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A Loving and Biblical Approach to Gender Identity

A Loving and Biblical Approach to Gender Identity

A seminary professor recently said to a couple of our pastors “We used to argue about what the two genders mean, but this upcoming generation is trying to decide if there are two genders or fifty-eight, or even more.” They were discussing Christ Community’s recent paper on exploring a biblical theology of male and female. That paper raises crucial questions many of us now face on a daily basis.

Like the professor, you might also be shocked about how our culture is shifting around gender identity. For many of you, these are not abstract theoretical discussions. Perhaps you experience profound distress as your internal sense of gender doesn’t seem to match your body’s biological sex. Perhaps your son Jon recently told you his name is now Jen and asks that you only use that name from now on, and you haven’t got a clue about what to do. Perhaps these are the experiences of people you deeply love and care for and you don’t know how to both love and stay tethered to biblical truth. Even as we preach about the importance of male and female and how marriage points to the mystery of Christ and his church (Ephesians 5:21-33), these broader questions of gender identity may rush to the front of your mind. 

Whatever your story is, we desire to be a caring family who loves one another and builds our lives on biblical truth. Too often we place those things in opposition to one another. Our church affirms with our Lord Jesus and believers throughout history that “from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female’” (Mark 10:6; Genesis 1:27). There is a good design to our bodies being sexed, and a beautiful diversity of women and men contributing in genuinely complementary ways in the church, the family, and broader society. 

The goodness of this design does not reside, though, in cultural stereotypes. We also acknowledge that in our broken world, many people feel great discomfort when their internal sense of self doesn’t align with how culture expects people of their sex to behave. This is typically refered to as transgender identity or gender dysphoria. We want to love people with these experiences well, which means treating them with dignity, gentleness, and respect, as well as pointing them toward the goodness of being embodied, sexed creatures, as Scripture teaches.

We have created a list of ways to help us thoughtfully consider this topic, and to grow both in our capacity to love those navigating matters of gender identity, and to understand the biblical view of gender.

We do not necessarily agree with everything written or said, either in the linked resource itself or by the authors and speakers in their other publications. However, we do believe them to be helpful starting points for further conversation. The list is by no means exhaustive, but will help us begin a deeper interaction with the questions we are already wrestling with. 

 

Read 
 
Listen
  • Theology in the Raw Podcast #881 – “From Trans To Detrans: Daisy Chadra”

    It is important to listen to personal stories to keep this from becoming just another “issue” or opinion. In this podcast, Preston Sprinkle interviews Daisy, who formerly identified as transgender, and now reidentifies with her female biological sex. They discuss her story, the nature of gender dysphoria and social dysphoria, some of the gender ideology that she used to believe but no longer does, the role that the internet played in her journey and transition, and what advice she would give to parents of trans-identified kids. There are also many other interviews with people who struggle with gender identity on this podcast feed. 

 

  • Theology in the Raw Podcast #981 – “What Is Intersex?” Julie Zaagman And Dr. Sam Ashton.  

    Intersex people (umbrella term for a variety of medical conditions that cause someone to have physical/biological sex traits that differ from typical male or female characteristics in chromosomes, internal sex organs, and/or external genitalia) are often used in the gender identity discussions as justification for identifying as a different gender than one’s biological sex. In this podcast, Preston Sprinkle interviews Julie, who has an intersex condition, and Sam who completed a Ph.D. from Wheaton College on the topic of intersex. 

Attend 

However you interact with these resources, keep in mind that your pastors are here for you. If you or someone you love is wrestling alone with their gender identity, please reach out to one of us. Alongside the skilled Christian counselors in our network, we would be honored to walk this journey with you.

As we wrestle with these hard questions in our broken world, let’s not lose sight of praising God for how he created humans, men and women both, in his image to reflect his gracious rule in this world.

Psalm 8 (New Living Translation)

1 O Lord, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth!

    Your glory is higher than the heavens.

2 You have taught children and infants

    to tell of your strength,

silencing your enemies

    and all who oppose you.

 

3 When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers—

    the moon and the stars you set in place—

4 what are mere mortals that you should think about them,

    human beings that you should care for them?

5 Yet you made them only a little lower than God

    and crowned them with glory and honor.

6 You gave them charge of everything you made,

    putting all things under their authority—

7 the flocks and the herds

    and all the wild animals,

8 the birds in the sky, the fish in the sea,

    and everything that swims the ocean currents.

 

9 O Lord, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth!

We the Fallen People Includes You and Me

We the Fallen People Includes You and Me

I am a democrat [proponent of democracy] because I believe in the Fall of Humanity.

I think most people are democrats for the opposite reason. A great deal of democratic enthusiasm descends from the ideas of people like Rousseau, who believed in democracy because they thought humankind so wise and good that every one deserved a share in the government.

The danger of defending democracy on those grounds is that they’re not true…I find that they’re not true without looking further than myself. I don’t deserve a share in governing a hen-roost. Much less a nation….

The real reason for democracy is just the reverse. Humankind is so fallen that no one can be trusted with unchecked power over his or her fellows.

“Equality” in The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses* by C.S. Lewis

 

Political Partisanship

If you’re anything like me, I’m sure you are frustrated and perplexed by the political partisanship that only seems to increase with each passing election cycle. Whether it be disagreements over abortion, inflation, student loan forgiveness, public school curriculum, or anything else, thoughtful and charitable debate is hard to find. In spite of these divisions, there is one thing almost all politicians, pundits, and activists agree on: “most Americans want what is right and good, and they agree with me.” Both sides of our political discourse will creatively redefine what “most Americans” means to make this statement true. You would be hard pressed to find a public persona who asserts “Most Americans disagree with me on this, but they are profoundly mistaken.” In our contemporary political culture, the voice of the people is considered the voice of God. 

 

Sin and American Democracy

I recently had the pleasure of reading We the Fallen People: The Founders and Future of American Democracy by Robert Tracy McKenzie, Professor of History at Wheaton College. In this deeply thought-provoking book, McKenzie explores the relationship between the Christian doctrine of sin and American democracy. He argues that the founders, who were by no means perfect, had a robust view of the brokenness of human nature that coheres with the biblical view. They designed our constitution with that view of human nature in mind and created built-in checks and balances to guard against the tyranny of the majority. However, within a generation, this view of fallen humanity fell out of favor with the function of American politics. The will of “We, the People” gained the moral high ground simply because it reflects the majority of people who consider themselves essentially good. 

Biblically, this is not true. Humans were created good but were broken and tainted by sin when Adam and Eve fell. God sees “that every intention of the thoughts of (humanity’s) heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). The prophet Jeremiah locates this corruption deep within the human heart as it “is deceitful above all things” (Jeremiah 17:9). The apostle Paul, summarizing and combining much of the Old Testament, concludes that “none is righteous, no not one” (Romans 3:10). Even Jesus himself declares “No one is good except God alone” (Mark 10:18).

 

Fallen Image-Bearers

Now this does not mean every human being is as wicked and evil as they could possibly be. Each human still bears God’s image even after The Fall (Genesis 9:6), and God’s goodness and common grace prevents humans from being absolutely evil. Also, Christians are not completely exempt from brokenness and sin from the moment of their conversion. Though sin is defeated when Christ redeems us and gives us the Holy Spirit, sinful desires and inclinations still remain within us. This is why Paul commands believers not to allow sin to reign in our mortal bodies (Romans 6:12). Moreover, the reality and depth of human sinfulness should lead even saved Christians to maintain a posture of humility toward others because we are all broken (Ephesians 2:1-9). Gospel-centered Christians can’t divide the world neatly into “good guys” and “bad guys.” Instead, we confess we are all the “bad guys”, and our only hope of being made new is the one Good Guy who died in our place.

Does our broader political engagement and faith in democracy embody this view? McKenzie says no and details major events in Andrew Jackson’s presidency that are emblematic of the opposite shift that still persist today. Notably, Native Americans were removed from the southeast portion of the United States during the “Trail of Tears” in order to distribute more farmland to white settlers. Though there was dissent to this egregious violation of justice and disregard for ratified treaties, such opposition was labeled as ‘elitist’ and wrong because it went against the “populist” will of the people. Jackson would say “the great mass of the people cannot be corrupted” in defense of these policies. This perspective prevails in the present day with our democracy functioning as though humans are individually good and collectively wise.

What should faithful Christians consider in our democratic process in light of this? 

 

Bearing Witness to God’s Kingdom

McKenzie does not argue that returning to the founders’ style of democracy, where only white, property-owning males could vote, would solve our problems. A tyranny of the minority is no better since all are affected by The Fall. He does point to the C.S. Lewis quote noted above and claims our motivation for pursuing democracy must reckon with the reality of human depravity. We should be cautious of assuming a certain perspective or policy is right merely because “the majority” believes it to be so. We should take care to protect the rights of minorities, practice restraint when our preferred “team” is in power, and advocate for principles of justice to be followed, even if they are unpopular. This is because victory for Christian values over our culture should not be the church’s goal, but rather to be faithfully present in the midst of culture to bear witness to God’s kingdom, no matter if the majority accepts or opposes our view.

Our engagement in politics ought to flow out of our virtue formation. One of the most commonly repeated quotes during election season is “America is great because she is good.” McKenzie explains how this is falsely attributed to Alexis de Toqueville, a French author who wrote about American democracy when visiting Jacksonian America. De Toqueville’s actual perspective was the opposite. He said “I cannot regard you (Americans) as a virtuous people.” He recognized a profound individualism in American culture that is antithetical to virtue, in that true virtue seeks the good of the whole at the expense of one’s self. A democracy that elevates the will of the majority, when there are not sufficient structures in that culture to instill the character of self-sacrifice for the betterment of others, will inevitably lead to tyranny and oppression.

Where Is Our Dependence?

As we enter into another contentious election season, let’s keep this in mind. American Christians have been given an immense privilege to have a voice in how our government is run. Engaging politically is potentially one of the most powerful ways to love our neighbors, while simultaneously also being an avenue that can bring immense pain and suffering to them. Let’s use that privilege virtuously to serve others. Let’s engage those we disagree with in a posture of humility. Let’s ask God for guidance and wisdom because we are dependent on him. Let’s interrogate our own political ideals as much as we question the “other side”, knowing that “We the Fallen People” includes ourselves.

Further Reading

McKenzie, Robert Tracy. We the Fallen People : the Founders and the Future of American Democracy. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2021.

Lewis, C. S. “Equality” in The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses. First HarperCollins edition 2001 [revised]. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2001.

*Lewis’ quote has been adjusted to reflect contemporary norms for gender-inclusive language for human beings.

A Prayer for a New Home

A Prayer for a New Home

A few months ago I received a unique and exciting pastoral request. A young couple, Luis and Marineya of our Downtown Campus, purchased a house, and they wanted a pastor to pray for God’s blessing over their new home. Marineya is from Bolivia and explained it is typical in her culture to invite one’s faith community and spiritual leaders to do this when moving into a new house. She said this can “be a way for us to dedicate our house to God in service in front of our church community since all we have is his and not ours.”

 

I was intrigued by this idea, having never heard of someone doing something like this. Also, I was deeply honored to be asked. So one Saturday evening, their community group, some other church friends, and I huddled together in their home to pray for God’s blessing over their journey there. We used a prayer liturgy adapted from Every Moment Holy, had a time for people to pray specifically for Marineya and Luis, toasted to their new home, and then continued the celebration with food and drinks. 

 

Whole Life Discipleship

 

For me, this experience so beautifully embodied the kind of whole life discipleship we talk about so often. Jesus is Lord over every area of our life and deeply cares for the spaces where we live, work, and play. We should intentionally find ways to remind ourselves of that reality. We spend much of our lives in our homes, and it is important to mark those key transitions with a focus toward God and his vision for them. I am grateful for Marineya and Luis’ initiative to invite their church community and me into this practice. 

 

Below you will find the adapted liturgy we used that evening. I encourage you to consider using this liturgy or something like it the next time you or a friend move into a new house or apartment! Gather others from your spiritual community and prayerfully and intentionally celebrate God’s blessing in the provision of a new home. Also, take some time to peruse the Every Moment Holy website and consider purchasing one of their prayer books. There are so many moments throughout our daily lives where we can intentionally remind ourselves of God’s presence in them. 

 

A Liturgy for Moving Into a New Home

– adapted from Every Moment Holy*

 

Leader: We thank you for _________’s new home, O Lord, for the shelter it will provide, for the moments of life that will be shared within it.

People: We thank you for this new home and we welcome you here.

 

Dwell with them in this place, O Lord

Dwell among them in these spaces, in these rooms.

Be present at this table as family and friends eat together.

Be present as they rise in the morning and lie down at night.

Be present in the work here. Be present in play.

 

May your Spirit inhabit this home, making of it a sanctuary where hearts and lives are knit together.

Where bonds of love are strengthened, where mercy is learned and practiced.

 

May this home be a harbor of anchorage and refuge,

And a haven from which they journey forth to do your work in the world. 

May it be a garden of nourishment in which their roots go deep

That they might bear fruit for the nourishing of others.

 

May this new home be a place of knowing and of being known.

A place of shared tears and laughter;

A place where forgiveness is easily asked and granted,

And wounds are quickly healed;

A place of meaningful conversation, of words not left unsaid;

A place of joining, of becoming, of creating, and reflecting;

A place where diverse gifts are named and appreciated;

Where they learn to serve one another

And to serve their neighbors as well;

A place where their stories are forever twined by true affections.

 

Grant also, O Lord, that their days lived gratefully within these temporary walls, enjoying these momentary fellowships, would serve to awaken within them a restless longing for their truer home. Incline all our hearts ever toward the glories

Of that better city, built by you, O God, a city whose blessings are never ending, and whose fellowships are eternally unbroken.

 

Amen.

 

*The original prayer was written for a family to pray together when moving into a new home, so I shifted the language so that it made sense for the broader faith community to pray over a family as they move into a new home.

Why We Are Not Preaching on the Woman Caught in Adultery

Why We Are Not Preaching on the Woman Caught in Adultery

This week as we continue our series through the Gospel of John, you might notice that we have skipped over the story of “The Woman Caught in Adultery” (John 7:53-8:11). You may even be disappointed as this is one of your favorite stories about Jesus. I’m with you! I love this story because it presents so vividly both Jesus’ compassion and boldness. Yet even though I like the story in this Scripture passage, we will not be preaching from it. Let me explain why by first giving some background about Scripture , and why we have confidence in the Bible as God’s Word.

 

What is the Bible?

Christ Community Church and the Evangelical Free Church of America (EFCA), the broader association of churches to which we belong, believes that God inspired the words  human authors wrote that have been gathered together into the Bible. According to our statement of faith, “We believe that God has spoken in the Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, through the words of human authors. As the verbally inspired Word of God, the Bible is without error in the original writings….” 

We believe this because Jesus, as the truest revelation of God (John 1:14-18; Hebrews 1:1-3), endorsed the entire Hebrew Bible (our Old Testament) as God’s Word that will never become void (Matthew 5:17-18; John 10:34-35). He even identifies the voice of the human author in Scripture as God’s own voice (Matthew 19:4-6; Mark 12:36). Jesus also authorized His disciples to produce authoritative teaching in line with His message that became our New Testament (John 10:27; 14:26). His earliest followers agreed in identifying all Scripture as originating in God and containing absolute truth (1 Timothy 3:15-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21). These biblical writings demonstrate themselves to be God’s Word. They were received as such by the earliest Christians, even as early as Peter viewing Paul’s writings to be as authoritative as the Hebrew Bible (1 Peter 3:15-16). From the beginning, to be a follower of Jesus is to build your life on God’s Word as found in the Bible. This book becomes the center of our gathered worship experience as we hear it read, sung, prayed, and preached over all of us together.

How do we know what is the Bible and what is not? This is why the original writings are so important. John’s Gospel is viewed as Scripture because it was written by an apostle, showed itself to be God’s Word, and was received by the early church as authoritative. If I added my own thoughts to the end of John’s Gospel, those additions would not be seen as part of the Bible and would not be viewed as God’s Word, no matter how insightful I might think they are! In a similar way, if people, even with good intentions, added extra stories or comments to a part of Scripture after it was already written and received by the church, those sections should not be considered as Scripture. Otherwise, the Bible wouldn’t distinctly be God’s Word. 

 

How do we know what the original writings are?

We do not have John’s or any other biblical author’s original manuscript. That does not mean we have no clue about what their original writings included. We have many copies made by Christians throughout history that can be used to determine this. An entire field of scholarly study called “textual criticism” exists and people use their God-given talents to serve the broader church by comparing these manuscripts to determine which readings are more likely to be the original. To make a really complex discipline way too simple, when discrepancies between different copies are found, the reading that is found in the majority of the older copies is more likely to be the original reading. When this comparison is done, it becomes apparent which changes were done, either accidentally or intentionally. Even many of the intentional changes can be seen as misguided instead of malicious;  a copyist simply wanting to add a brief explanation to help readers or include something they mistakenly believed was originally in Scripture.

But before you start getting uneasy about whether we can still trust Scripture if there have been so many errors in copying it down throughout history, know this: after a few hundred years of serious scholarly criticism and discoveries of thousands of new manuscripts from centuries earlier and closer to the time of the early church, the changes to the Bible have been miniscule. There are only a handful of places (this passage, 1 John 5:6-7, and Mark 16:9-20) where a new discovery has substantially changed how a passage is read, and not a single Christian doctrine has been affected by these discoveries. So, we can be reasonably confident that the Bible we have is a trustworthy reflection of the original writings. Far from this scholarly inquiry and reason harming our faith, it has actually bolstered it, with the Bible displaying a much more reliable transmission history than any other ancient text.

 

What about “The Woman Caught in Adultery”?

Looking back at John 7:53-8:11, it is clear this story was not in John’s original gospel. Your Bible likely has brackets around this story with a note that says something like “The earliest manuscripts do not include 7:53-8:11.” This is because the only manuscript before the ninth century to include this story was one from the fifth century found in western Europe (further from where John wrote) and also deviates from earlier manuscripts in other key areas. Other copies from the tenth century onward that have it, often place it, or variations of it, in different places throughout the gospels. It only became more common in its current form and location in manuscripts dating from the Middle Ages.

On the other hand, every other early manuscript omits it, notably including two of the earliest and most reliable manuscripts, called Papyrus 66 and Papyrus 75 that date from the second or early third century and were found in Egypt (closer to where John wrote). Codex Sinaiticus, the oldest complete copy of the New Testament (c. 325 CE), does not include it either. No pastor or theologian from the eastern side of the early church references it until the tenth century. In their commentaries and sermons, they go directly from John 7:52 to 8:12 (keep in mind that current chapter and verse breakdowns were added later). Finally, all the earliest translations of the Greek New Testament (Syriac, Coptic, Armenian, Old Latin, and Georgian) skip this story as well.

 

Then how did it get in the Bible?

It is probably a true story about Jesus that His early followers passed around orally, but was not written down in one of our four gospels. This should not surprise us! John himself says that “Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book” and this could be one of those (John 20:30). Papias of Hierapolis, a pastor who lived from 60 to 130 CE in Turkey, records a similar story in his writings that he had heard from others. As this story was told and retold between Christians, probably a scribe in the west really appreciated it (like me and so many others!) and sincerely or disingenuously thought it should be included in a biblical gospel. He or she probably added it to John 8 because it fits with Jesus not judging (verse 15). At the end of the chapter Jesus is about to be stoned (verse 59), so Jesus can be seen as taking the place of the sinful woman. Due to both a compelling story and sparse access to early copies of John, eventually it became the dominant reading by the time of the first English Bible translations.

 

What should we do with it?

There are so many stories of God working in the world that can encourage, challenge, and inspire us. These include writings by the Jewish people between the Old and New Testament, early Christian writings, church history, and experiences that you and I have today. There is nothing wrong with cherishing and learning from these stories. Most of them are probably true! According to the evidence we have, “The Woman Caught in Adultery” fits into this category.

 

However, as disciples of Jesus, we make a distinction between these stories, which may contain errors, and God’s Word that is without error in its original writings. The former stories certainly can be read privately and even referenced in public teaching, but they should not be read and affirmed as God’s Word by Christians gathered together. They are not a part of the Bible we build our life on, that is uniquely “to be believed in all that it teaches, obeyed all that it requires, and trusted in all that it promises.”

Further Reading

Evangelical Convictions: a Theological Exposition of the Statement of Faith of the Evangelical Free Church of America. Minneapolis, MN: Free Church Publications, 2011.

 

Blomberg, Craig. “The Reliability of the New Testament”. The Gospel Coalition. 

 

Carson, D. A. The Gospel According to John. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1991.

 

Hill, Charles. Who Chose the New Testament Books? Deerfield, IL: Christ on Campus Initiative, 2018.

 

Learning to Trust (and Love) the Bible

Learning to Trust (and Love) the Bible

My relationship with the Bible has always been one of intense love…and at times almost crippling doubt. And it all began for me with a fairly lukewarm prayer.

Jesus, I’m going to try to take you seriously for a while. As best I can remember, these are the words I prayed down in the basement of my childhood home when I was 18 years old. It wasn’t a very poetic prayer, and it even seems a bit half-hearted, but it was enough. That night Jesus grabbed onto this reluctant convert and nothing for me has been the same since.

That moment set me on a path–a lifelong quest–to learn how to trust and love the Bible.

I’d grown up in church. My dad was a pastor during my formative years. I knew the Bible pretty well, and if we were doing a Bible trivia night, I could dominate. But it wasn’t until that lukewarm prayer that I began to hear God’s voice through its ancient pages. I could see God’s love for me. I could see myself in His words. A life and a love and a joy calling out to me from its pages.

Weird, right? As a senior in high school, unsure of my future, lonely and depressed, God found me and He used His Book to do it.

I couldn’t get enough.
Almost instantly, I couldn’t get enough of this Book. It was like food and I hadn’t eaten for years. I’d read it in the morning before school and at night before bed. Sermons (at Christ Community no less, vintage Pastor Tom) came alive. I began discussing it with friends and a few months later even began leading a Bible study with my peers. 

I wanted to know it and understand it and trust it and obey it and build my life on it. I wanted to know the One who’d made me and there He was on these dusty pages.

But then doubt settled in.
I don’t know if you know this about the Bible, but it is a hard book. Once you start reading (more than just the inspiring soundbite), questions surface. Brutal, sometimes seemingly unanswerable questions. And then, of course, doubt.

The next fall I headed off to Bible college (I told you, I fell hard for this book!), yet the more I studied and read, the more questions I had. In fact, the greatest season of doubt in my life (so far) happened while in Bible college and then seminary. Could I really build my life on a Book so old, so often confusing, so very difficult at times, with so little certainty?

Can we really trust (and love) the Bible?
Well, no surprise, I’m going to say yes. Let me go ahead and name my bias. Big shocker that a pastor says we should trust the Bible. But it has never been easy for me. Doubts still surface. Regularly. As I said, my relationship with the Bible has been one of intense love…and at times almost crippling doubt. To some extent, that remains true today (though thankfully less debilitating).

I know that there is nothing I could say to instantly make you trust and love the Bible. Faith is still required. But I want to share with you why I believe. Or perhaps more importantly, why I keep believing. Why do I keep returning to this beautiful, difficult, mysterious, ancient Book? Here are the three most important reasons for me personally: the person of Jesus, the character of God, and the testimony of its pages.

But first, a few warnings.
This is not meant to be exhaustive and it should be noted that everything here has been the subject of countless blogs and books. There are people smarter than me if you want to dig deeper. I also want to acknowledge that my reasons can easily be questioned. I don’t have any unassailable arguments and some of what I’m going to say is clearly circular in its reasoning. (Trust the Bible because the Bible tells you to trust the Bible–it’s great logic, I know.) 

Here’s the deal. If you don’t want to trust the Bible, there is nothing I can say to convince you. Faith is still required.

That is exactly right. My goal is not to convince those who don’t want to believe but to encourage those who do.

The Bible is a difficult book. It’s ok to admit that. Yet being difficult to understand isn’t the same as being untrustworthy. There is a lot I still don’t understand about the Scriptures, and a few things I just don’t like. But I keep coming back for these three reasons.

  1. The Person of Jesus

Everything in my faith comes down to the person of Jesus. Everything! I answer each of my doubts with this: did Jesus rise from the dead or not? If He didn’t, I’m out. But if He did, everything changes! If Jesus actually rose from the dead that is the most important truth the world has ever known, making Jesus the most important person. You see, one day I’d like to rise from the dead as well. So if He did, I want to hang on every word He said and all He did. 

There is good historical evidence (not just the Bible tells me so) supporting the validity of the resurrection. While much could be said, until someone more compellingly answers the following questions, I will continue to believe Jesus did come out of the grave alive. 

Questions like:

  • Why was the tomb empty and why couldn’t anyone find the body?
  • What about all the eyewitnesses who saw Him alive?
  • If it was a legend, why would the inventors make women (who couldn’t even testify in court in that time period) the first eyewitnesses? And why would you make all the men doubting cowards?
  • How do you explain the transformation of the eyewitness, from doubting cowards in hiding to literal martyrs for their faith that Jesus was alive?
  • Where did the church (and this crazy movement of His followers) come from, in the midst of so much oppression?

If Jesus rose from the dead, then it doesn’t matter if you like what He said or not or whether or not you find Him personally compelling. If He rose from the dead, He wins, and I’m listening.

Jesus believed the Old Testament.
And Jesus believed the Old Testament. I struggle with the Old Testament. I love the stories and poetry, but I find it much harder than the New Testament. Not only did Jesus believe it, He loves it! He quotes it and makes references to it constantly. You can’t even really understand Jesus without understanding the Old Testament.

He said things likeScripture cannot be broken (John 10:35), referring to the Old Testament. In His most famous sermon, considered to be a kind of summary of His main passions, He says: Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished (Matthew 5:17-18).

He even referred to Himself as the center of the Old Testament Scriptures and the key to their understanding. You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me… (John 5:39).

...beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself… Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead… (Luke 24:27, 45-46)

The one who defeated death believed, taught, loved, obeyed, and even revealed Himself as the focus and fulfillment of the Old Testament. I’m siding with the One who defeated death—every time.

Jesus commissioned the New Testament (sort of).
It also seems like He commissioned the writing of the New Testament through the work of the Apostles. The people who knew Jesus best were the ones who wrote these things down for us.

Jesus told them: I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you (John 16:12–15).

It is reasonable to believe that Jesus wanted His Apostles to write these things down, and promised that His Spirit would guide them in it.

Jesus reveals the character of God.
Jesus also shows us who God is. Whoever has seen me has seen the Father (John 14:9). And what does Jesus reveal to us about God the Father? 

Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection show us that God wants to rescue. God wants to love and be loved. God wants a really big, beautiful, diverse family. God wants a relationship with His creation. Our God wants to be known. That doesn’t prove He gave us the Bible, but it does give us a motive. Jesus shows us that it is God’s heart to communicate with His people. 

Hebrews begins with these words, making a similar connection: Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son… (1:1-2) The Apostle John does the same when He refers to Jesus as the Word of God (John 1).

If God so wants to be known that He would send His own Son, it’s at least plausible that He would find other ways to reveal Himself as well. I trust the Bible because I trust the person of Jesus.

  1. The Character of God

I also trust the Bible because I trust the character of God. Jesus shows us the character of God, but so do the Scriptures. You cannot read the Bible without the overwhelming sense that God wants us to know Him. The reason we exist is to know God and be known by Him. Here are just a few such scriptures:

Exodus 6:6-8: I am the Lord… I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians… I am the Lord. 

Psalm 46:10: Be still, and know that I am God. 

Proverbs 8:17: I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me.

John 17:3: And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

Jeremiah says it perhaps most beautifully. What is the most important thing any human can do? Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.” (9:23-24)

And what is God’s goal for humanity? I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (Jeremiah 31:33-34)

God wants to be known. This doesn’t mean the Bible is His Book but it does show us a deep motivation for self-revelation.


God cannot lie.
It’s also important to note here that God cannot lie. He wants to be known and, as God, He has the power and creativity to reveal Himself. But how can we trust Him? We can trust Him because He can only be truthful. He can only be faithful and honest. 

1 Samuel 15:29: The Glory of Israel [meaning God] will not lie.

Numbers 23:19: God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?

If God is real and if He wants to be known, He will reveal Himself accurately and honestly. I trust the Bible because I trust the character of God. 

  1. The Testimony of Its Pages

I also trust the Bible because I trust the testimony of its pages. If the Bible is not God’s Word, it is perhaps the most arrogant, self-confident, full-of-itself book ever written.

If it is not God’s Word, it is not just a nice book with nice stories and nice morals. If it is not God’s Word, it is evil, because it claims to hold the very words of God, and to be the greatest, most important, most sacred book ever written. Trust it or trash it.

The claims it makes.
Listen to just a few of its claims:

2 Samuel 7:28: Now, O Lord God, You are God, and Your words are truth…

2 Samuel 22:31: This God—his way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true.

Psalms 12:6: The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times.

Psalm 18:30: As for God, His way is blameless; the word of the Lord is tried…

Psalm 19:7: The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.

Proverbs 30:5: Every word of God proves true.

2 Timothy 3:16-17: All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 

2 Peter 1:19-21: And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention…knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. 

Revelation 22:6: And he said to me, “These words are faithful and true”; and the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent His angel to show to His bond-servants the things which must soon take place.

The Story it tells.
The Story it tells also nudges me toward belief. I can’t tell you if its words are true, and perhaps I’m only speaking from my own experience, but the Story of Scripture has a ring of truth about it. Yes, it is easy to get lost in the details or all the individual stories, but when you see its grand narrative, many of our questions and longings find compelling answers. The grand Story can be summed up in four chapters: Creation, Fall, Redemption, New Creation.

Creation. The world had a beginning. It was made with purpose and significance, with humans made in the image of God. Regardless of what you believe about how or when God made the world, the fact that He made it answers so many questions. It compellingly explains why we live as if our lives matter, why beauty touches us so deeply, why love and relationships are so essential, and why, even now in the 21st Century, we just can’t seem to shake our longing for a Maker. The Bible shows us how we were created with these things in mind.

Fall. But everything is broken. We hurt the people we love. We run from God. We choose self-destructive paths. We break the things we touch. And despite all our effort, we can’t fix it. Then add to that cancer, viruses, tornados, infertility, pain in childbirth, loneliness, depression, anxiety, terrorism, war, racism, trafficking, and eventually death. We know in our bones the world shouldn’t be this way. The Bible tells us why.

Redemption. Yet we long for things to be better, and we work to that end. We strive toward self-improvement and we long for it in the people we love. We celebrate stories of forgiveness and reconciliation, rescue and redemption. These things are hard-wired into us by a God who offers them to us, and we see them on display through the climax of this Story in His Son. The Bible explains these longings.

New Creation. One day things will finally and completely be made whole. We want utopia. We want to live forever. We want to be reunited with the people we’ve lost. We want to see God. All these longings find fulfillment in the Story of Scripture.

No, none of this proves the Bible is true or that this grand narrative is the narrative we’re living. Yet, it gives me just one more piece of confidence in believing. It tells a compelling Story.

The way it speaks.
And if you thought that last point was too subjective, you’ll hate this one.

The way this Book speaks to my heart reinforces its veracity. When I read it I can almost hear God’s voice. I feel comforted in my heartache, convicted of my sin, and exposed at my deepest level. I don’t just read this Book. It reads me! It knows me and speaks directly to me. I trust the Bible because I trust the testimony of its pages. 

So what now?
So what are we supposed to do with all this? I want to end with three action steps.

  1. Bring Him your doubts

First, bring God your doubts. I know I didn’t answer your questions and I realize there are fair reasons to doubt the Scriptures. Don’t sweep your doubts under the rug. Take your doubts seriously enough to look into them.

Sometimes people say things like “the Bible is full of contradictions” without actually looking at any supposed contradictions. Or sometimes we reject the Scriptures not because of any logical argument, but simply because we don’t like what it says. I don’t want to obey this so it must not be true. There are also times when we assume the Bible must be false simply because we haven’t taken the time to properly understand it in its cultural context.

Instead, take your doubts seriously enough to do some of the work to really understand. I discovered early on that many of my doubts had more to do with a lack of understanding or an unquestioning loyalty to my own cultural assumptions than with anything inherent in the text. Do the work. Bring Him your doubts.

  1. Trust that God knows better

Second, in all matters, trust that God knows better. Easier said than done I know, but if God has spoken, trust that He has spoken for our good. His Word is for your good. I love how the statement of faith for our denomination the Evangelical Free Church of America summarizes what we believe about the Scriptures. Pay close attention to how it ends.

We believe that God has spoken in the Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, through the words of human authors. As the verbally inspired Word of God, the Bible is without error in the original writings, the complete revelation of His will for salvation, and the ultimate authority by which every realm of human knowledge and endeavor should be judged. Therefore, it is to be believed in all that it teaches, obeyed in all that it requires, and trusted in all that it promises.

Believed, obeyed, and trusted. Not just read or studied or proclaimed, as important as those things are.

Jesus said: Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it. (Matthew 7:24-27)

Trust these words. Obey them. Build your life upon them. They are for you from God. Trust that He knows better.

  1. Make this Book your food

And finally, eat this Book! Make it your food. It is strange to me how regularly the Bible refers to itself as a kind of food, sweeter than the best dessert and more satisfying than the richest feast. For Jesus while fasting even chose God’s Word over bread. He said, quoting the Old Testament: Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4).

 So eat up, Church! Read it regularly and systematically. Memorize it and meditate upon it. Learn to study it and dig deeply into it. Know it so that you can trust it, love it, obey it, and build your life upon it.

Where else can we go?
I love this Book and I want you to love it too. It has been twenty-three years since that half-hearted prayer in my parent’s basement. Twenty-three years and I still feel like I’m just barely at the beginning, still struggling, still doubting, but still growing.

Whenever I’m wrestling with my faith (which is more often than I care to admit) I often think of one of my favorite stories from the Gospels. Jesus was at the height of his popularity but then preached a really hard sermon. After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life…” (John 6:66-69).

I often feel like Peter. For I am often burdened by doubt and unanswered questions, tempted, like the crowds, to walk away. But where would I go? Jesus has the words of eternal life! So here I am, learning to trust (and love) the Bible.

Opening More than Open Here

Opening More than Open Here

From the beginning, Christ Community has sought to not only share information about Jesus but also be a catalyst in spiritual formation toward Christlikeness. Core to our DNA is the longing to multiply whole disciples, not just inform the masses. 

Open Here has been a helpful tool for church-wide discipleship into the habit of daily Bible reading for the last several years. The purpose has never been about content or quantity (though those are important), but to form a spiritual habit.

Why focus on the habit of Bible reading? We believe that reading the Bible daily is an astounding place to glean truthful information. The Bible informs God’s people (John 17:8), and we want to know who God is and what He has done through His son Jesus.

In addition to being a source of truth, we believe the Bible sanctifies God’s people, or grows us in godliness (John 17:17). More pointedly, the time spent in consistent Bible reading is where the Holy Spirit goes about His work of transformation. We see how the Bible powerfully transforms God’s people (Ezekiel 37:1-8) into more whole and holy people, and we want to dwell in the source of His transformation.

Needless to say, we love the Bible at Christ Community, but our hunger to grow in Christlikeness and equip our church to do so together has sparked a desire to expand our focus into additional disciplines. We want to grow in prayer, fasting, meditation, and more! The spiritual habit of reading the Bible, while extremely important, is not to be the only spiritual habit in the lives of Jesus’ apprentices. 

Therefore, the month of December is the last Open Here Bible reading plan. While that will no longer be a resource we provide, our goal of spiritual formation will take on new life. We are hard at work creating a new resource that still engages the Bible, but will also further equip our church with a more robust list of spiritual habits informed by Jesus. 

We are excited about who God is forming us to be as a church together. Head over to theFormed.life to sign up for this new resource. We believe it will help us all become more formed into a people like Jesus. 

If you would still like to follow a Bible reading plan, here are a few exceptional options to consider for the new year:

  1. The Bible Recap
    The Bible Recap “Chronological” reading plan follows the story of Scripture as the events occurred. This one-year plan corresponds to The Bible Recap podcast (available wherever you listen to podcasts). We recommend listening to the corresponding podcast episode after you do each day’s reading.
  2. Read through the Bible Chronologically
    The Blue Letter Bible “Chronological” plan is compiled according to recent historical research, taking into account the order in which the recorded events actually occurred. This is a fantastic plan to follow if you wish to add historical context to your reading of the Bible. If the schedule provided is followed, the entire Bible will be read in one calendar year.
  3. Read through the Bible Canonically (as laid out in most English Bibles)
    The Blue Letter Bible “Canonical” plan goes straight through the Bible — from Genesis to Revelation. You will be supplied with reading for each day of the week as a steady guide toward finishing the entire Bible in one calendar year.