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Alister McGrath’s C.S. Lewis: A Life– Part Twelve

Ben Witherington - Bible and Culture - Fri, 05/15/2015 - 02:49
Ben: I find it interesting that those who most objected to Lewis’ orthodoxy and orthopraxy, past or present, on this side of the pond, were either real fundamentalists who especially despised his social practices, or those of a hyper-Reformed orientation who found his more gentle Arminian musings beyond the pale. Yet he continues to speak [Read More...]

Seeing the Vision

Missionary Blogs - Thu, 05/14/2015 - 21:41
Even after 34,000 miles of travel, we know that many of you have not had the opportunity to hear our vision. This new video has you in mind.

For the Nights When You Can't Sleep....

Missionary Blogs - Thu, 05/14/2015 - 21:01
The idyllic days rarely come labeled as such. I scratch these words in the almost darkness, imagining myself doing so by candlelight, but in reality doing so by backlighting the phone in my...

Soup Kitchen

Adventures with God - Thu, 05/14/2015 - 14:11
The Gathering began our soup kitchen tonight and we were really encouraged by the initial response and really believe it's going to become an effective ministry in the community.

We put the word out on the street but didn't formally advertise the soup kitchen and we had ten adults and three children come for soup. We also gave some to the pump attendants who are always very friendly and helpful, they were pleased to get some hot soup on a cold night.

The response from those that received soup was very positive and they all said they would bring some friends next week, so in faith we're going to buy a bigger pot.

Thank you Lord for your faithfulness and blessing!
Ziggy preparing the pots for soup

A big thankyou to our friends Ed & Anton at Taste Bistro for the pots

Ready for action... it really was very yummy!

Joel was a star helping to serve the soup

The evening was set off perfectly by a gorgeous sunset over Table Mountain.


Missionary Blogs - Thu, 05/14/2015 - 13:46
Years back, when I was a teacher in Australia I remember hiring an incubator with almost-ready-to-hatch eggs in it.  After a day or so of having it in the classroom, the first crack started to...

How is your psychological health?

Missionary Blogs - Thu, 05/14/2015 - 13:17
We surely don't know the road ahead, all we can do is look behind and be thankful for what we've received. Yesterday David and I drove over an hour for a ministry debrief with...

First month update – 21% raised

Missionary Blogs - Thu, 05/14/2015 - 07:29
During the first month of our 4K in 4 months project God provided $8,750 for Life Baptist Church’s land! We are so thankful to all who gave in April and to all who continue to pray with us...

American Mythology– You Can Be Whatever You Want to Be

Ben Witherington - Bible and Culture - Thu, 05/14/2015 - 02:17
When I was young (and foolish), I wanted to be Spiderman, or at least a reasonable facsimile thereof. I even once leaped off a large dollhouse in the backyard of a neighbor, to impress a girl. I broke my arm. It was a crystalizing moment for me at nine years of age. I realized there [Read More...]

An Answer to Prayer...

Missionary Blogs - Thu, 05/14/2015 - 00:19
 Most of you probably know about our car situation and our emails about raising funds to purchase a new car. We are so grateful for the way everyone responded to our need and it was such a good...

Quirky bag a new favourite

Missionary Blogs - Wed, 05/13/2015 - 14:17
We've had a few big days recently, catching up with more people, as well as continuing to tick off the boxes of things that need doing. Tomorrow I'll tell you about our debrief with the psychologist,...

The Narrow Gate

Simon Cozen's Blog - Wed, 05/13/2015 - 08:19
Language Undefined

I’ve been wondering recently what it means to be a Christian—who gets to call themselves a Christian? Do certain people call themselves Christians when they aren’t? And is there a way to tell them apart, without falling into “no true Scotsman” territory? Today I came up with a solution, and it’s not neat or particularly encouraging, but it may be helpful.

It’s actually very easy to be a Christian. Not very much is required. You can make a deathbed conversion, declare your faith in Jesus, never do anything else again, and you’re a 100%, honest-to-goodness Christian. So in that sense being a Christian imposes no moral, ethical, social or political strictures on anyone. The Bible talks about it like this: “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Or like this: “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Or like this: “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.”

That’s all you need to do. And that’s the scandal of Christianity, that it’s radically inclusive. Everyone is welcome. Bonhoeffer was wrong; there is such a thing as cheap grace. Being a Christian is easy.

Being a disciple, a follower of Jesus, though—now that’s a different story.

I don’t know if Jesus himself had this distinction in mind; maybe he expected everyone who believed in him to be 100% sold out on following him. After all, there wasn’t anyone called “Christian” while he was about. Maybe it’s a distinction that’s come about through Paul, filtered through the kind of “lifeboat rescue” view of salvation that NT Wright so carefully dismantles. But I think it’s a distinction worth making today.

Whereas the option of faith in Christ is open to everyone, Jesus was very clear that discipleship is a difficult calling for the few. He talks about it as being a narrow gate, which would be an odd thing to say if you expected everyone to fit through. He demands that those who want to be a disciple must “deny themselves and take up their cross daily”. That doesn’t sound like an easy thing. Bonhoeffer was right—when Christ calls a man, he bids him to come and die.

Jesus called some people “unfit for service in the kingdom of God”, simply because they put their family before serving him; others were whittled out because they put their money before serving him. Disciples can’t serve two masters. Disciples have to serve others, to humble themselves, to avoid defilement, to look after widows and orphans… the list goes on, and we could argue some of the details but it’s hopefully very clear that this is no longer wide open and scandalously inclusive. Being a disciple does impact how you live. Being a disciple, unlike being a Christian, very definitely has moral, ethical, social and political dimensions for your life. Being a disciple costs.

You can choose Christ and have an easy life, but by goodness you’re in for it if Christ chooses you.

We believe, we hope, we assume, that one leads necessarily to the other—that someone who converts to faith in Christ would go on to make the step from there to walking the narrow way of discipleship. But it isn’t necessarily the case.

I had lunch with a pastor of a Japanese church the other day, and he said that his congregation had asked him, in so many words, to stop preaching to them about Christian growth. Discipleship, they said, was not something that they saw the need for. They were saved, they went to church every Sunday, they paid their tithe—they were doing their bit, and anything else was his bit. Why was he trying to make his job into their job? And from my experience, I don’t think that kind of attitude is particularly unusual here, even though one does not often hear it expressed so baldly.

In other words, the Japanese church has a lot of Christians but very few disciples. Getting Japanese people over the hurdle of faith and into the Church has been such a major challenge that we have been quite happy to stop there, count our converts, and give thanks—not wanting to push them too hard along the costly path of discipleship. If we push them too much, they might leave the Church, and how can that be better? And then we wonder why the Japanese church doesn’t multiply; why it’s so hard to get lay people involved in ministry; and all that. Well, why should they? What incentive do they have?

Tyler Edwards argues that the same process is happening in the Western churches, as consumerist tendencies push us towards an easier, more convenient, less demanding gospel. But I don’t think this is a cultural phenomenon, in Japan or in the West. Christian leaders over the centuries have bemoaned a lack of spiritual commitment from the masses in the pews. A hundred years ago, C T Studd complained that

“We Christians of today are indeed a tepid crew. Had we but half the fire and enthusiasm of the Suffragettes in the past, we would have the world evangelized and Christ back among us in no time.”

And Jesus said the same thing about the church in Laodicea back in the first century. So the distinction between “Christian” and “disciple” is not a new thing; it’s not about culture, or about consumerism, or even about how missionaries and pastors have failed to engage with people. If anything, it’s about the 80-20 rule.

Or more to the point, it is about the scandal at the heart of Christianity, or at least of our understanding of it—that Christ is open to all, that anyone can be saved… but walking through the narrow gate is strictly an optional extra.

Subject tags: theology

Alister McGrath’s C.S. Lewis: A Life: Part Eleven

Ben Witherington - Bible and Culture - Wed, 05/13/2015 - 02:47
Ben: One of the upshots for me of reading your engaging book is that it confirms that I am a literary dinosaur fixated on close reading of primary sources, and a man of Renaissance reading habits, since I underline and star etc. real books still with regularity, including yours. I am wondering what you think [Read More...]


Missionary Blogs - Tue, 05/12/2015 - 16:47
Okay, so I started taking vitamins more consistently and it definitely helped after a few days. Now I'm just regular sleep-deprived, ha! There is a noticeable difference between regular tired and...


Missionary Blogs - Tue, 05/12/2015 - 12:34
We once stayed in a house while on deputation. It was an occupied house, but we didn't know the owners and never met them because they were on holidays. Actually this has happened twice, though...

Alister McGrath’s C.S. Lewis: A Life– Part Ten

Ben Witherington - Bible and Culture - Tue, 05/12/2015 - 02:45
Ben: I was a bit surprised to hear your analysis on p. 300 of Lewis being something of a Platonist, following, you suggest, the author of Hebrews. I don’t really think that works as an analysis of Hebrews since both the shadows and substance transpire on earth, and the really real is on earth and [Read More...]

For the Days When You Need to Be Reminded that God is Good.....No Matter What

Missionary Blogs - Mon, 05/11/2015 - 12:46
A year ago this weekend, our sweet little Lili was having heart surgery here in Ghana. Nothing had happened the way we desired or planned, but it was the way the Lord wanted it to be. I would not...

Mother's Day Weekend 2015

Missionary Blogs - Mon, 05/11/2015 - 12:04
Mother's Day in Guatemala is always on May 10 regardless which day of the week it is.  This year it happened to fall on the same day as it was celebrated in the States.  Many years I...

Grocery shopping gets harder

Missionary Blogs - Mon, 05/11/2015 - 10:49
I love our walk-in pantry here. Pity it will soon have to look as bare as this again. Grocery shopping at this end of home assignment is tricky. I don't want to buy large refill bottles and only use...

Rock foundations nearly done

Missionary Blogs - Mon, 05/11/2015 - 05:17
The building of the training centre is moving ahead.  The rock foundations are mostly done for all but the main training room.  We will focus on trying to get the sewing centre functional...

Alister McGrath’s C.S. Lewis: A Life— Part Nine

Ben Witherington - Bible and Culture - Mon, 05/11/2015 - 02:43
Ben: Lewis makes an important distinction between the imaginary and the imaginative and insists his fiction is of the latter sort. Help us to better understand what he means by this, and why he also says you can look at his fiction as a spectacle, or as a set of spectacles through which we see [Read More...]
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