Christian Apologetics Alliance

Christian Apologetics Alliance
Member: Christian Apologetics Alliance

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Substitutionary Execution: Death by proxy

At this time of the year in Cebu, most people are making preparations for a long weekend out of town, catching some sun and doing anything else except being industrious. And you can't blame them. Five days of closed offices, banks and government offices don't leave you much to do except read or get out of town.

It's also at this time of the year when teachings in church services tend to become more reflective than usual, focusing on the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus and what it means to all of us. In some extreme cases, this time of the year is the time when they literally share in the agonies of our Crucified Lord by their partaking of His pain - some by depriving themselves of their usual diet, to those who inflict pain on themselves by literally whipping themselves bloody.

I am not sure if those that made it a self imposed pact to have themselves literally crucified on an actual cross will do so again this year, but it's become a tourist attraction to those that travel here to watch these people subject themselves to that self inflicted agony and take digital pictures of the event to show to their friends back home.

The best is reserved for what everyone knows as Easter Sunday, when the glory of the Resurrection is discussed at length as well.

My good friend and Pastor, Les Tilka of Quest Community Fellowship, started it early when he began to expose some of the facts surrounding the crucifixion last Sunday, getting people to rethink their preconceived notions surrounding that execution on Golgotha.

For a non academic, the teaching was quite a shocker, as Les detailed the difficulty that our Lord Jesus went through from the time he was arrested following the Passover Seder that he shared with the twelve. The continuous events, following the arrest at night, going into what transpired the next day - trials by three different courts and judges and subsequent lashing by Roman guards as well as other painful tortures, and finally carrying the heavy crosspiece to the place of execution and being nailed to the stake - caused some in the congregation to squirm at the thought of what had actually happened on that fateful day in history.

Les went on to describe how painful the death must have been, as the crucified persons would have to raise themselves in order to breathe and in the case of the severely whipped Jesus, He had to rub his severely wounded skin against the rough wood, causing more pain to Himself for at least six hours before He finally succumbed.

To an apologist in training, to be sure, there were more gory details available for study that were not mentioned in that teaching that Sunday. But it was enough to jolt the people into rethinking their concepts about the crucifixion.

What got me that morning was the realization that the Lord God actually took on the accusation and condemnation for our crime - in a literal sense - when the Lord Jesus answered appropriately and truthfully to the question: "Are you the King of the Jews?"

When He replied: "Yes, you say that I am" (Mark 15:2), the footnote of the Apologetics Study Bible that I continually refer to reveals much more: the context by which He answered meant that He said: "Yes, but not in the way that you think".

While innocently telling the truth of His claim to the throne, He Himself acknowledged the crime of rebellion against the state (Rome) by doing so. And in so doing, dying by execution for a crime that humanity had committed against His Father - rebellion by disobedience in Eden. An execution that He went to, voluntarily, in behalf of the humanity that His Father redeemed through Him.

And in the most horrible way imaginable.

To be sure, there were many Roman executions by crucifixion at that time, starting from the time of Alexander the Great down to the Third Century. Yet this crucifixion stands out as the most significant one to this day. A substitutionary death of one man, executed in the place of billions of men and women throughout time. God going where He had never gone previously - down the road of Death, so that we would all live.

Small wonder why there is a consistent, militant effort to discredit, or throw doubt on this One significant Life, the Substitutionary Death, and more importantly, the seeming incredibility of the Resurrection which He Himself had proclaimed would happen - and did, following a hasty entombment by Joseph of Arimathea- after dying on the cross, because it was against Judaic law to bury anyone during the Sabbath, which followed the day of the execution.

Les has reserved the best news for Sunday. May there be more who will understand it better - and decide to live because of it.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Innovation in the Kingdom

I was invited to engage with some friends on the matter of providing a Strategy and Innovation service to corporate groups that seem to get stuck in a rut, and cannot get their people to think beyond the confines of their walls - or so they think.

After a while, I realized that it was going to be a difficult thing to do in the hometown where I work and live, where people are generally hesitant to tread new waters or explore newer territory (that despite their claim of being a trailblazer city - though I must admit, their claim can withstand the challenge).

My own retreat from that endeavor and subsequent immersion into the apologetic realm reoriented my thinking efforts and I have no regrets. The enterprise of understanding what we believe is far more enriching, rewarding and has brought me to a surer footing on matters of theology.

However, with all the reading and observation of the studies involving the various aspects of Theistic apologetics, I've come to see a different aspect of it, in light of innovation and strategy.

There is much being said about the new church movements being spearheaded by Erwin McManus, and to a degree, Rick Warren and the other megachurches - which have rankled many a traditional church organization because of they way that they conduct their congregational activities. Though I must say that they have succeeded in part by attracting many people who would have otherwise not considered attending church services, I honestly think that they've merely managed to repackage the entire enterprise and just made it more appealing.

A close examination of the way that Jesus of Nazareth approached the traditional mindsets of congregations of His time would have my innovating friends pointing to Him as a true innovator in that respect.

However, on examining the approach even further, far from innovating, He just made it a lot simpler for the Israelis to come to the God that they regarded as far and fearful. And better yet, He also made it possible for ordinary people who believed in Him to do exactly as He did, and He made sure that His followers knew it.

The book of Acts and church historical accounts up to the 4th century attest to it being true. Augustine's "City of God" point to at least 75 particular incidents, with one he witnessed with his own eyes.

However, somewhere along the way, we all lost it.

In my readings of the Kingdom Triangle of JP Moreland, the possibility for a revivification of that approach towards expanding the Kingdom is made even more real. Dr. Moreland, through his book and his lectures which can be downloaded and listened to from his site ( points to the three essential factors that caused the outbreak of believing followers in the first century following the resurrection and ascension of the risen Jesus: a life of the Christian mind and of thinking biblically, spiritual formation and it's disciplines, and the exercising of the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit by believers manifesting the power of the Kingdom.

I come across a great many believer friends that point an accusing finger of possessing "head knowledge" that can't be as relevant as the practical wisdom of Christian conduct - which I feel could use a bit of empowerment, if they'd let the Holy Spirit take part. The case of Peter/Cephas, the supposed simpleminded fisherman, always arises, and somehow when the matter of his mental development between the time of his first hand education at the feet of the Master to his writing of 1st and 2nd Peter arises, they fail to realize that a good thirty years of spreading the good news of the Kingdom had passed - and in that time, his reasoning skills and ability with doctrinal discourses had developed considerably.

But sadly, to propound on this and be an active proponent of this thought to the majority of traditional church leadership would almost certainly result in controversy. First of all, to mindsets that have succumbed to a near naturalist worldview, this will appear as "weird" and it won't surprise me if the more influential among the conservatives would label this as heretical and cause yet another division in an already very divided body. I can imagine our Lord already rolling His eyes because of it.

Yet, I can't help but observe that this is exactly the kind of reaction that He had experienced in His ministry. His message was too controversial among those that had already established a status quo, that could not AND must NOT be challenged or revised. They were comfortable with it, so why fix what ain't broke?

In that light, the Innovation proponents possess the advantage in explaining why the box must be broken first before they can be free to think out of their boxes. But to do that, they must first study the way that the King first broke down the message of the Kingdom to those He proclaimed it to, and how He demonstrated it to them while incarnate and after He conquered death. The Kingdom Triangle does this very well.

You put those innovators within the worldview of the Kingdom Triangle and spread THAT message of the Kingdom - I have no doubt that the spirit of the Acts church will live again. And yes, there will be persecution - from both the traditional church groups and the forces of darkness. But that's part of the package.

Friday, March 5, 2010

My salute to Mosab Hassan Yousef: Son of Hamas, and a child of the Most High God

“Whoever, then, acknowledges me before people, I will acknowledge before my Father in heaven. Matthew 10:32

For some people, to acknowledge followership of the Kingship of Jesus of Nazareth as Savior in a social setting can be an awkward moment. However, if pressed, and on recall of this passage, they eventually do so.

In an environment like a "democracy" where people move about with a liberty to express their thoughts freely, this is not unusual.

However, in this day and age, in the liberal democracy that is the United States of America, where all forms of ideologies are allowed - including the dangerous ones - it can be very dangerous. Most specially if you converted from Islam. And more so if you converted, coming from a radical Jihadist movement of Islam.

The danger that Mosab Hassan Yousef has placed himself in, by the writing and publication of his testimony and of his collaboration with Shin Bet, to save Palestinian lives including those of potential suicide bombers, is hardly the most sensible thing to do.

However, in doing so, Mosab makes the loudest statement among his people, the Islamic world, and the Arab world who are probably livid with his revelations. The most painful consequence occurred just hours before his book "Son of Hamas" was released publicly - his father, a founder of the Hamas movement, denounced and disowned him publicly.

Starting with a riveting interview on CNN's Amanpour, Mosab has gained the attention and admiration of many a believer in Jesus Christ. More so, when his turnaround from an active member of Hamas to a genuine follower of Jesus, and assisting the avowed enemy of his people, the Palestinians, by foiling at least 1,000 plots to assasinate, sow terror and murder is probably causing much fury among them, and there may be quite a number of them already plotting to assassinate him as well.

Mosab makes it clear that he does it to make a statement among his people, who he is not against, but rather, what they believe in.

In the study of apologetics, the discussion of the veracity of the claims of the Qur'an can very well be dealt with using facts. However, in a case like this, facts will not be sufficient. Emotions run high, and the threats to Mosab are quite real.

It is true, that the exponentially growing number of followers of Jesus among the Arabs and former muslims who converted to Isa (Jesus) face the most danger in their home environments. This is still by far, the largest unreported story in the world today. There are many reports online that are available to attest to this.

However, the act of this one brave man has done more to gain the attention of the secular media than the reports of the appearance of Isa among villages of muslims in various parts of the muslim world in dreams or actual apparitions. To the point where most media are now focusing on the danger that Mosab has exposed himself to.

Despite this, Mosab remains steadfast in his decision. And to him, spiritual death is more a matter to be concerned with than a physical death.

Truly, should he survive despite the dangers he faces now, what matters more will be that he will be acknowledged before the Almighty Father in Heaven by the Son, and because Mosab acknowledged Him publicly. And in a really big way.