Sunday, September 20, 2015
I try not to read books by pundits, politicians, and professional commentators too often. They tend to be regurgitated pablum. But I had heard lots of amazing things about David Limbaugh’s Jesus on Trial, and besides, it was given to me for Christmas. Plus, it wasn’t political, so I thought it might be interesting.
It was good, although somewhat basic. But it was interesting to hear his story and how he came to a deep and abiding faith in Jesus. Although he had a religious background growing up, doubts plagued him, and eventually, he gave up on his faith. But once he began really seeking answers to his questions in earnest, he came to a renewed, intellectually based, faith.
He begins by tackling the seeming paradoxes within Scripture by stating “If there were no enigmas — no riddles in Scripture — and all Biblical truth were completely straightforward and comprehensible without the necessity to think deeply about it, we wouldn’t learn the principles as thoroughly or grow as much.”
One paradox that troubles people is the idea of Salvation through the grace of God, solely. It can be difficult to understand because, “... in one sense, salvation can be simple for us to the extent we don’t have to do any work to earn it, but it’s not simple at all for some people to set aside their pride and humbly turn to Christ with the admission that they need Him and the plea that He save them.” Our sense of pride cannot abide being give something we don’t feel that we earned.
Another paradox that troubled him was the idea of the Trinity, that God is three separate persons, and yet one. And that one of them had to live a sinless life as a human and die for the sins of humanity. Why and how did that even work? What kind of a plan is that? But when he began to understand all that Jesus, as the second person in the Trinity gave up by becoming human, all that it took for Him in human form to live a sinless life in a corrupt and fallen world, all the physical pain of the crucifixion, combined with the soul-rending pain of separation from the Father because of the sin heaped upon Himself, and the knowledge that Jesus didn’t have to do it, these combined to become a “foundational pillar” of Limbaugh’s faith rather than a stumbling block.
He then turns from the paradoxes to “The Amazing Bible.” He describes the Bible as, “like no other book ever written. It is the living Word of God with the power to transform hearts, to convert, to comfort, and to sustain. The Bible is truly divinely inspired, it is infallible, it is indestructible, and it is inerrant.” He delights in the unity of the entire book. In fact, when one looks through the lens of Jesus Christ, we see, as Graham Scroggie puts it, “Christ is predicted in the Old Testament, present in the Gospels, proclaimed in the Acts, possessed in the Epistles, and predominant in the Revelation.” It’s all gloriously, and consistently about Him, yet is written by 40 authors (kings and peasants), over 1500 years, in 66 separate books.
Limbaugh tackles the most famous stumbling block, the question of the existence of pain and suffering as well as the existence of a good, all-knowing, all-loving God. He quotes Ravi Zacharias, “The reality of evil does not disprove God’s existence because evil only exists if an absolute moral law exists — and if an absolute moral law exists, then God exists.” I like this response. We cannot call something evil if there is not a “good” to compare it to. And we cannot have “good” if we do not have “God.” Only He, as outside our natural experience, is qualified to set the standard of “good.” Or else it is simply another human’s opinion. In addition, Limbaugh states, “God suffered with us when He didn’t have to. God is the ultimate answer [to the question of pain and suffering] because He suffered in Christ.”
I would recommend this book to someone questioning Christianity without actually being versed in all its aspects. Many reject Christ superficially, without much introspection and research. This would be a good book for them.
Finally, he lists these resources for anyone struggling with doubts:
New International Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties by Gleason Archer
Hard Sayings of the Bible by Walter Kaiser Jr.Making Sense of the New Testament: Three Crucial Questions by Craig Blomberg
Saturday, September 5, 2015
I have no idea how I came across the book Carter Beats the Devil by Glen David Gold. Maybe I saw it in a bookstore and judged it by its cover. It really does have a fantastic cover.
It’s an odd, twisting fictional story about real people. Charles Carter, the title character, is a real person. He’s thought to have killed President Harding. Other real people are interspersed in this wonderful tale. I was left wondering how much of it was true. Probably none, but, who knows?
I enjoyed the story because I usually enjoy well-written fiction. Although I must confess, the overall story kind of escaped me throughout most of the book. It is marketed as a murder mystery, but even though the President dies early in the book, it's not clear that he's apparently the actual murder victim. It felt more biographical than plot-driven.
I’m fascinated by magic, torn between wanting to believe and wanting to know the secret. Gold gives very little away in this book, although he did extensive research and probably could have told us how it’s done. He makes it clear, however, that magic is not simple. It's apparently very costly and complex.
The story is basically that of the rise and fall of Carter the Great. Intertwined is the death of President Harding. Gold introduces several Secret Service agents and gives a detailed background to one of them. We follow his story as well as that of the magician. As the agents seem to be somewhat investigating the death of the president, Carter proceeds, as much as possible, with his life. Lots of little subplots rabbit-trail throughout. One thing I really like is how Gold fills the story with wonderful, fleshed-out, quirky characters.
I don’t want to give anything away. The ending is unexpected and fantastical. Everything is wrapped up, but like any magic show, I am left thinking, “What part of that was real?”