Monthly Archives: January 2016

Theological Discussions in the Online Age


Do Christians, Muslims, and Jews worship the same God? The question is the latest rage in Christian theological discussion. It is not a new discussion, but came to the forefront last month when Wheaton College suspended an Associate Professor who said that we Christians and Muslims worship the same God.

So do we? Beliefs among Christian theologians and scholars differ widely—even among what we might call more conservative, orthodox Christians. Ed Stetzer says no. Miroslav Volf says yes. Scot McKnight goes a step further, writing that Christians worship a different God than both Muslims and Jews (our spiritual forebears).

Among the general population, views are no less divergent: Americans are almost evenly divided (46% say yes, 47% say no, and a wise 8% admit uncertainty); evangelical Christians aren’t much more united: 35% yes, 60% no, and 6% unsure. (Poll from Lifeway Research.)

The question is not unimportant. How we answer will impact our evangelism and our missiology, of course, but also our politics and community living. Wise, thoughtful disciples (also known as followersstudents, or learners) will want to seek the Biblical, Holy Spirit-given truth.

My present concern, though, is less with the question and more with the discussion. 

In this flat-earth, internet-connected world, more and more of our “family meetings” are happening online, in full view of a watching public that often wants nothing more than to see Christians discredit themselves—and their Lord—through debate and division.

My question is, how can we have a Biblically-based discussion of this topic in a way that does not cause unnecessary division within the church, and does not present the world with more evidence of the divisions that already exist?

I am particularly interested in responses to this from Dr. Scot McKnight, Dr. Ed Stetzer, and Dr. Miroslav Volf. These are certainly not the only three in the conversation; they just happen to be three whose scholarship and theologies I highly respect and whose online writings I follow.

Do Christians, Muslims, and Jews worship the same God? As Christians, we must find our answers first in the pages of Scripture, as illumined by the light of the Holy Spirit.

The Year of Perhaps


My social media pages yesterday were filled with New Year’s greetings and wishes, most of which expressed, in one way or another, the hope that 2016 would be the best year yet. Such hopes and wishes are an annual event, of course…though seldom realized as true.

Life—like the economy and the landscape—is filled with ups and downs, hills and valleys, good days and bad.

I wanted to ask God this morning to let me know what 2016 would hold, but then I checked myself. What if he had done that three years ago? The year we made a decision that would lead to a major job change, a major move, and major upheaval; the year my sister-in-law was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Would we have made the same decision if the diagnosis had come first?

What about two years ago? Would I have left my pastoral role if I’d known that six months later I’d be delivering mail and Christmas packages instead of a Christmas Eve sermon?

Or last year: Death. Conflict. Depression. Unemployment. Would I really have wanted to know on January 2nd that those lay ahead of me?

The God of Perhaps

Jonathan was the king’s son, a brave warrior, and a trusted friend and leader. At a time when the Israelite army was decimated and weaponless—only the king and his son had swords—the Philistines came prepared for battle, expecting a rout. But Jonathan said to his armor-bearer, “Let’s you and I go launch a surprise attack on those godless heathens; perhaps the LORD will be with us.” Two men, one sword…and maybe?! They did, He was, and the Israelites won the battle. (Well, the LORD won the battle for them. Read this account in First Samuel 13 and 14.)

Or consider the three Hebrews who in VeggieTales are called Rack, Shack, and Benny. (The Bible calls them by their Babylonian-given names, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.) They refused to worship a statue of the pagan king, and the punishment for their crime was death in the fiery furnace. Given one last chance to bow down or barbecue, the boys answered the king: “Dumb question, Nezzie. Throw us on the barbie and call us done; perhaps God will save us and perhaps not, but we’re not going to worship you. Period.” They didn’t, He did, and Nebuchadnezzar made the change of his life. (Read about it in Daniel 3.)

Perhaps God will be with us. Perhaps God will save us.

Maybe 2016 will be the best year yet. Maybe not.

Perhaps God will give you an impossible victory this year.

Maybe God will keep you out of the furnace, or maybe He’ll just keep you from being burned when you’re in it.

Perhaps God will heal you, or perhaps He won’t. Perhaps someone you love more than life itself will meet God in your illness.

Perhaps 2016 will be the year of a perhaps faith in a certain God