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Posts Tagged ‘Philip Yancey’

Seth_AndrewsIf you haven’t thought it yourself, then I wouldn’t be surprised if you heard someone say it: women are second-class citizens in Christianity.

That’s certainly the opinion of Seth Andrews, who grew up in a Christian home and is now a leading atheist.

If Seth is right, then you certainly don’t want to give any serious thought to this faith.

So is he right? Rather than enduring the words of an old white guy like me, I’ll offer you the answers of three women who saw the graphic that inspired this essay and are happy to explain why they are serious followers of Jesus Christ.

CHANTELLE OSBORNE: What If I said I didn’t feel belittled by Christianity and the Bible, but empowered? Empowered to redefine femininity from how society and the media too often define women: as sex objects who need to maintain a certain physical appearance to be accepted.

As a Christian, I am empowered to embrace my uniqueness – that God has created me different from men with a unique perspective.

Jesus’ trust and confidence in women was evident during Bible times and still is as Christian women throughout history have sometimes had the courage and conviction to accomplish things that men have not.

DEBBIE FLETCHER: If you look at how Jesus treated women, you will see that far from denigrating them, Jesus defied the prevailing views of the day by noticing, listening to and respecting women.

In the presence of Jesus, women were valued and given a voice. (See two accounts of Jesus’ life, called “Luke” and “John”). Furthermore, through Jesus’ sacrificial death on a Roman cross, men and women were brought together as equals.

In the Bible, an early Christian missionary named Paul wrote a letter to a church and said that because of what Jesus had accomplished through His death and resurrection, the distinction between classes of people had been removed.

“There is now neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus,” Paul wrote.

In fact, Paul tells Christian men that they should “go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church—a love marked by giving, not getting”. This is the farthest thing from being denigrated; this is being given a value beyond anything we could ever comprehend.

DORIS FLECK: Early in the Bible, we see that God created man and woman in His image. They are set as equals. Women play prominent roles throughout the Bible and even feature in Jesus’ genealogy, which is unusual because the culture of that time did not look highly on females.

When Jesus was physically on earth, women could not receive an education and had no voice in their marriage. Jewish men were not supposed to talk to a woman in public. If they did, it was considered a shame. But Jesus of Nazareth created controversy by swimming against the stream (for evidence, check out “John”, one of the accounts of His life). He gave great honour to women.

Author Philip Yancey comments, “For women and other oppressed people, Jesus turned upside down the accepted wisdom … Jesus violated the customs of his time in every encounter with women recorded in the four [Bible accounts of His life].”

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So there you have it. Does this cause you to rethink your ideas about Christianity? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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praying-hands-rt-hiPrayer is a big part of my life and I can easily construct and speak a tour-de-force that will tickle your ears and touch your emotions.

But do my prayers, and the prayers of everyone else, make any difference? For me, the answer is this simple: it depends.

Am I praying to obtain something? Is it something I need or something I want – and do I really know the difference?

Am I trying to change God or me?

Am I praying for someone? If yes, am I framing my prayer with the presumption I know what’s best for this person?

How am I approaching prayer? Am I desperate? Sad? Angry? Going through the motions?

Do I subconsciously think God is grading my effort – and His response (or lack thereof) depends on how I do?

When you consider just these questions, it’s no surprise that, in his wonderful book Prayer: Does it Make Any Difference?, Philip Yancey, writes “We who barely comprehend ourselves are approaching a God we cannot possibly comprehend. No wonder some Christians through the centuries have felt more comfortable praying to saints or relying on intermediaries.”

So why pray? For serious Christians, one answer is easy and simple: because prayer was a foundation of Jesus’s life. In the Bible’s four stories of His life, more than a dozen prayers by Jesus (whom serious Christians believe is the son of God) are recorded. And if you read those prayers, you’ll quickly realize Jesus prayed like it made a huge difference.

Here’s another good reason: when we pray, we open ourselves up to hearing or sensing what God wants to tell us. The website allaboutprayer.org puts it this way:  “Prayer not only establishes a relationship with God, it is vital to maintaining our relationship with him.”

A relationship developed in prayer can have immense ramifications. According to the late author and Catholic priest Henri Noewen, “One of the discoveries we make in prayer is the closer we come to God, the closer we come to all our brothers and sisters in the human family.”

Of course, this can be scary because the potential is there to shake us out of our placid, comfortable lives. As Philip Yancey put it in another of his books, “Prayer is the act of seeing reality from God’s point of view.” And once we see that reality, we may never be the same.

In fact, if our praying is sincere, we can be transformed into more generous, loving and forgiving people who have a truer picture of who God is and what He wants to accomplish in this world.

And that means we can be more like Jesus.

Does this make sense? Post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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Easter 2The facts around Easter – Jesus Christ, whom serious Christians believe is the son of God, dying for the sins of all who believe in him, then returning to life three days later – are beyond the sort of simple, quick understanding our culture demands.

Indeed, for a long time, Easter was a great mystery to me. But now, as a relatively new Christian, I can see what is surely good news for every human being who believes in a creator.

Consider the death of Jesus. It’s a death that could have been stopped. To the religious and Roman authorities of Jesus’ day, God could have said words to the effect of “Don’t you touch my boy”. But He didn’t.

As Philip Yancey writes in The Jesus I Never Knew, “I have marvelled at, and sometimes openly questioned, the self-restraint God has shown throughout history … but nothing — nothing — compares to the self-restraint shown that dark Friday in Jerusalem.”

The good news here is the gift of free will is for real. We can go to war against each other; we can spoil our nest through pollution and greed; we can even kill the son of God. Still, God won’t take that gift back. To me, that means He wants a relationship with real (read: very, very imperfect) people, not robots.

Now ponder the moment in the Bible where Jesus, on the cross, asked God to “forgive them (His killers); they don’t know what they’re doing.” In his book For Christ’s Sake, Tom Harpur saw that moment like this: “Jesus revealed there are no limits to God’s willingness to forgive and pardon. In a real sense, we can even stand there with those who nailed Jesus to the cross and, in our rage or despair, join in hammering the spikes. God still forgives.”

All this can be – and often is – written off quite logically by saying, well, Jesus was just another cool preacher who was killed by nasty people. End of story. But it’s not the end. The resurrection celebrated each Easter is as real to me as the computer I used to write this essay.

Nothing else could explain how apostles cowering in fear for their own lives could be transformed into world-changing evangelists and martyrs; they must have met the risen Christ.

Furthermore, in one of his letters in the Bible, St. Paul (one of the men most responsible for spreading Christianity in the Mediterranean) cites living witnesses to the resurrection. As Harpur writes, “St. Paul is saying those who do not believe him can go and find out for themselves.”

For me, then, the death of His Son is God making a case for complete forgiveness and free will to the court of humanity. Bringing Jesus back to life is the overwhelming proof – how better to forgive someone than to reverse their wrong altogether? Case closed.

Does this make sense to you? Post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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