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What Do Christians Really Believe? (You might be surprised!)

What Christians Really Believe

By Dr. Andrew Corbett

What is the popular perception of what Christians believe? If we are to believe what the popular media reports, Christians are known far better for what they are against than what they actually believe. Therefore, it’s not surprising that most people think that Christians are essentially homophobic, misogynists, who seek to control people through the medieval superstitious beliefs. This new uninformed perception of Christianity is perpetuated by politicians who, while claiming to be Christians, actually espouse views and values antithetical to Christianity. This was seen dramatically in both the US Presidential elections of 2008/12 and the Australian Federal election of 2013. In both campaigns major candidates claimed to be adherents of Christianity yet they ridiculed the Bible and asserted that it endorsed their particular views on issues such as marriage and sexuality, and what constituted ‘Christian’ social justice. Most recently in Australia, the Opposition Leader, Mr Bill Shorten, speaking at the Australian Christian Lobby National Conference, claimed to be a Christian yet asserted positions foreign to classic Christianity. So just what do Christians really believe?

Bill Shorten Q&A from Australian Christian Lobby on Vimeo.

Bill Shorten's distortion of ChristianityWhat is it that people now think Christians believe? Surveys asking this question usually list the following –

* “Christians hate gays!”

* “Christians are against abortion and a woman’s right to choose!”

* “Christians ignore science, disregard facts and evidence, and hold a medieval superstitious set of beliefs they call, ‘faith’.”

* “Christians think they are right and everyone else will be sent to Hell because they do not agree with their doctrines!”

* “Christians think that only those who go to church will go to heaven.”

And if Mr Shorten is correct, Christians are, “hiding behind the Bible to insult and demonise people on the basis of who they love.” What may not be immediately obvious to the reader is that none of the above list is actually a belief. These are opinions about Christianity – not a summary or survey of beliefs. What this compilation of public opinion about Christianity indicates is that Christians are often better known for what they are against than what they are for or even what they believe.

 

The Top 5 Things Christians Believe#5 GOD

The foundation of Christianity is God. This is a particular belief about God that makes Christianity unique.

God eternally has unique attributes and exclusively exercises certain divine prerogatives. These attributes include, love, holiness, immutability, eternality, wisdom, omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence. His divine prerogatives include, creating ex-nihilo, giving life, atoning for sin, forgiving sin, judging sinners, glorifying the redeemed.

Unlike human beings who are constituted as a physical body and a centre of self-consciousness (often referred to as “a soul” and what makes someone a ‘person’), God is oneimmaterial being (not confined to a physical body, yet still a being) with three centres of self-consciousness. These centres of self-consciousness, or persons, are known as The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit. In this way, God’s attribute of love is made eternally possible since giving, sharing, caring, consideration for another are integral to love. Christianity does not believe in three Supreme Beings. This is a non-Christian view known as polytheism. Christianity does not believe that God’s immaterialness means that He is not a being with personhood. That idea is a non-Christian view known as pantheism.

Belief in God is the starting-point for Christianity.  This is drawn from how the Bible itself announces God in its opening statement, “In the beginning God…” Atheism and Christianity are therefore incompatible belief systems.

 

#4 BIBLE

The Bible teaches that we are to test and scrutinise all its claimsImmediately following the foundational belief in God, Christianity is grounded in the Bible as being the most authoritative source of information about God, His actions, and His plan. This confidence in the Bible is not mere blind faith but rather a reasonable position derived from rigorous scrutiny. That is, if the Bible cannot withstand scrutiny – scientifically, historically, geographically, philosophically – and be found to be credible, then it should be rejected as false. Christians have come to a confidence that the Bible is reliable, accurate, and divinely inspired.

One of the greatest evidences for the divine inspiration of the Bible is fulfilled prophecies. In Isaiah 52-53 written around 720BC, there are some 40 prophetic predictions given about the Messiah (Jesus Christ). These include how we will grow up, His appearance, what He will do, how He will be tortured, how He will die, where He will be buried, and that He will rise from the dead. So accurate are these predictions about the life of Jesus of Nazareth that skeptics asserted that this Isaiah passage must have been written several hundred years after the event. But then in 1948 the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered which included copies of the prophecies of Isaiah dating to hundreds of years BC!

The Isaiah Scroll, Dead Sea Scrolls

Added to this are the words of Jesus in Matthew 24 which record the outlandish claim that Jerusalem would be destroyed and the Temple dismantled stone by stone. This was one of the charges levelled against Jesus at His trial and was not disputed. Jesus predicted Jerusalem’s destruction and this is recorded in the first three books of the New Testament, Matthew, Mark, and Luke. We know that the last book of the New Testament was written in 65AD. Therefore, these prophecies by Jesus of Nazareth were published and widely known by 65AD – at least 5 years before their dramatic fulfilment.

The closing book of the Bible, The Revelation, makes some staggeringly testable prophecies. In Revelation 17:9 it states that there are seven kings, five have died, one now is, and the seventh will also be the eighth who will also be the tenth. The ruling power, the Romans, was founded as a kingdom by Julius Caesar (1), who was succeeded by Augustus (2), then followed by Tiberius (3), then Caligula (4), then Claudius (5), then Nero (6) who was ruling in 65AD when The Revelation was written. After Nero came a quick succession of would-be Emperors (Galba, Otho, Vitelius) who never consolidated the throne. They were treated by some as fulfilling one reign since each of them only had power for weeks or months. Thus, the next Emperor, Vespasian, was considered ‘the eighth’ king, but others completely disregarded these three temporary kings, in which case Vespasian was widely considered ‘the seventh’ king. But others count these three kings in the line of Roman kings which makes Vespasian ‘the tenth’ king. This is a remarkable fulfilment of Biblical prophecy and reasonably goes beyond the bounds of mere guesswork!

The Words of Jesus in the BibleFar from being an outdated, archaic Holy Book that better belongs to the Dark Ages than to our modern era of scientific and cultural enlightenment, those who have taken the time to open the lid of this literary treasure chest have discovered riches and jewels for their lives beyond their wildest imagination. And you can too.

 

#3 MAN

AltruismChristians have reasons to believe two great truths about humanity. Firstly, every person descends from the first parents who were created in the image of God, of whom God said, “This is very good.” Mankind was created with the instinctive capacity to resemble God’s great and noble self-sacrificial love toward others. Darwinian Evolution, a competing model for explaining the origin of man, is grounded in survival of the fittest. This is the exact opposite of what the Bible teaches and Christians accept about mankind’s inherent goodness and nobility frequently seen in acts of altruism (where a man dives into a flooded river at the risk of losing his own life to rescue someone else’s drowning baby). The movie, “John Q” very powerfully illustrates this point where a father is prepared to have the heart surgeon take his life so that the father could give his own heart to the surgeon to transplant into his son.

But there is a second great truth that Christians have about the nature of humanity.  Although originally created in the image God with a limitless capacity for love, selflessness, and noble goodness, mankind rebelled against our Maker. This has marred the image of God in man and is referred to by Christians as “The Fall.” It is why we see evil, hatred, selfishness, greed, lying, murder, disrespect, abuse, false religion, corruption, tyranny, infidelity, war-mongering and crime. Mankind has been infected with a moral and spiritual virus that we cannot cure. This is why Christians have accepted that people need a Saviour who alone can heal and restore the human soul, and bear the penalty of our wilful fallenness. Acknowledging our falleness is the first step to having God save us.

 

#2 JESUS

Jesus lovesChristians believe in the uniqueness of Jesus the Christ. Christians have good reasons to believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the preexistent, eternal Son of God. He was born to a young virgin girl (and therefore without the contamination of human fallenness passed generationally on by fathers). He claimed to be without sin and invited His critics to point out any sin He had committed (John 8:46, “Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me?“). He exercised exclusively divine prerogatives such as forgiving human sin, rendering certain Old Covenant laws obsolete (particularly the Food and Ceremonial Laws which Moses had given to Israel). Jesus claimed to be divine and equal to His God (“I and My Father are one”, John 10:30). He told the Jews that He preexisted before His birth as the co-equal God of the Jews (John 8:56-57, “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?“). Jesus performed genuine supernatural miracles which attested to His divinity (John 14:11, “Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.”).

Jesus Christ declared that He was the Saviour of mankind. He stated that He would die a substitutionary death for the sins of all mankind. His initial disciples would write that this salvation from Jesus would be offered to all fallen people by grace (Eph. 2:8-9). This offer will not be imposed on people – each person must accept it which results in the ability to turn away from sin and to turn to God (this is called ‘repentance’). Every person on the planet may feel that they are a million miles from God, but the truth is, because of what Jesus has done, we are all just one prayer away.

 

#1 ETERNITY

Eternity by Arthur StaceMaterialism asserts that you are just a collection of chemicals. You are only the sum total of your physical nature. That is, your dreams, memories, emotions, and choices are simply chemically reactions. But human beings are metaphysical beings – that is, we are also immaterial. This immaterial component to us will survive long after our bodies have died. We all sense this when we attend the funeral of a loved-one. Intuitively we know that this is not their end. Jesus described a “last day” where all people would appear before God, The Judge of All. This event will determine where people will spend their eternal destinies. Life does not stop at the grave.

Scientists tell us that all time, space, energy, and matter began at an event called,The Big Bang. Whatever caused these things must have been greater than these things (since no effect can be greater than its cause). Therefore, whatever caused the Big Bang must have eternally existed (greater than time), not confined to space (omnipresent), of unlimited power (omnipotent) and immaterial (spirit). Those who don’t like to draw these conclusions (because they point so clearly to God) argue for an impersonal eternal state. This is what Albert Einstein initially believed until he was presented with the evidence for the Big Bang. It highlights that in either worldview (one with God or one without) the fact that there must be a dimension known as eternity is not disputed.

Jesus called eternity with God, “life”. To enter into life, He said, is worth any sacrifice (Matt. 18:8-9; Mark 9:45). But ultimately He said that He was “the life” (John 14:6). Relatively speaking, this life is but a second on the clock of time compared with eternity. The choices we make in this life determine whether we enter into “life” (peace and bliss with God for eternity). Jesus described people who only live for this life, and do not prepare for the life to come, as “fools” (Luke 12:20). Every person will either spend their eternity in the infinitely satisfying presence of God, or in “darkness” – banished for eternity from God and all that He is (love, peace, joy, kindness and so on). Therefore the rebuttal that some offer – “I’d rather spend eternity in hell with all my friends” – is not an option, and simply displays the stubbornness of the fallen human heart.

Eternity

Arthur Stace was a simple man. He wandered the streets of Sydney as a vagabond. One day he walked past a church where through the open door he heard the preacher say, “Eternity!” This thought gripped him. As he continued to listen to the preacher he heard of a Saviour who came, lived, died, and rose from the dead so that anyone who now receives the forgiveness of God through Jesus could spend eternity in heaven. That night Arthur Stace prayed a prayer asking God to forgive him of his sins, to give him the help to live a God-pleasing life, and to take him into eternity so that he could enjoy being with God forever. He experienced such a transformation that night that he just had to share it with others. All over Sydney the word, ‘Eternity’, began to appear in perfect Copperplate chalked hand-writing. In 2000 when Sydney hosted the Olympic Games, Arthur Stace’s word was emblazoned across the Sydney Harbour Bridge. I wonder how many appreciated profundity of this word? Have you? Have you considered where you would spend eternity if your next heart-beat was your last?

These are the top five things that Christians believe: God, the Bible, Man, Jesus, and eternity. Christians are not “against” anyone – but neither do we deny the often denied pain that has come from mankind’s fallenness. This is why sincere Christian attempt to share our message in love not judgmentalism. These are the major themes of the Bible itself. Christianity is thus fundamentally different to all other religions. Religion is spelt: D O (it’s based on what you do). But Christianity, on the other hand, is spelt: D O N E (Jesus Christ has done all there is to do and He now make the offer of the Father’s forgiveness to all who will trust Him for their salvation). Will you receive God’s forgiveness and be reconciled to Him through His Son, Jesus Christ? You may feel a million miles from God but the truth is you are just one step away, and begins with a prayer.

 

Andrew Corbett

12th November 2014

Preach this! Free Powerpoint Slides of this presentation

Leadership Lessons From Shackleton

Sometimes when the going gets tough, you just have to keep going. In fact, success in life – no matter how you define it – can only be achieved with endurance. Surely one of the greatest examples of endurance (if not the greatest) is the story of Ernest Shackleton and his expedition to the Antarctic on the ship: The Endurance. While we ordinary mortals may never have a death defying adventure like Shackleton and his 28 men, we are already in the midst of our own great adventure called life!

Some people want to live their lives by seeking their maximum comfort and avoiding all risks. But this is not the Believer’s lot. We are called to follow Christ- who even though He is entirely consistent in character, is somewhat unpredictable in his plans for His followers. The New Testament calls this “walking by faith” (2Corinthians 5:7). This is why for the Believer, Life is the Greatest Adventure.

When was the last time you did something for Christ that required “great faith” (Matthew 15:28)?

How Pagan Is Christianity? A response to Barna and Viola

It’s rare that a Publisher commences book with a disclaimer by virtually saying we are publishing this even though we don’t agree with it. This type of disclaimer is especially rare for a publisher such as Tyndale. After reading this book I understood why Tyndale were so apprehensive in publishing it. While this was puzzling, what I found most puzzling was that George Barna put his name to it! One can only wonder at the damage this book has done to his reputation.
A “Pagan” is someone who is either ignorant or has wilfully rejected the truth and as a result is an idolater (worships idols). This is the word that the authors have chosen to use to describe modern Christianity. It is, as they admit, an outrageous claim.

Religion and Politics Don’t Mix

This is an introduction to the theology that leads to political engagement by Christians. It explores the notion of the separation of Church and State, how this has been misapplied and re-thought of by significant Christian leaders in the 18th, 20th, and 21st centuries. I conclude with a personal experience of what I consider positive political engagement looks like. 

They say art is the thermometer of culture. In this sense, politics might be seen as the barometer of culture. And we might add that Christians should be the thermostat of culture (not the thermometer of culture). By this we mean that art in its various forms – literature, music, visual art, movies, poetry, photography, and fashion, reflect what culture finds acceptable, disturbing, desirable, praiseworthy, and even beautiful. And politics is the popular affirmation (the essence of democracy) of a set of legislative policy agendas that give direction to a culture.

The Leadership Key of King David

Success often results from being able to get along with others. Real leadership success can only be achieved by working with others. And this type of spiritual leadership is prescribed in the Bible as “partnering” with others. This is why we regard Partnering as the ‘art of leadership’.

We work together as partners who belong to God. You are God’s field, God’s building—not ours.
First Corinthians 3:9

Churches need leaders. Jesus called His original disciples to “shepherd” (not “sheep-herd”) His sheep. In John 10 Christ labors this point that his servants will lead His people as ‘shepherds’. This is not the type of leadership that domineers and exploits for personal gain. This is called despotic leadership. Rather, the type of leadership that Jesus calls for is ‘God-Partnering’ leadership: the kind of leadership heart that God has toward His people. This is why First Corinthians 3:9 says that church leaders work together with God (“labourers together with God” KJV). As leaders with God we are to treat people as if they were God’s (“God’s field/building”). If you are called to lead people within a church, whether as a senior pastor or someone helping their pastor to lead, it is important to realise that we lead with God as well as for God, and that it is His Church.

What Do Christians Really Believe? (You might be surprised!)

What is the popular perception of what Christians believe? If we are to believe what the popular media reports, Christians are known far better for what they are against than what they actually believe. Therefore, it’s not surprising that most people think that Christians are essentially homophobic, misogynists, who seek to control people through the medieval superstitious beliefs. This new uninformed perception of Christianity is perpetuated by politicians who, while claiming to be Christians, actually espouse views and values antithetical to Christianity. This was seen dramatically in both the US Presidential elections of 2008/12 and the Australian Federal election of 2013. In both campaigns major candidates claimed to be adherents of Christianity yet they ridiculed the Bible and asserted that it endorsed their particular views on issues such as marriage and sexuality, and what constituted ‘Christian’ social justice. Most recently in Australia, the Opposition Leader, Mr Bill Shorten, speaking at the Australian Christian Lobby National Conference, claimed to be a Christian yet asserted positions foreign to classic Christianity. So just what do Christians really believe?

Examining The Prosperity Gospel

“Give to my ministry” announced the Televangelist, “and Lord will cancel all your debts!” These and other claims by ‘Prosperity Preachers’ are also suspiciously linked to the size of the “seed” someone “sows” into their ministry. In more recent times this prosperity teaching has even been linked to the collapse in the sub-prime mortgage market and the eventual global economic melt-down! But if the Prosperity Gospel was only about money, we could perhaps tolerate it. But it encompasses much, much more dangerous dogma than that!

In a recent Time Magazine Online article, it questions the influence of Word of Faith preaching on the Sub-Prime Mortgage collapse. Before this article appeared though, many pastors, Bible teachers, and theologians were screaming from the roof-tops about some of the dangers of the “Prosperity Gospel”. But such roof-top screaming fades into a whimper compared to the massive media resources available to the super-preachers of the Prosperity Gospel. This “Gospel” not only baptises materialism and avarice but it denies some of the most essential Christian doctrines and replaces them with what can only be described as cultic teaching and practice. The Prosperity Gospel is also known as “Word of Faith” theology, or the “Health, Wealth, Happiness Gospel”. Its most public proponents are all televangelists who appeal to their audiences for donations- with promises of God’s miraculous financial blessing according to the amount donated. All of these preachers have testimonials from people who have given to their ministry and allegedly miraculously prospered as a result. There are some televangelists who are probably charlatans because they have discovered that Christians are gullible cash-cows. But many of these Prosperity Preachers are sincere, genuine, and nice people- its just that their theology is fatally flawed with dangerous errors!

Mordecai, The Model Dad

The Book of Esther is controversial Biblical book. Why is it in the Bible? There is not even a direct mention of “God” in it. This has led some to question whether it even belongs in the Bible. But what these critics have missed is one of the most profound messages from God in all of Scripture.

While the book of Esther is obviously about Esther, it is also rich in Biblical allegory about God and His relationship with His people. But what is not immediately obvious is that this book is very prophetic. It describes how God was to end His Old Covenant and establish a new one. All the while, the characters in this pivotal story unwittingly reveal some amazing truths about God, family, and the relationship between religion and politics.

True For You But Not True For Me

Have you even heard someone say, “That may be true for you but it’s not true for me!” It’s the kind of sentiment which might be appropriately limited to our experiences and our emotional responses to them, but it can not be true about those issues which effect us all, known as universals. These include what we consider to be morally right or wrong, whether a fact is true or false,  or whether we should regard something as either good or bad. For example, one of the universal laws that is not subject to personal opinion is gravity. Someone may disagree with it, but their disagreement doesn’t change its reality.

The kind of judgment needed to distinguish right from wrong, true from false, or good from bad, must allow for those things which are universal and thus common to all. This kind of truth, what Francis Schaeffer called ‘true truth’ is also not subject to context, circumstances, popularity, or fashion (Beckworth & Koukl 1998, 20). Neither is it restricted to a time or place. Thus, what can be known as true has generally been acknowledged as such down through the ages by various peoples located in different parts of the world. Philosophers refer to this kind of truth as objective truth.

Moral Naturalism

The Global Environmental Movement has undoubtedly done some great good. Visit cities such as Los Angeles, New Delhi, Shanghai, and you’ll soon realise that water and air pollution is a very serious matter. Anyone who has seen the devastation of massive unregenerated deforestation will readily acknowledge that managing trees in the ground is more critical than many must have realised. Yet, undergirding the Environmental Movement, and its ensuing social policies, is that: natural is best. Many people justly concerned about our ecology have started to notice a large wooden horse on wheels has been pushed into the town square by Environmentalists. And just like the fabled Trojan Horse, this neo-Trojan horse has smuggled something more powerful than an army into our culture: If It’s Natural – It’s Morally Right.

Introducing Jeremiah The Prophet

Jeremiah is the second of the ‘major’ Prophets after Isaiah. Like Isaiah, he prophesied events which were fulfilled within his lifetime and beyond. Most significantly, Isaiah and Jeremiah prophesied about the coming Messiah and the new covenant this Messiah would usher in. From the opening three verses, which may have been written by Jeremiah, or may have been the result of Ezra’s later editing. These verses help us to date when Jeremiah began his prophetic ministry. His ministry would have begun when he was aged between 15 to 20. He would have begun around the time of the discovery of the Law during the thirteenth year of King Josiah’s reign which was around 629BC. This helps us to reckon his birth year as sometime around 649BC or so. We know that the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem as Jeremiah had prophesied they would, in 586 BC. This means that Jeremiah ministered around 45 to 50 years. He is particular significant for several reasons…

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