It is not unusual for all religions to be lumped into the same basket and dismissed collectively. Yet, even a cursory reading of the core texts of any religion will expose clear differences. What does Christianity offer that might helpfully encourage a person to look more deeply into the truths that the Bible reveals?
‘Faith’ is the Christian calling. And one could ask: ‘How do I know my faith is real?’ or ‘Does doubt mean I have a shallow faith?’. Yet, you don’t need to be Christian to have questions about ‘faith’: ‘How do I get faith?’ or ‘What does faith achieve?’.
This talk, the second in a series on ‘Faith’, looks how faith comes to a person.
What an incredible city. As I look around, Athens was imposingly magnificent. Over there, the massive harbour of Piraeus – helping make the city a centre for trade. Over there the Temple of Zeus with its imposing columns scaling up to the high ceilings and with statues everywhere, one to this god and another to that god – they like their religion! Over there at the entrance to the city stands the beautiful Hadrian’s Arch, on one side it dedicates the city to Emperor Hadrian and on the other side to Theseus! – there is politics behind everything and this city was no exception. Over there the huge two-tiered covered colonnade called the Stoa of Attalus, the largest marketplace around – making this city a centre of culture and fashion. The Epicurean and Stoic philosophers would sit day by day in the marketplaces and argue about ideas – there is so much idealism just pervading this culture. And all of this, sitting in the shadow of the Acropolis. Many Greek cities have some kind of citadel constructed on hills overlooking their cities, but none were as formidable or as famous as the Parthenon perched high above Athens – making this a city of power and a tourism gold mine.
But it was at the Areopagus on Mars Hill, just a few hundred feet down from the Acropolis where the governing body of the city met and it was there they brought me. You see, I had been preaching the good news about Jesus and his resurrection and the people of the city thought that I was advocating for a foreign god and so, interested, they asked me about this ‘new teaching’ – I guess I was presenting an idea which they wanted to postulate about!
Foundational to belief of Christianity, is the historical reality of the person of Jesus and with that comes his well-documented life, teaching, death and resurrection.
Whilst it is true that belief in the existence of Jesus may be a no brainer and acknowledging his death traditional – to allow his teachings to shape the way we live, or to hold to the idea of a resurrection – for some is a step too far.
There are a chorus of Atheist voices who have spoken loudly against religion. That is not new, every age in history since and including the time of Jesus has seen opposition to organized religion – and at times, sadly, the opposition has been well placed.
In a series of short talks, we look at what the ‘new atheists’ say about the resurrection, before examine the resurrection for ourselves. The hope that we might be able the weigh up what is said and reordered in scripture and history and make our own decisions about faith.
On the surface it looked so good – it was what was lying below the surface that really made us think!
We were all together, sharing and giving as we were able. There was something amazing about being one in mind and heart and not being territorial with the possessions we each had. And the joy in sharing with anyone and everyone ensuring that no one among us was in need – surreal really. So foreign to what we experienced in the world around.
I remember the call. Nothing seemed right about what I was being asked to do!
I was in Damascus. The gospel work there had been growing as more and more became followers of Jesus. The rumour was that Saul of Tarsus was on his way to Damascus. This was unsettling.
Saul had led the charge against many followers of the Way. He had issued murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples and had arranged permission from the High Priest to travel around the synagogues seeking out Christians to imprison for their faith. He was a piece of work. We all knew the threat he posed.
‘Sacrifice is at the heart of the Christian life because sacrifice was at the heart of Jesus’ life. So if we’re going to grow as a church, we’ve got to expect that we will have to sacrifice too.’ – Des Smith