Read Plato, Not Books About Plato.

The following is a saying of C.S. Lewis. Lewis could understand the reason why students would be hesitant to read Plato though. They thought that the old sage himself might be beyond them so they needed to approach him through someone more easy to understand. However, Lewis pointed out that students who actually read Plato find that isn’t the case.

Indeed, I found this to be the case as well as I followed Lewis’s maxim. I decided just last year even that instead of simply reading about Plato, I would read Plato. I ordered his complete works and read right through them! Fascinating! So fascinating that in some spare time, I’m even reading through them again.

It has been a great joy also to hear that some people have taken my advice to read him as well and picked up some of his dialogues. My own roommate, a really awesome guy and friend of course who I’m blessed to have in my life, went and ordered the complete works as well. There is great joy in that.

I also went that same time and ordered the basic works of Aristotle. (Before some of you start wondering about basic works, I ask you to do an Amazon search and just find out how much is included in the basic works.) Now, I’m definitely more of a Platonist than an Aristotlean, but I did find it helpful and I can say that I have read them.

This same year, I took it upon myself to read the Qu’ran. That wasn’t necessarily an easy task, but I did it. While at the bookstore today, I found at a good price several other works that are major in the area of religion such as the Bhagavad-Gita, a copy without commentary unlike what I have, and the Analects. (I also picked up several Greek plays.)

After discussions on historical figures, I went as well and read historical works. Which ones? Authors like Plutarch and Tacitus. I have Josephus here who I have yet to go straight through yet. However, my stance has been the same. I would prefer to read the books instead of books about the books.

Don’t get me wrong entirely. I have nothing against reading books about Plato any more than I have reading books about Scripture. My contention is simply that you also need to go and read the main sources if possible. (Naturally, with some ancient works, that can’t be done.) Do you want to know what a church father said about a topic for instance? Read that church father. Wanna know what the Talmud says about Jesus? Read the Talmud!

Why am I putting this here? Because wise reading should be something for all of us and we Christians need to be wise in the literature and thought of the world. Not just in theology, but in every area.

Follow the maxim of Lewis then. Read Plato, Not books about Plato.

Read The Book

I talked some yesterday about books and doing research. This plea of mine is to several young Christian apologists I know. Sadly, it probably applies to several people who have been in the faith for years, though maybe not in the area of Christian apologetics. It is a criticism I have of many that I think needs to be dealt with.

Too many of them read a lot of books, which I am not against, but they have not read THE BOOK.

Friends. We all need to get Scripture under our belts and I would that before you read any other book on Scripture, that you would read Scripture. In fact, after you read the Scripture through, I would suggest you do something else. You start reading it through again. Of course at that time, I recommend other books. It has been said that a man of the book will be a man of many books.

The first time I finished the book, I was in 7th grade. I know at one point in High School I had read it through four times. Now I’ve lost count. It’s probably around a dozen now. My life is all the better for it. No one can present me with a verse or a story in an argument that I haven’t seen.

And of course, this puts Scripture on my memory many times. I can usually have a verse or a passage in mind for any situation. The more you read Scripture, the more you will be able to recall it to your memory. The more it will become part of your being and you will know it like you know the back of your hand.

Indeed, we should all be like this. Too often, I even approach it as just another book. Oh friends! Pray that I restore my passion as well, but mark my words! If you have not read the book, do yourself a favor and do so. It is God’s gift to you. Embrace it!

A Few Minutes Of Research

Last Thursday night, I was involved in an internet radio program. The program had a chat room option and in the chat was a girl arguing for the Christ myth. (If you come here, you know who you are.) When told that Josephus mentions Jesus, she pointed out that Josephus also mentions Hercules. (For readers who don’t know, Josephus was a Jewish historian in the last first century A.D.)

The article linked to was right here so all can see that this is a real article:

All who are concerned about the copycat theory, I recommend going to Tektonics as JPHolding deals the death blow to that several times as does Glenn Miller of However, notice this part about Josephus:

Likewise the ‘evidence’ of Hercules closely parallels that of Jesus. We have historical people like Hesiod and Plato who mentions Hercules. Similar to the way the gospels tell a narrative story of Jesus, so do we have the epic stories of Homer who depict the life of Hercules. Aesop tells stories and quotes the words of Hercules. Just as we have mention of Jesus in Josephus’ Antiquities, so Josephus mentions Hercules in his ‘Antiquities’ (see 1.15, 8.5.3, 10.11.1). Just as Tacitus mentions a Crestus, he also mentions Hercules many times in his Annals. And most importantly, just as we have no artifacts, writings or eyewitnesses about Hercules, we also have nothing about Jesus. All information about Hercules and Jesus comes from stories, beliefs, and hearsay. Should we then believe in a historical Hercules, simply because ancient historians mention him and that we have stories and beliefs about him?

Now, there are several others mentioned, but since Josephus was the one talked about, she used him. What I did was ask her if she had her copy of Josephus with her. She seemed shocked. Why have such a thing?  However, I had mine, and while I was chatting, I did turn and look at each of the references.

And I found nothing in them indicating that Josephus saw Hercules as a historical figure. I see that with Christ however. (Jesus, the brother of James for instance. James is a historical figure and thus, it’s reasonable to think his brother would be as well.)

Folks. This is important to note. This took five minutes of my time. Just five minutes. However, this girl hadn’t even checked up on the reference and what could be one reason for missing eternity. I find that incredibly sad. There are some arguments that are harder to answer. We all know this in this field. They’re not unanswerable of course, but they won’t be found by five minutes of research. This was not one of them.

Friends. Be willing to look up something if you have to to make sure the claim is the truth. If a skeptic tells you something, it is no embarrassment to say “Let me go to my library and look it up.” Remember, that five minutes could help demolish an argument that someone has been using to keep away from Christianity.

And it will strengthen your faith as well.

Yeah. That took five minutes. However, be ready always. Be studying and learning whatever you can. I could give more advice on book recommendations as blogs go on.

Coming to God

In this field, one meets many non-Christians who seem to have their own parameters set for God. If God will deal with the problem of evil in my life, then I will come to him. If God will bring me happiness, I will come. If God will help me find the person I will marry, I will come. If God will do X, I will come.

This isn’t anything new. We find it throughout Scripture. The Israelites complain that God is not doing what they want him to do. Rather than approach their God as they should, they choose to have Aaron make an idol for them so they can approach god on their own terms.

Several years later, the lesson still hasn’t been learned. When we see Christ on the cross, the chief priests are there mocking. “Let him come down from the cross if he truly is the Messiah so we may see and believe!” One wonders if he had come down if they would have believed or if they would have said it was a devil at work again and blamed it on something like witchcraft.

The sadness is if a man will not believe the truth after all, he is forced to believe anything else.

Let us be careful lest we make the same mistake in approaching the Almighty. When you come to God, you cannot come and tell him what you desire of him. Instead, you come to God so he may tell you what he desires of you. He has already done such in fact. He desires you entirely. Not just part of you. Not just most of you. Not just 99.9% of you. He desires all of you.

God is the one who sets all the rules for the relationship. He did this with the law. Other nations might have been able to choose how they would approach their gods. Not Israel. Israel was given a distinct way to approach God and that way did not change for them. Why? Because the God they were approaching did not change. Whether they were in the wilderness, in Israel, or in captivity, Israel was to approach God the same way.

Today, we approach through the fulfillment of that law, the Christ. It does no good to ask God to provide another way. He has none and will provide none. If you will not approach him on the terms that he has set, then you will not approach him at all. You are in no place to make demands of him.

Were God to change his essential nature for you, then he would be bowing to you and calling you God. What change would you have him make anyway? A change for the better? Then he was not the most perfect being to begin with. A change for the lesser? Then you wish him to be less than perfect. Either way, you will not get the God of Scripture. You will get a god of your own imagination and that is the only place he will exist.

This is something we must accept. We all have a hard time understanding God. Most all of us have had times when we have been angry with him. We want to know what he is doing in our lives. As I write this, my roommate and I both are suffering from some sickness. (Apparently, I was generous in a way I did not desire.) There are times I have woken up from this in the night and wondered why this was happening.

Yet it is. I must accept that. I cannot tell God he must deal with things my way. I do believe he has given us prayer in that we can make our requests and there is a chance he could do things the way we desire at times, but if he does not, then we must accept that. We must accept that he in his infinite wisdom and knowledge has chosen that which is best.

And this is why I believe many skeptics do not come to God. They want to find him on their terms. Unfortunately, God is the only one in town. There is no other place to turn to. You can search high and low for another god. It does not exist. You will merely have to make something else to be that god. It could be power, money, sex, or the most common one I think, yourself.

Yet those of us who do accept him as he is do get the blessing. He does the same for us. He accepts us as we are on his terms. We are taken into his family on his terms. We may seek to change Christianity. We can do no such thing. This is his system. It is not ours. We can no more change it than we can make a new primary color.

Ultimately though, if one seeks the truth, they will find it. It does not mean seeking what you like, as the truth is often not liked. It means seeking that which is true. When we come to this God we may not like everything about at the time, we will come to realize in time that that which we thought most unfit about him is that which is most glorious in his nature.

We do the same in our relationships. We all have friends who have things about them that we don’t like. It does not stop us from being their friends. Husbands and wives have things about each other that drive them crazy. It does not stop them from loving them. This is the question we must then ask of the God of Scripture.

Is he the true God? If he is, then we are to come rather we like him or not. If he has truly raised Jesus from the dead, then there can be no other objections. We may not understand why he allows evil, but we must accept it. We may not like the doctrine of Hell, but we must accept it.

Unless, of course, we care nothing for truth. If that is the case, then the skeptic can rest assured. If he wants to live his life apart from truth, God will honor that request as well.

The choice is his and yours and mine.

Heaven On Earth

If we are to realize the Kingdom of God on Earth, then it must be by doing our part to make Earth as Heavenly as possible. I do not believe Christ intended for us to do this by taking the law and then using the law to make people righteous, although I do have no objections to Christians in politics. I believe he intended to do this through simple means, and that is people like you and I.

Consider first off that Heaven can be a reality here if we will but let it. The reason we do not have heavenly goods is that we are still being too stingy with earthly goods. Consider C.S. Lewis’s example of the boy who loves chocolate and is told the sexual act is the highest bodily pleasure possible and asks “Does it involve chocolate?” and is told “no.”

The little boy cannot think of how it can be good with the exclusion of chocolate. However, the lovers caught up do not think about chocolate because what they have to think about is so much better. This is not denying the goodness of chocolate of course, but simply realizing a hierarchy. You will not get greater goods while you are still focused on lesser ones.

We do not want the good of Heaven often because we are so stingy with our own deity. We do not want the glory of God for too often, we focus on the glory of ourselves. Consider though some realities of Heaven. I see no reason to think that we will know the future entirely in Heaven. It will be unknown.

However, is that not the case here? Do we not have an unknown future here? Indeed we do. Yet here, we worry about it. Do we do so in Heaven? I see no reason to think so. What makes the difference? Well, there we have God. But we have God here! The difference then is that we are so caught up in God then that we do not have any need to worry. Here, we are focused on ourselves and we worry about the future and usually with a focus on ourselves. There, we are focused on him and the future is not a worry.

What of the past? Here, we have shame for our past sins. We have memories we want to recover from. Will we be ignorant of the past in Heaven? I do not see any reason again to think such. Instead, it could be that that which we consider shameful will be turned to glory.

Consider the case of a man who enters a fight on the street to rescue a young lady from some thugs. Let us suppose that he wins, but it is not without damage. He has several bruises to show for it. Now normally, a bruise could be a cause of shame. However, these could be honor. Each time someone asks “What happened to you?” he can get to tell them the story.

In a similar way, some readers I’m sure know that I have scoleosis. Because of that, I had a steel rod put on my spine before I turned sixteen. My back does have the remains of a scar now. (I cannot tell for sure, for it is hard for me to see my own back even in a mirror. The rod restricts my turning ability.) However, it is now an honor. If people see it, it gives me a chance to tell a story.

I suspect our scars in Heaven could be similar. The sins will be reminders of God’s grace and mercy on us and that will remind us of his glory. The memories we want to forget will be ones we gladly share for they will tell of his compassion with us. Heaven will be a place of victory stories with God being the victor each time.

Again, what keeps us from this? Our self-focus most often. We are too stingy with our control over our universe to let God control it. We are so used to wanting everything our way on our terms that we do not realize that we are to do things his way on his terms. All attempts to bring Heaven on Earth apart from the way he’s recommended actually lead to Hell on Earth.

And what then will be the best way to begin this process? We begin by loving our Lord with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strengths. We then turn and love our neighbor as ourselves. It is a simple method, but sometimes it is the simplest steps that get left out in our day-to-day lives.

Lack of Appearances to Skeptics

It has often been asked why God doesn’t make his existence obvious. (I think he has really.) Along those same lines, I have been asked before why Jesus didn’t appear to skeptics if he truly rose from the dead. Now I can agree that he appeared to at least two, his brother James and to the apostle Paul. Why didn’t he go to the priests and Pharisees though?

In John 14:22, Jesus’s disciple Judas (Not Iscariot) asks him, “Lord. Why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?”

Why indeed?

Yet as I read the text following, I see it talking about the relationship of Jesus to his followers. This is where we get the great text of “I am the vine and you are the branches.”  We are taught in here that our whole is to be in Christ. We will bear fruit only if we do abide in him.

What has that to do with anything?

Could that not be the answer though?

What kind of people is God wanting? Is God wanting people that will come to him only because they think they have to? Or is he looking for people that come who have been seeking the kingdom of God. It is then that we realize the great truth about this. While we may have been the lost sheep looking for the shepherd, it was really he who was looking for us.

And what is the kingdom of God? I believe it’s to consist of the devotion of the followers of Christ to him. It is to be the reign of YHWH on Earth as it is in Heaven. What is this supposed to look like?

It looks like what Jesus told Judas.

It is we being the branches and showing Christ to the world. It is we being his body. It is we continuing the work that he began among us of making the kingdom a reality. It is everyday learning to love God with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strengths, and then to love our neighbor as ourselves. It is learning to live everyday in the paradigm that Christ is the Lord of all creation.

And what happens then?

Christ becomes visible to the people through us.

This is how the early church spread in fact. It was the differences in the lives of the followers of Christ. Of course, they had strong evidences as well, but what made the church appealing was the life that they lived.

This then, is why I do not believe Christ would make an appearance to his opponents after the resurrection.

We are to show the reality to the opponents of Christ that he is alive in our lives today. We are to live lives fully dependent on him. In doing so, we show people the kingdom of God. When we show that Christ rules our lives, then people should be able to see Christ in us and come to him.

In this case, the supposed hiddenness of God is a great gift. He allows us to participate in the plan of redemption for mankind. Christ could have seen angels all around the world to proclaim the good news, but he didn’t. He chose ordinary men.

And who are we to question him?

The Love of Sinners

I got to speak tonight on a radio program that was totally impromptu. I had no idea it was coming, but my friends say that I handled it well. The topic of homosexuality came up. This post is not going to be about homosexuality though. This post is going to be about how Christ responds to sinners.

The other speaker on this program came from the non-Christian point of view. He was asking how we can have such discrimination and hatred towards homosexuals in not allowing them to marry. This was taken as a main objection against Christianity and some things must be said.

First off, this is not the point. The claim of Christianity that is the bedrock is that Jesus Christ came and died and rose again. If that is not true, then who cares about the other point? The other point could still be true of course, but you will not destroy Christianity by proving it false.

However, there is something that must be said. Christ came for sinners. He did not come to destroy them, but to save them. He came to seek and save that which was lost. When Christ came, he did speak red-hot scorching words against sin, but he showed the greatest of love to sinners.

Who did Christ have a problem with? It was those who thought they had no sin. Because they know the truth though, their guilt remains. It was the righteous people of the time who troubled Christ. Those who come and admit they are sinners he loved unconditionally and said were in the kingdom of heaven.

We should be the same, especially since we are to be Jesus to them. We are to love sinners and hate their sins, and there is no contradiction in this. We all love ourselves, but we don’t love everything about ourselves. Christ called us to be his body on Earth. While he was on Earth, he showed love. So should we.

That is brief and short but just my thoughts. If we believe Christ can change the sinner, then let us live that out in our love.

Friendly Fire

Philo once said “Be kind, because everyone you know is fighting a harder battle.”

I like that saying.

If you don’t know, Philo was a Jewish philosopher during the time of Christ who tried to unite Plato with Moses. He even referred to Plato as the most holy Plato. I would say that this is certainly a great quote from him, and it is sadly one that the modern-day church needs to learn.

James Stewart once said about the uniqueness of Christ that no one ever said such red hot words about sin, but no one was ever so kind to sinners. Unfortunately, we seem to have those reversed at times. We love to condemn sinners relentlessly at times and show how righteous we are.

Here’s something to consider. If a Christian is living in sin and seeking to change, they already hate what they are doing. You don’t need to pour salt on their wounds. Now if they are saying “I’m living in sin and I don’t care” then I would say that is a time of tough love. The person who is contrite though is already shamed and doesn’t need more.

Unfortunately, this problem isn’t just with sin per se. There are several in the church, and many times I’ve been one of them and chances are you as well, who will not tell what is going on in my personal life to the church. Why? Because you’re not sure if you can trust them. The altar can seem like an intimidating place when you realize people will start “prying” instead of praying when you go up there.

Friends. My concern is that if we cannot go to one another with what is going on in our lives, then who are we to tell the lost that they should do the same. Why should the lost believe in a church community that loves one another as Christ loved us if we do not share that love to one another?

Instead, we are told to encourage one another. Jude tells us to be gracious to those who are suffering.  We encourage one another as long as it is called today and build one another up for righteousness. Are we really doing this today? If we’re not, how can we say we’re practicing Christianity? How can we say that we are living as Christ called us to live?

We more often act like Job’s friends. When someone has suffering in their lives, we start trying to find out what sin is going on in their lives. When someone comes forward with doubt, they are told that they are not being spiritual or Christian. What nonsense! The Job idea is one idea in the Bible that God personally says is wrong and yet, we still live with it!

The church is our family. They are our friends. If we cannot unite amongst ourselves, we cannot unite for the good of the world.

Applying Truth

I’ve spoken before about how Sunday School lessons can pretty much be summed up today with “Obey God” and not much else. I do believe that the conquest of Canaan in Joshua teaches us more than “We ought to obey God.” However, a problem does occur when we have no personal application.

If we just have floating out there a command to “obey God”, then we don’t have much really. Someone can ask “Why?” “Well, you’re supposed to?” “Why?” It could go on and on from here. The claim will have to be rooted in who God is and how he has revealed himself.

If we are going to study any doctrine of God, it should change how we live our life. Let’s suppose that we are arguing with a JW on the doctrine of the Trinity. The Trinity should not be seen as this little doctrine that only matters on theological aspects but the world would be the same if God was a monad. Instead, we should realize there are implications.

We cannot say any aspect of our doctrine of God doesn’t matter. If you think God is immutable and someone else doesn’t, that should change how you view the world. I should view the world differently than I do an OVT. Because I know that God knows the future, it should change my outlook on it.

This is a problem in the church in that while we do have application, it often has no basis. When we finally teach doctrine, we don’t talk about what a difference it makes. If doctrine makes no difference in how you live your life, then I would say why bother even studying it?

Now let us consider some things we believe about God.

We believe he loves us perfectly and unconditionally.

We believe he is sovereign over the world.

We believe he is Lord of Heaven and Earth.

We believe he sent his Son to die for us.

We believe that he can do all that can possibly be done.

Draw some applications?

Are you living like you believe that God exists or some weaker God exists? If you could for just one second grasp how true your faith is and the ramifications of that, would you live your life differently? You say you believe that Jesus Christ is Lord and that he died and rose again. Are you living like that?

Of course, this will require something else. You will have to know what you believe. However, I believe that once you have that, you will have to have the virtue to live accordingly. I contend that we have separated knowledge from virtue. We do not need knowledge for the sake of knowledge. Knowledge is not an end in itself. It is a means to living the right life.

Friends. Be assured of this as well. I’m in the same boat. As I preach this message to you in this blog, I am preaching it to me as well. My own friends could and have called me on this many times. However, that is one purpose of the church isn’t it? To exhort to righteousness and encourage one another.

Friends. Know the truth. Believe the truth. Love the truth. Live the truth.

Return to Scripture

With our increasing emphasis on emotions today, which are quite temporary and subject to change easily, we have drifted away from the true focus of the church for doctrine. Emotionalism has led us away from Scripture. We no longer read it to find out what the will of God is. Why should we? We have emotions.

Yet friends, how many of you have been to the Ink and Blood exhibit? It came to my city and I definitely went to see the history of the Bible. Are you aware of how many people died just so you and I could have the right to have a Bible? Do you know there are Christians in other nations of the world who would give most anything just to have that Bible that’s gathering dust on your bookshelf?

What does the Scripture say? Paul said in Romans 3 that the advantage in being a Jew was in having the Old Testament. Peter in 2 Peter 1 described the transfiguration but then emphasized the Word of God. The writers of the NT and Christ himself were not hesitant to use Scripture. It was the final authority.

For those of us who are Sola Scriptura, this needs to be understood. We are not saying Scripture is the only source that matters. There is much that can be learned  from the Early Church Fathers, from philosophy, from science, from archaeology, etc. However, the claim is that if Scripture clearly says one thing and something else clearly says another, then we go with Scripture.

Note this though. Interpretations can disagree with Scripture. Facts cannot. I do not believe for a second that true science, philosophy, psychology, etc. will ever contradict Scripture. It might contradict our interpretations of Scripture and when it reaches that point we might have to look and say “Were we reading this wrong? Is there another way to read it that won’t do violence to the text and still treat it as authoritative?”

The point friends though is that we have to return to that place of Scripture. When we are arguing a biblical point, our emphasis needs to be on what the Bible says. Too often, I have been in debates where what happens is what Francis Beckwith calls “Trumping with Spirituality.” As soon as some Christians start losing an argument, they immediately talk spiritual.

I have heard everything from how much someone reads their Bible, (Who cares if they don’t bother understanding it?) to how much someone is listening to the Holy Spirit, (Which we have dealt with already.) to the character of one’s life. (As much as we should live a moral life, a moral life does not mean that your arguments are entirely correct. Also, doesn’t that imply that you automatically think I’m living an immoral one?)

When the debate goes there, I’d like to suggest a novel idea. How about we actually go to the text and read it together? We can then try to understand the text itself. Then we look in the context of the chapter, then of the book, and then of the testament, and then of all of Scripture. Will we solve everything? I doubt it. I bet though that we’d get a deeper understanding of Scripture.

In fact, when you start exegeting a text, it’s quite enjoyable. I recently blogged about a youth pastor preaching a sermon on Proverbs 3:5-6. I began exegeting it from the pew and found that his interpretation contradicted the theme of the text. Today, I read that text in my morning Bible reading and it was unbelievable how real it was.

Friends. If we are going to have the church be the force it’s meant to be, we will have to be stronger in Scripture. All Christians need an education in it. I have seen many young apologists who are quite good but have one fundamental flaw I have seen. They have not yet read Scripture.

It is God’s gift to you, a treasure trove of knowledge, wisdom, and truth. Learn it and use it well.