The Incarnation: Amazing Grace

For all the amazing aspects of God’s being, character, and personality—His infinite power, knowledge, wisdom, love, grace, and mercy—the most amazing of all just might be the Incarnation. It is staggering to think about a perfect God taking on imperfect human form, the infinite becoming finite, the immortal taking on mortality, the invisible God becoming visible through His Son, Jesus Christ.

God coming to earth in the form of a lowly human being is such a profound mystery, and so unexpected, that even today, two thousand years after it happened, people still struggle to understand how it was possible. Even followers of Christ often fail to grasp the significance of the Incarnation. Once a year they, along with the rest of the world, are reminded of this event when they celebrate Christmas, but the true implications of what the birth of Jesus means are generally lost amidst the pageantry, decorations, and gift giving.

John Newton a former slave trader, understood what it all meant when he composed the world’s most popular hymn:
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Do Dogs Go to Heaven?

Pope Francis has on various occasions reached out to those who feel alienated in one way or another from mainstream culture while not necessarily fully endorsing their lifestyle or personal choices. Now his eminence has built a bridge to an entirely new class of sentient creatures, namely our canine friends. This isn’t an insignificant group. Globally there may be upwards of a half billion dogs on the planet.

Trying to console a distraught little boy whose dog had died, Francis told him in a recent public appearance on St. Peter’s Square, “Paradise is open to all of God’s creatures.”

And there you have it. It may not be official Catholic doctrine, but such a statement has to be enormously comforting to hundreds of millions of dog owners and dog lovers: All dogs do go to heaven.

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Can You Really Know God?

Is it possible to know God? Most people believe it is possible to know about God the way you know about any person, place, or thing. All it takes is a little research, such as reading a book about whatever it is you want to know about. So in the case of God, you could read the Bible. Or in the case of Allah, you could read the Qur’an. But what if you want to actually know God in the way you would know a spouse or a close friend?

Muslims take offense at the notion that a person can know God. To the Islamic mind, a human ability to know God would make God dependent on his creation. For this reason, Allah doesn’t reveal himself; he reveals his mashi’at (desires and wishes), but not himself. Since Muslims believe that people cannot know Allah, they don’t try.

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Before Amen: Q&A with Max Lucado

In Before Amen best-selling author Max Lucado joins readers on a journey to the very heart of biblical prayer, offering hope for doubts and confidence even for prayer wimps. Distilling prayers in the Bible down to one pocket-sized prayer, Max reminds readers that prayer is not a privilege for the pious nor the art of a chosen few. Prayer is simply a heartfelt conversation between God and his child.

Max took some time to answer a few questions about his new book and the nature of prayer.

Q: Your new book, Before Amen, gives readers a simple way to incorporate prayer into their everyday life. But it’s more than just creating a prayer wish list for God, it’s about learning how to experience a heart connection with God.
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Are God and Allah the Same?

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose

By any other name would smell as sweet. 

William Shakespeare's immortal line from Romeo and Juliet is practically a universal truth. If something is real, it can be known. If it can be known, it doesn't matter what you call it. The identity and qualities of that person, place, or thing stays the same in any language.

Or does it?

Take the person of God, acknowledged as the “one true God” by the world’s three great monotheistic religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—even though these religions refer to God in their own unique way. In Judaism He is Yahweh, in Christianity He is God, and in Islam He is Allah. So are God, Yahweh, and Allah the same?

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Does God Condone Human Sacrifices?

“Abraham!” God called. “Yes,” he replied. “Here I am.” “Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the Land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you” (Genesis 22:1-2).

 

Difficulty: Does God condone human sacrifices?

 

Explanation: At the time of this event, Abraham’s pagan neighbors sacrificed their children to their gods. On the surface it appears that God used his authority over Abraham and commanded him to do something that violated God’s own standard of morality. How do you explain this apparent contradiction?

 

First, it is clear in other passages of Scripture that God is opposed to human sacrifices. “Do not permit any of your children to be offered as a sacrifice to Molech, for you must not bring shame on the name of your God. I am the Lord” (Leviticus 18:21). Repeatedly he made it clear human sacrifices were forbidden (see Leviticus 20:23 and Deuteronomy 12:31; 18:10). It is actually clear from the text that God’s point is that he does not want child sacrifice. This is why the passage begins by saying that “God tested Abraham” (Genesis 22:1).
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Why Doesn't God Stop Suffering?

This world is full of suffering and pain, and God does allow it. And while we may understand to a point why God had to allow suffering, why doesn’t he end it now? Why has he allowed it to continue so long? That is a troubling question.

 

A perfect and holy God created a perfect world. He “looked over all he made, and he saw that it was excellent in every way” (Genesis 1:31 nlt). Yet not for long. Because of free will, humans had a choice of God’s way or their way. They chose their way, and sin and evil entered the world. The perfect paradise God had created was destroyed. And from that moment forward—multiplied thousands of years—hunger, disease, hatred, wars, and untold heartache have plagued the human race. It is true God has promised to redeem those who trust in his Son for salvation and to restore creation back to his original design. But why is God taking so long to correct the tragic mess humans have made of this world?
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Does a Loving God Send People to Hell?

Many people think it just doesn’t seem right that God would condemn some people to a fiery place of damnation. God is love, and eternally punishing people doesn’t quite fit with that, right? So how can a loving God send people to hell?

 

To begin, it would be helpful to understand where God is thought to be sending people. The majority of Americans believe in a place called hell. Many consider it a place of eternal punishment of “fire and brimstone”—like a fiery torture chamber. But is this what hell is—an eternal furnace of sorts where people are tortured forever? Just what is it?

 

Clarifying the  Words of Scripture

 

To understand the teaching of Scripture we must understand when words are used literally or figuratively. If we don’t, we can easily misunderstand the teaching. Jesus referred to hell as a place where there is fire, which normally produces light (Mark 9:48). At the same time he referred to it as a place of “outer darkness” (Matthew 22:13). It seems reasonable that these words are figurative. If a literal meaning were attached to them, darkness and light from fire would cancel each other out. Jesus often used metaphors in his teachings, and here we believe he was giving a word picture of the indescribable nature of hell.
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Is God Genocidal?

To commit genocide is to deliberately kill a large racial, political, or cultural group of people, especially those of a particular ethnic group or nation. The word genocide is a combined Greek and Latin word meaning “race killing.”

The atrocities of Hitler and the Nazi army upon the Jewish people were genocide. The Nazis rounded up and murdered some 6 million Jews between 1938 and 1945. There were over 2 million genocidal killings of Cambodians by Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge army between 1975 and 1979. Over a period of 100 days in 1994 perhaps 800,000 Tutsis in Rwanda were brutally murdered by militia of the Hutu tribe. And between 1992 and 1995 the Serbs of Bosnia-Herzegovina committed “ethnic cleansing” by murdering over 200,000 Muslims in Bosnia. These are just a few examples of genocide humans have perpetrated on one another in recent history.

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If God Can’t Do Anything, Is He All-Powerful?

“Can God do anything?” I asked an audience of Christians at a recent apologetics conference. I gave my answer and offered an explanation. Apparently, my answer was not well received by everyone, as one man in the audience was so incensed that he stood up shaking his head in disgust. He turned for the exit and walked out of the auditorium, but not without glaring back at me one last time, continuing to shake his head in anger. So what did I say? No, God can't do anything.

Clearly the Bible affirms God’s power. Job 9:4 says, “His power is vast.” Psalm 24:8 refers to the Lord as “strong and mighty.” Isaiah 40:26 says that out of His “great power and mighty strength” God brought forth the universe. Don’t these passages indicate there is no limit to God’s power?

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