, he speaks of the “shyness of God.”[2] All throughout the Gospels, we see the Father, Son and Holy Spirit continually deflecting attention away from themselves and pointing towards another.

The “shyness” of the Spirit:

The Spirit comes in the Son’s name not to draw attention to himself, but to bear witness to the Son and glorify the Son. And so Jesus says:

“But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said” (John 14:26).

“But when he, the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own, he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come” (John 16:13). The Spirit points to Jesus saying “Look! Listen to him. Learn from him. Follow him. Worship him. Love him.”

The “shyness” of the Son:

All of this attention does not go to the Son’s head. The Son does not travel through the land claiming that he is the greatest. The Son says:

“If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me” (John 8:54). Jesus says he came to serve, not to be served (Mark 10:45). He submits to the Spirit when the Spirit leads him into the desert to be tempted (Matthew 4:1). He submits to the Father at Gethsemane when he says, “Not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).

The “shyness” of the Father:

We hear the Father’s voice twice in the Gospels. Once at Jesus’ baptism and then again at the Transfiguration. In both places the Father says the same thing: “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” (Matthew 3:17; 17:5).

Over and over again we see the Father, Son and Holy Spirit deflecting to one another. Each seems to be pointing to the other. This type of relationship is kind of like a dance where each bows to the other while still in relationship.[3] God exists in fellowship with Godself. God is always in communion. One is never without the others—they are never acting alone.

Why is this such a big deal? What does it matter if the God is really Jesus, or if the Spirit is really God? Why do we talk about the person of the trinity? Would it not be easier to simply speak of one God and leave all of these details out? Why is this such a big deal?

In order to address these questions, we have to refer back to the revelation of God that was mentioned earlier. God chose to reveal Godself as Jesus Christ. God came to earth as the human Jesus in order that we might know God. God came as Jesus, known as “Immanuel,” meaning, “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). In the Old Testament, God spoke to the people through the prophets. But now, rather than speaking through someone, God becomes someone. We do not hear about God through a messenger. We hear about God from God! We are given a direct revelation!

Again, in order to understand the gravity behind this concept, we have to refer back to what Christians say makes Jesus so special. When Jesus died on the cross, God died on the cross. Everything hinges on this understanding. Consider this: if Jesus is not God, than Jesus’ death on the cross did no more for us than the death of any good person.

Christians believe that Jesus took on our sin and died on the cross. He was raised three days later, showing victory over our sin. If Jesus is not God, than our sin was not taken upon the cross. And if our sin was not taken upon the cross we are in a hopeless, sinful state. But thanks be to God, God has conquered our sin by Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit.

Furthermore, we worship Jesus because he is God. If we worshipped Jesus without acknowledging him as God, we would be guilty of idolatry.

God is one. God exists as a fellowship of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is an unbreakable, mysterious union, which is another aspect of God’s transcendence (meaning this is beyond our comprehension). Christians worship a big God.



[1] McDowell 302.

[2] John Ortberg, “The ‘Shyness’ of God. Christianity Today. 32:66 (2001) 1. From hereon referred to as “Ortberg.”

[3] Ortberg 2.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Christianity and Other Religions Part Three

Question 4: What are the major differences between Christianity and Islam?

Jesus.

The biggest difference between Islam and Christianity is who we say Jesus is. Of the 6,236 verses in the Qur’an, 74 speak of Jesus Christ, and 42 of these verses refer to him indirectly.

What do Muslims believe about Jesus? Muslims respect and revere Jesus. Muslims believe that Jesus lived a sinless life and was born of a virgin.[11] While the Qur’an speaks very respectfully of both Jesus and Mary, the Qur’an insists that Jesus is only a man—not God or the Son of God. Muslims say that Jesus was created in the same way that Adam was created: “Jesus in Allah’s Sight is like Adam; He created him from dust, then He said to him: ‘Be’, and there he was.”[12] Islam explicitly says that Jesus is not God. Surah 9:30 reads: “The Christians say that the Messiah is the Son of God. God fight them! How they lie!”

The Qur’an also denies that Jesus died on the cross. Jesus’ enemies had planned to kill him, but God saved him and took him up to heaven. In Surah 4:157 we read, “…They said: ‘We killed the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, the messenger of God.’ They did not kill him, nor did they crucify him, but the likeness of him was put on another man (and they killed that man).” Islamic tradition says that the man killed on the cross was Judas, and that Judas only appeared to look like Jesus.[13]

To put it simply, the Islamic religion states that Jesus was a messenger:

O People of the Book, do not exceed the bounds of your religion, nor say about Allah except the truth. The Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, is only Allah’s Messenger and His Word, which He imparted to Mary, and is a spirit from Him! So believe in Allah and His Messengers and do not say ‘three’ [gods]. Refrain; it is better for you. Allah is truly One God. How—glory be to Him—Could He have a son?[14]

According to the Qur’an, Jesus’ message had three parts surrounding the past, the present, and the future. Jesus had a message regarding the past—he confirmed and preserved the Torah (the first five books of the Bible). Jesus had a message regarding the present—he brought the gift of a meal from heaven (the Eucharist or the Lord’s Supper). According to Islamic tradition, Jesus’ message concerning the future was a prediction of a future messenger “who would come after him whose name would be Ahmad, the Prophet of Islam.[15]” Islam claims that historical Christianity has distorted Jesus’ mission and Islam must correct these mistakes.[16]

Revelation

Isma’il al-Faruqi is a professor of Islamics at Temple University. He writes that the great difference between Christianity and Islam is on the subject of revelation. According to al-Faruqi, “God does not reveal Himself to anyone. Christians talk about the revelation of God Himself—by God of God—but that is the great difference between Christianity and Islam.”[1]

Christians believe that God came to earth in human form. Jesus Christ came to earth as God. There is no depth of God that is not consistent with what is revealed in Jesus Christ. So when people encounter Jesus, they encounter God. Christians often use two words to describe God. God is both transcendent and immanent. God as transcendent means that God is other. God is beyond our scope of comprehension. We cannot even scratch the surface of what it means to know God.

Christians also say that God is immanent. When we say that God is immanent, we say that God is with us and we can know God. We use both of these words to describe how God is both personal and beyond our comprehending. Christians hold these two views of God in tension. This tension exists in the Bible as well. In Isaiah 45:15 we read, “Truly, you are a God who hides yourself.” Only four verses later we read, “I have not spoken in secret…”[2] While this might seem difficult to hold in tension, we can say with confidence that even though we cannot wrap our minds around how big God is, God has chosen to reveal part of Godself to us. We speak of this with both confidence and modesty.

Christians believe that God freely chooses to reveal Godself to us. We do not just encounter facts or information about God, we are actually exposed to Godself! This does not mean that we know everything there is to know about God. God is so big (transcendent), that what we are capable of knowing about God is only a small drop in a large ocean. How can we know God and yet not know God, you may ask? Consider the story of Moses and the burning bush. God reveals Godself to Moses through the bush. However, God is not fully known. When Moses asks what God’s name is, God responds, “I am who I am.”[3] Although God reveals Godself to Moses, there is certainly a great deal of mystery behind this revelation. It is almost as if the light of God’s revelation is so bright that we are blinded. God is beyond what our soul can grasp.[4] When we see God, it is as if we are seeing through a glass dimly.[5]

Islamic tradition says that God cannot be both transcendent and immanent. Professor al-Faruqi explains: “You may not have complete transcendence and self-revelation at the same time.”[6] Islam says that God does not reveal Godself, but that God only reveals God’s will. “Islam teaches that God does not reveal himself to anyone in any way. God reveals only his will, which is found in the Qur’an.”[7] God is in many respects unknowable.[8]

Scripture

Although some of the stories and teachings of the Bible and the Qur’an sound similar, there are some distinct differences between these two books. Muslims believe that while Christians had a holy book at one point, this book has been tampered with and no longer contains the full truth; only the Qur’an holds the full truth.[9]

Certain passages in the Qur’an state that Christians have misinterpreted their own text by failing to recognize that the Paraclete in the Gospel of John (which Christians call the Holy Spirit) is in reality speaking of the coming of Muhammad. “At times, the Qur’an manifest so much anger at Jews and Christians for failing to see that its teaching constitute the completion of their own scripture that it pronounces them to be enemies doomed to destruction.“[10]

References from the Qur’an on Christians and the Bible:

  • “Do not dispute with the people of the Book, save in the fairest way; except for those of them who are evildoers. And say: ‘We believe in what has been sent down to us and what has been sent down to you. Our God and your God are one and to Him we are submissive’” (Surah 29:46).

  • “And with some of those who say: ‘We are Christians’, we made a covenant; but they forgot part of what they were reminded of so we stirred up enmity and hatred among them till the Day of Resurrection. Allah will let them know what they did” (Surah 5:14).

Since the Bible was compiled before Muhammad, there are not any specific references to Islam.




[1]Isma’il al-Faruqi, “On the Nature of Islamic Da’wah.” International Review of Mission. 65:260 (1976) 406. From hereon referred to as “al-Faruqi.”

[2] Isaiah 45:19.

[3] Exodus 3:14

[4] Theologians call this “apophaticsm.”

[5] 1 Corinthians 13:12

[6] al-Faruqi 406.

[7] McDowell 90.

[8] Taber 37.

[9] Jerald F. Dirks. Understanding Islam. (Maryland: Amana Publications, 2003) 276.

[10] Levenson 32.

[11] Surah 3:45-47.

[12] Surah 3:59.

[13] S. M. Zwemer. Muhammad or Christ? (London: Seely, Service &Co, 1916) 230.

[14] Surah 4:171.

[15] McDowell 114.

[16] McDowell 121.