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My Final Word by Charles Colson

Chuck ColsonOne of the most respected and influential Christian leaders of the last several decades, the late Chuck Colson (@ColsonCenter) engaged millions through his books, public speaking, and radio broadcasts.

In the new book My Final Word: Holding Tight to the Issues that Matter (Zondervan, 2015), longtime Colson co-author Anne Morse has selected and arranged pieces Colson wrote mostly during the last decade of his life, spotlighting what he saw as key topics of ongoing importance for Christian cultural engagement.

Click to buy your copy of My Final Word in the Bible Gateway StoreThe following article is an excerpt from My Final Word: Holding Tight to the Issues that Matter.

Lost in the Cosmos

[Editor’s Note: Can the truth be known apart from Scripture? Yes. In this section Chuck argues that we can use the truths found in nature to point unbelievers to the truth of the gospel and God’s teachings about how we are to live our lives.]

I had an excellent conversation once with R.C. Sproul on the question of natural theology. Jonathan Edwards was strongly into natural theology—that is, that the truth can be known apart from Scripture. It can be known from general revelation. It can be known from observing things which Scripture doesn’t even deal with. The fundamental operative argument here is that all truth is God’s truth.

Thomas Aquinas was confronted with a huge problem along these lines: Islamic scholars of his day, when Islam was a shining light of culture, argued that there was such a thing as double truth—that is, something could be true in science but not in faith.

Aquinas took issue with this. He said there was only one certain truth. He got into the question of how things were knowable, and he said, “Some things are knowable by nature; some things are knowable by grace”—just exactly what I believe and what natural theology teaches.

Evangelical scholars such as Francis Schaeffer have generally shied away from Aquinas because they believe he is separating truth into two kinds of truth—truth which you get from grace and truth which you get from science or nature. But they’re ignoring the fact that Aquinas also said there are some truths, like the truth about God, that are known by both nature and grace.

In the final analysis, in any event, all truth comes from both. There is a unity of truth; it all comes from God. Aquinas, according to Sproul, was not separating nature and grace. He was simply trying to demonstrate what was false about the Muslim worldview and certain Aristotelian formulations that Muslim scholars had come up with.

The fact of the matter is I believe that truth is knowable both by revelation and by nature. And the reason I believe this is that it is often the same thing: revelation tells us about the creation, but the creation is just as knowable by our physical senses as it is by Scripture. All Scripture is doing is telling us that truth is knowable by creation because it refers to creation in the mountains, which declare the glory of God.

The Scriptures, as well, are historically recounting the actions of God working among His covenant people and the nations of history. Scripture doesn’t make God’s actions true; the Scripture itself is validating what actually happened, which was the source of the truth, God’s actions in the lives of people.

Similarly, the Epistles are written by men under the influence of the Holy Spirit. They are without error, yet the truth is not necessarily what is told us propositionally (though it is the truth). The Scripture is describing moral truth which God has wired into the universe and revealed to the writer. When you trace these things back, they all go back to God. The Scripture is truth, but it is also describing truth.

Now the problem, of course, comes when people believe that this opens the door to rationalism. Now, there’s nothing wrong with being rational; the problem is attaching the “ism” to it. In a sense one is indeed attaching the “ism” if one were to argue that everything is knowable apart from God, and with one’s own mind one could come to moral formulations and understand the moral laws of the universe as one can the physical law: by observation. Therefore, one doesn’t need the Scripture, and therefore, one reduces God to the force that started it all and wound it up and created it; that’s how one becomes a Deist.

But I would never suggest anyone could be saved by any revelation apart from the truth of the Scripture itself. Common grace can be understood rationally, but saving knowledge means that Christ, Who died on the cross—and again, the gospel, which is presented as a description of that truth—is revealed through Scripture. You have to hear the good news presented from Scripture; you have to have the gift of faith given to you by God. You have to, with that faith, react and be declared righteous. That’s the process of salvation. Human beings cannot do this. You can’t get there from here.

But there is a unity of truth even with regard to the good news, which rests on historical events. Christianity is, after all, a religion of history, so why would one exclude sources of understanding truth? If you were to carry this too far, you would say that God spoke once and for all through Scripture; He could never reveal anything again. And yet, there are continuous revelations out of nature.

Remember, too, the story of Nein Cheng, who was put into prison during China’s Cultural Revolution. She had only the sayings of Chairman Mao’s little red book. She was not allowed a Bible, but she looked up one day and saw a spider weaving a web, and she suddenly saw the hand of God in the beauty of the design. (What makes this particularly telling is that Jonathan Edwards also believed that the spiderweb was one of God’s great architectural creations.) Now, here comes this spider into a jail cell where a woman is languishing with her hands bound behind her, and she sees God in this spider; she is spiritually renewed. Did she not see the truth? Of course she saw the truth. That spiderweb was her Bible.

We are crazy when we say that all truth can only be known by Scripture; that becomes a circular argument. God says you cannot add to or subtract from Scripture, but nowhere does the Bible tell us that this is the complete source of all truth. It is a complete source of all truth—for salvation—but not for other considerations. We have to be able to look at nature’s revelation, as well.

The interesting thing about this whole exercise is that I came to these thoughts on my own. I did not read a book about Thomist points of view and then react. I did not listen to a great debate over presuppositional apologetics. I was just thinking deeply about these issues and came out at a point where, lo and behold, I discovered I was embracing arguments made by Aquinas without even realizing it. In fact, I got into natural law arguments over the homosexuality issue. Until I started discussing these arguments with BreakPoint writer Roberto Rivera, I’m sorry to confess, I didn’t even realize they were Thomist arguments.

To me this makes so much sense that I don’t know how you can argue about it. There is truth; there is reality. The ultimate reality has to be in the first cause. What started everything? By whom, through whom, and for whom all things were made has to be the beginning. There is one ultimate truth that holds together everything that exists.

By definition, that is God. We know it by faith because Christ came and revealed Himself, and we believe in Him and have come to that faith. We can see the truth of that faith in the creation around us and in the Scriptures. But even somebody who wasn’t a believer would know that there’s got to be some source of ultimate truth. We can’t always have just been here. An infinite universe begs the question. So once you get to the first-cause question, you get to the proposition that there has to be a God, and then you have to look at history. You have to begin to probe the truth. Where do you find truth? Were the Islamic scholars right in the thirteenth century? Let’s look at their proposition. They did not work out very well. How did the various political systems founded on differing presuppositions work out? Some have survived better than others.

I believe we are given, by God, certain abilities, and we’re to use those abilities to understand reality. And God has made certain things which make ultimate reality clear to us. Nature is one of them; Paul says so in Romans 2. He says here, too, there is a truth that is built within us. But we also know that from experience. The Tao is an example. Where does wisdom come from? It comes from God; all truth is from God.

I can see the vulnerability of this argument because it could clearly lead you away from Scripture unless you keep as your presupposition that Scripture is true. And why do we believe it? Because we believe God wrote the Bible, and it has been proven over the years to be infallible, and because it says it’s true on its face.

“Your [God’s] word is truth,” Jesus says (John 17:17). So we accept that presupposition, but we do not close our minds to other forms of inquiry that will enable us to defend the reality reflected in truth wherever we find it. God speaks it in one form, and He displays it in many other forms. Are we now separating nature and grace? Not at all. We’re saying they are complementary.

The only thing that makes life meaningful is if it is tied to truth—otherwise we are adrift in the cosmos; we are lost. We will drift around looking for some place to moor the boat. We’ll be caught up in the fads of the moment, and living with false presuppositions. So the most urgent, the most desperate need is to find truth.

So we have to be rooted in truth. That truth is then going to lead us to certain propositions which will give us a meaningful and fulfilling life.

The above excerpt is from My Final Word: Holding Tight to the Issues that Matter. Copyright © 2015 by The Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview. Used by permission of Zondervan. www.Zondervan.com. All rights reserved. Taken from pp. 32-36.

Bio: Chuck Colson was a popular and widely known author, speaker, and radio commentator. A former presidential aide to Richard Nixon and founder of the international ministry Prison Fellowship, he wrote several books that have shaped Christian thinking on a variety of subjects, including Born Again, Loving God, How Now Shall We Live?, The Good Life, and The Faith. His radio broadcast, BreakPoint, at one point aired to two million listeners. Chuck Colson donated all of his royalties, awards, and speaking fees to Prison Fellowship Ministries.

Anne Morse, a freelance writer, spent 18 years collaborating with Chuck Colson on BreakPoint commentaries, Jubilee and Christianity Today columns, and books. She is also the co-author of Prisoner of Conscience with Congressman Frank Wolf of Virginia. She lives in Maryland with her husband.

Questioning the Bible: An Interview with Jonathan Morrow

Jonathan MorrowCan a thoughtful person today seriously believe that God wrote a book? An unprecedented number of sophisticated attacks are being waged on the origin, credibility, and reliability of the Bible. It can be difficult to know what to say when skepticism and secularism take over so many conversations. Confusion and doubt about the Bible being God’s Word are becoming as common inside the church as they are in the broader culture.

Bible Gateway interviewed Jonathan Morrow (@Jonathan_Morrow) about his book, Questioning the Bible: 11 Major Challenges to the Bible’s Authority (Moody Publishers, 2014).

Click to buy your copy of Questioning the Bible in the Bible Gateway StoreWhat need do you see in society that prompted you to write this book?

Jonathan Morrow: The Bible is the most influential book in human history. But people are unsure what to do with it in the 21st century. Our culture no longer “speaks Bible.” What this means is that the Bible may still have sentimental value to some people, but it is no longer considered unique, authoritative, and true. At the other end of the spectrum we are seeing an increasing number of people who are outright hostile to the Bible and its message.

In addition to these realities, questions that used to be only asked in graduate seminars are now part of pop culture. It is increasingly common to see skeptical questions about lost Gospels, the origins of Christianity, Bible contradictions, and the general reliability of Bible talked about on YouTube, the History Channel, The Daily Show, and CNN. This is the world our young people are growing up in and they need to be prepared to have better conversations in the classroom and in everyday life. Also, parents need encouragement and training to help students find solid answers.

After wrestling with, investigating, and teaching on these kinds of questions for years, I wanted to write an accessible and reasonable response to the 11 toughest challenges to the Bible that every day people—curious students and busy moms and dads—could understand and use. That’s why at the end of each chapter of Questioning the Bible I summarize the three main points of the chapter and then give examples of how to use this knowledge in conversations. We need to both understand the truth and know how to help others discover it.

Questioning the Bible is a provocative title. Are you saying that it’s OK for people to question the Bible?

Jonathan Morrow: Yes that title is meant to start a conversation. Many people view Christianity and the Bible as just something you must blindly accept. But the reality is that all of us have questions about the Bible. At the end of the day, what we have to figure out is what we will do with those questions.

Will we keep them hidden and allow unanswered questions to slowly erode our confidence that God has spoken? Or will we courageously question the Bible in a way that actually builds our faith?

Honestly, the first hurdle is getting over the idea that good Christians shouldn’t ask the hard questions. It’s easy to fall into the trap of seeing this as a lack of faith. And then there is the fear of what everyone else may think if they find out.

Questioning the Bible isn’t always comfortable. In fact it can be downright scary. If we dig underneath “because the Bible says so” what will we find? Have we based our lives on a bunch of fairytales?

My goal is not for everyone to become skeptics. I want Christ-followers to cultivate a more confident faith. That only comes about by walking through honest doubts and exploring hard questions. I wrote Questioning the Bible to help on that journey of faith.

Why does how people view the Bible matter?

Jonathan Morrow: How we view the Bible is no small matter. A lot is at stake. The God of the universe may actually have spoken (2 Tim. 3:16-17). If Christianity is true then there are authoritative answers to life’s biggest questions. But if there is no communication from God, then we are left to our own limited reason and experience to understand our purpose in the world—if there is any ultimate purpose or meaning at all.

Are there any biblical examples of people asking hard questions and wrestling with what to believe?

Jonathan Morrow: As I read the Bible I find people asking the hard questions. My favorite example is Luke who was one of the earliest biographers of Jesus. In a way, Luke was questioning the Bible even before there was a Bible. He investigated everything carefully. He interviewed eyewitnesses. He cross-examined the evidence (Luke 1:1-4). Why? So that he and others might know the truth. And knowing the truth is powerful because it sets people free for life.

Another example is John the Baptist who finds himself in prison questioning if Jesus really is who he claimed to be. I love Jesus’ response because he didn’t require blind faith of John in that moment. Instead he told him to focus on the evidence—what people see and hear about Jesus (Matt. 11:2-5).

There’s no doubt that questions can be messy. But life is messy. Deep down we all long for a real-world faith that’s rooted in reality. When we know why we believe, it frees us up to live out the truth with confidence. And that’s what our world desperately needs.

Has the biblical text been corrupted over the centuries?

Jonathan Morrow: One of the most common objections today is that the Bible has been changed and corrupted over the centuries. Often the “Telephone game” played in elementary schools is used as an illustration of how the copies of copies of copies of copies (you get the idea) have been changed and the message garbled over the years. This is not a good illustration because that is not how the biblical text has come down to us.

To see why, let’s briefly look at the New Testament. There was an intentional process of transmission in place and people cared about getting these texts right because eternal matters were literally at stake. When it comes to recovering the text of the New Testament, we need to ask the right questions:

  • How many manuscripts do we have to work with?
  • How early are the manuscripts we have to work with?
  • How important are the textual variants between these manuscripts?

When we examine these questions, the New Testament is by far the best-attested work of Greek or Latin literature in the ancient world—it’s not even close! I go into much more detail in my chapter in Questioning the Bible, but the bottom line is that we have a lot of manuscripts to work with; we have early manuscripts to work with, and none of the differences between the existing manuscripts affect any central teaching or practice in the Christian faith. You can trust that what was written in the first century is essentially what we have today.

How can Bible websites and apps like Bible Gateway be effectively used in impacting people’s lives?

Jonathan Morrow: While many people own a Bible, few people read the Bible. Bible Gateway is removing those obstacles for people through a great website and well designed apps. I am more convinced than ever that God has actually spoken in his Word. Christianity is true. And because it’s true, we can understand, study, teach and apply God’s Word to all of life.

The first step is to just pick up the Bible and start reading. Over time we will grow in our skill and ability to handle the Bible accurately and pay attention to context (2 Tim. 2:15). I love Paul’s reminder to the Thessalonians that God is at work in and through His Word:

“And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe.”—1 Thess. 2:13 (NIV)

Bio: Jonathan Morrow (DMin, MDiv, MA) is the author of Welcome to College and Think Christianly, and coauthor of Is God Just a Human Invention? He also contributed to the Apologetics Study Bible for Students.

Jonathan is director of creative strategies for Impact 360 Institute (@impact360) where he teaches in the college “Gap Year” program and high school summer Immersion experience. As the founder of Think Christianly, Jonathan speaks nationally on worldview, apologetics, and culture and is passionate about seeing a new generation of Christ-followers understand what they believe, why they believe it, and why it matters in life. His books have been featured on shows like Family Life Today, Stand to Reason, Breakpoint, WAY-FM, Frank Pastore, The Janet Mefferd Show, and Apologetics 315. He and his wife have been married for 13 years and have three children.

Bible News Roundup – Week of August 2, 2015

[Return daily during the coming week for updates]

Major USA Metropolitan Areas Differ in Their Religious Profiles
Pew Research Center
What Are Bible Gateway’s Most “Bible-Minded” USA Cities?

The Top Two Religious Groups That Dominate American Cities
Public Religion Research Institute

What’s in a Name? Religious Nones & the American Religious Landscape
Religion Dispatches

Archaeologists Unearth Entrance Gate of Bible City of Gath
Sci-News
Gath: from the Encyclopedia of The Bible on Bible Gateway

$70,000 Minimum Wage Brings Bible Parable to Life
Christianity Today
Read The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard from Matthew 20 on Bible Gateway

Chicago Pastors & Doctors Team Up to Encourage Healthy Eating Using the Bible
Rush University Medical Center
On the topic of good health: see The Daniel Plan resources in the Bible Gateway Store and subscribe to The Daniel Plan newsletter on Bible Gateway

NASA’s New Exhibit ‘Forever Remembered': Columbia Commander Rick Husband’s Bible Opened to Proverbs
US News & World Report
Read Proverbs on Bible Gateway

Alabama Sheriff Puts Bible Verse on Patrol Cars
AL.com
Read Matthew 5:9 on Bible Gateway

Century-Old Ushers Association Trains ‘Doorkeepers’ to Worship
The Baltimore Sun
Read Psalm 84:10 on Bible Gateway

Rare 1482 Bible at Bridgewater College Nominated for Virginia Statewide Preservation Program
Augusta Free Press

Any Christian Can Help With Bible Translation
Mission Network News
See the multiple Bible translations on Bible Gateway

Cuba Witnessing Christianity Boom as Bible Copies Pour Into Communist-Ruled Country
Christian Today
Read the Bible in Spanish on Bible Gateway

Israeli-British Project to Make Thousands of Rare Hebrew Manuscripts Available Online
Star Tribune

10 Distractions to Studying Scripture
Engage Magazine
Study the Bible on Bible Gateway

See other Bible News Roundup weekly posts

International Network of Children’s Ministry Adopts the International Children’s Bible® as Its Official Bible Translation

Read the International Children's Bible on Bible GatewayThe International Network of Children’s Ministry (INCM) (@INCM) has adopted the International Children’s Bible® (ICB™) as its official translation, the result of a partnership with Thomas Nelson Publishers (@ThomasNelson). This partnership coincides with Thomas Nelson’s upcoming new product releases that feature the ICB translation, the first version of the Bible translated specifically for children.

Click to buy your copy of the Holy Bible (ICB) in the Bible Gateway Store[Read the International Children’s Bible on Bible Gateway]

[Browse International Children’s Bible editions in the Bible Gateway Store]

“Thomas Nelson shares our dedication to igniting a passion for God’s Word in children’s hearts,” said Matt Guevara, executive director of INCM. “The opportunity to do so by encouraging kids to read the ICB was one we were thrilled to join, especially alongside such a strong partner. One of the most powerful things we can do to anchor today’s kids in God’s Word is to provide Scripture to them in a language they understand and enjoy reading. These Bibles provide not only a trustworthy translation, but an experience that will enrich children’s lives for years to come.”

The International Network of Children's Ministry websiteThrough the partnership, INCM will utilize its team of children’s and family ministry bloggers to read and review ICB products, share messages from the ICB in its weekly newsletter and via social media, and feature ICB passages in its quarterly resource, Dispatch. Additionally, INCM will host the launch of kidscanreadthebible.com, the website for children and parents to use as they read through the ICB.

Tommy Nelson website“The International Children’s Bible is truly remarkable in it makes scripture so accessible for children,” said Laura Minchew, senior vice president and publisher of gift books, Tommy Nelson (@TommyNelson) children’s books, and new media at Thomas Nelson. “With a third grade reading level, children are able to read and understand the Bible on their own. We are delighted that INCM selected the ICB as their official translation and are happy to join with them in the good work to partner with children’s ministers around the world.”

The ICB has more than 300 key Bible verses highlighted in the text so that children and new Christians can read and learn some of the most important foundational truths of God’s Word. This translation includes a topical index in each section, large, easy-to-read type, highlighted key verses, a children’s dictionary, and many more features.

Thomas Nelson websiteThomas Nelson Publishers, part of HarperCollins Christian Publishing, is a world-leading provider of Christian content and has been providing readers with quality inspirational product for more than 200 years. The publishing group provides multiple formats of award-winning Bibles, books, gift books, cookbooks, curriculum and digital content, with distribution of its products in more than 100 countries. Thomas Nelson is headquartered in Nashville, Tenn. For additional information, please visit www.thomasnelson.com.

Gaining by Losing by J.D. Greear

J.D. GreearPastor, adjunct professor, and author Dr. J.D. Greear (@jdgreear) believes a Christian’s ministry is less about working for God and more about letting God work through the Christian. He says the greatest power of the church is when all members are equipped and sent out in the power of the Holy Spirit. He wants people to stop judging a church’s “success” by its seating capacity and put more emphasis on its sending capacity.

In his new book, Gaining by Losing: Why the Future Belongs to Churches That Send (Zondervan, 2015), J.D. Greear unpacks ten ‘plumb lines’ to use to reorient a church’s priorities around God’s mission to reach a lost world. He says, “Every church, every ministry, and every follower of Jesus Christ ought to be devoted to planting—giving away—what they have for God’s kingdom.”

Click to buy your copy of Gaining by Losing in the Bible Gateway StoreThe following article is an excerpt from Gaining by Losing: Why the Future Belongs to Churches That Send.

We Are Under Obligation

In Romans 1:14 (ESV) Paul uses a strange word to encapsulate his life and calling, one with enormous implications for both church leaders and members alike. “I am under obligation,” Paul says, to everyone who has not yet heard the gospel. Many translations render “under obligation” as “debtor,” because Paul is invoking language that describes a debtor’s relationship to his creditor.

When you are severely in debt, your life no longer really belongs to you. It belongs to the creditor. You can’t spend money however you would like anymore. If your boss gives you a $10,000 Christmas bonus, you won’t be able to use it to take a vacation to Hawaii or to buy new furniture. The creditor has first and final say in how the money is spent. I once knew a church that was so severely in debt that representatives from the bank literally stood in the back of the lobby during the weekly offering, taking the money straight to the bank, where bank officials would decide how much the church could keep that week. The church was no longer free; it was “under obligation.”

Paul thought of himself as a debtor to those who had not heard about Jesus. His future was not free. But why did he owe them? Because he knew he was no more deserving of the gospel than they were. He was not more righteous, nor had God seen more potential in him (see 1 Timothy 1:15). Paul saw God’s grace toward him exactly for what it was—completely unmerited favor. Paul knew that placed him under severe obligation to the grace of God. Paul’s future, bright as it may have been, having a great education and all the right connections, no longer belonged to him. Every spare resource—every ounce of energy, every moment of his time—belonged to his “creditor”: the grace of God.

Every person who knows and understands the gospel is under this same debt of obligation. As David Platt says, “Every saved person this side of heaven owes the gospel to every unsaved person this side of hell.” If you are saved, you are under obligation to leverage your life to bring salvation to the nations. Those of us called to be leaders in the church are under obligation to train you up and send you out.

We pastors are not free to build ministries that mainly make life more comfortable for us. Each of us is under obligation to do whatever we can to get the gospel to those all around the world who have never heard. And that means releasing—planting—the seeds we have been given. It means letting go and sending out our very best to bring a harvest in God’s kingdom, even—especially—when it doesn’t benefit our church directly.

The gospel is that Jesus Christ died as a substitute for sinners, offered now as a gift to all who will receive him in faith. Jesus has instituted a new kingdom, a kingdom that someday will bring final and ultimate healing to the earth through his resurrection, but one that begins now when sinners are reconciled to him through his death. God has given to us, the church, the mission of preaching his offer of reconciliation to all people everywhere—that Jesus lived the life we were supposed to live and then died the death that we were condemned to die so that we could be reconciled to God. We signify the message of that new kingdom through acts of healing and extravagant generosity, which depict for others the nature of the kingdom Jesus is establishing (2 Cor. 5:14-21). Everyone who has received the reconciliation is sent on that mission. Every believer is sent. You go from mission field to missionary.

Our God is a sending God. He sent his best into the world to save us. Jesus is referred to as “sent” 44 times in the New Testament. After his resurrection, Jesus passed on his identity to his disciples: “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (John 20:21).

To follow Jesus is to be sent.

Jesus’ command to every disciple is to “go” (Matt. 28:19). We may not all go overseas, but we are all to be going. This means that if you are not going, you are not a disciple; and, church leader, if the people in our churches are not “going,” we are not doing our jobs. A church leader can have a large church with thousands of people attending, but if people are not going from it “outside the camp” (Heb. 13:13), to pursue the mission and call of Christ, those leaders are delinquent in their duty.

Planting, investing, sending, and sacrificing are costly. It hurts. But the trajectory of discipleship is toward giving away, not taking in. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer famously said, “When Christ bids a man to follow, he bids him come and die.” Jesus did not say come and grow, but come and die. And he showed us what that means by his own example.

When Jesus laid down his life on that hill in Jerusalem, he had nothing left. Soldiers gambled for his last remaining possessions on earth. Everything he owned had been either given away or taken from him. But out of that death came our life. In giving everything away, he gained us. In Jesus’ resurrection from death, God brought unimaginable life to the world—to you and to me. Jesus was the first of many seeds planted into the ground to die.

Why would it surprise us that the power of God spreads throughout the earth in the same manner? Life for the world comes only through the death of the church. Not always our physical, bodily death (though it includes that sometimes), but death in the giving away of our resources. Death in the forfeiture of our personal dreams. Death in our faithful proclamation of the gospel in an increasingly hostile world. Death in sending our precious resources, our best leaders, our best friends.

When Christ calls any of us to follow him—whether he is speaking to us as individuals, or to our churches and ministries—he bids us, “Come and die.”

It is not through our success that God saves the world, but through our sacrifice. He calls us first to an altar, not a platform.

His way of bringing life to the world is not by giving us numerical growth and gain that enriches our lives and exalts our name. His way is by bringing resurrection out of death.

We live by losing. We gain by giving away. What we achieve by building our personal platform will never be as great as what God achieves through what we give away in faith.

It’s one thing to know these things, to believe they are true. It’s another to implement them. That is what this book is about. What does it look like to live sent—in your personal life, in your ministry, or in the church that you lead?

I will warn you: It’s relatively easy to nod our heads at this point and say, “Yes, like Jesus, we live by dying.” But to go to the next step—to invest some of your most cherished resources, or say goodbye to those whom you love as they go to begin something new—that is hard, and it never gets easier. Yet it’s how God’s kingdom grows.

We gain by losing.

The above excerpt is from Gaining by Losing: Why the Future Belongs to Churches That Send. Copyright © 2015 by J.D. Greear. Used by permission of Zondervan. www.zondervan.com. All rights reserved. Taken from pp. 16-19.

Bio: J.D. Greear, PhD, is pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina. The Summit Church has been ranked by Outreach Magazine as one of the fastest-growing churches in the United States. J. D. has a PhD in systematic theology from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart: How to Know for Sure You Are Saved and Gospel: Recovering the Power That Made Christianity Revolutionary. He lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, with his wife, Veronica, and their four children.

How to Read the Context of a Verse on Bible Gateway

When you search and find individual Bible verses on Bible Gateway, very often you want to quickly see how those particular verses fit in to the flow, context, and understanding of the complete chapter where each one resides. It’s simple.

[Also see our blogpost: Read More Than One Bible Version Side-By-Side]

Look up any Scripture verse (say, John 3:16) by typing the reference into the top search window and clicking the magnifying glass or the “enter” key on your keyboard:

Enlarge: Click to find a Bible verse on Bible Gateway

Now, to see that verse in its context in the full chapter where it’s found, click the stack-of-lines icon located next to the verse reference:

Enlarge: Click the stack-of-lines icon for the complete chapter

The result is the appearance of the complete chapter:

The complete chapter of your original Bible verse

Another fun feature is to see how your particular Bible verse is translated in all the English Bible versions on Bible Gateway. To do this, click the sentence at the bottom of your verse: “…in all English translations”:

Enlarge: Click to see this verse in all English translations on Bible Gateway

The result is the appearance of the Bible verse in all the English Bible translations on Bible Gateway listed alphabetically by abbreviation:

Enlarge: The listing of the verse in all English translations on Bible Gateway

How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization: An Interview with Vishal Mangalwadi

Vishal MangalwadiWhat triggered the West’s passion for scientific, medical, and technological advancement? How did the biblical notion of human dignity inform the West’s social structure and how it intersects with other worldviews? How did the Bible create a fertile ground for women to find social and economic empowerment? How has the Bible uniquely equipped the West to cultivate compassion, human rights, prosperity, and strong families? What is the role of the Bible in the transformation of education? How has the modern literary notion of a hero been shaped by the Bible’s archetypal protagonist?

Bible Gateway interviewed Vishal Mangalwadi about his book, The Book That Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization (Thomas Nelson, 2012).

Click to buy your copy of The Book That Made Your World in the Bible Gateway Store

Why did you dedicate The Book That Made Your World to Arun Shourie, a Hindu who is critical of the Bible?

Vishal Mangalwadi: In 1994, Arun Shourie, at that time one of India’s foremost public intellectuals, attacked Western missions and the Bible. He powerfully rehashed some of Thomas Paine’s arguments from The Age of Reason (1793-94). Mr. Shourie studied in the best Christian college in India before getting a PhD from an American university that had been founded by Methodists. I realized that this good and learned gentleman was clueless about what the Bible is and what it has done because his Christian professors in India and in America had no idea.

Therefore, moved by the Holy Spirit, I began responding to him with books such as Missionary Conspiracy: Letters to a Postmodern Hindu (1995), Fascism: Modern & Postmodern (1998—my intro to a book by Gene Edward Veith), and then The Book That Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization (2012).

In spite of Western skepticism, many Chinese intellectuals sense that the Bible was the foundation of the West’s amazing development. In contrast, Hindus such as Mr. Shourie follow ill-informed, in fact, arrogant and foolish, Western repudiation of the Bible. They think that India can be made a great nation by returning to Hindu worldview, which destroyed India in the first place.

One book will not convince skeptics, but it can become a seed that multiplies into many PhD theses, popular books, TV shows, and films. I dedicated the book to Arun Shourie to help intelligent Indians discover the rock upon which India can realize its potential to be a great civilization—a blessing to all the nations.

You write that your book is not so much about the Bible as it is about great literature, art, science, technology, heroism, and virtues. Explain what you mean.

Vishal Mangalwadi: My book is not “Bible study.” It is a study of the global impact of the Bible and it’s worldview. The Bible was the book of the last millennium. No other book was translated, published, distributed, studied, or debated like it. What impact did it have on the world? That is the question my book explores.

Why do you call the Bible the soul of Western civilization?

Vishal Mangalwadi: Although the West has amputated its soul, I call the Bible the soul of Western Civilization because it propelled the development of everything good in the West: its notion of human dignity, human rights, human equality, justice, optimism, heroism, rationality, family, education, universities, technology, science, culture of compassion, great literature, heroism, economic progress, political freedom. Take, for example, democracy.

The myth that modern democracy came from Greece was invented only in the 20th century by John Herman Randall of Columbia College (New York) and Mortimer Adler and Robert Maynard Hutchins of the University of Chicago. The reality is that in his classic, Republic, Plato, the greatest of Greek philosophers, had already condemned democracy as Mobocracy—the worst of all political systems. Plato proposed that the ideal republic should be ruled by philosopher-kings. His disciple, Aristotle, trained Alexander-the-Great to be a philosopher-king, who turned out to be one of the most ruthless conquerors in history. In turn, Alexander inspired India’s first empire builder, Chandragupta Maurya.

Later Alexander inspired Machiavelli’s The Prince—which examines how a successful prince acquires and retains power. Machiavelli was the flowering of European Renaissance that produced tyrants such as Napoleon. The biblical Reformation led to the birth of modern democracy. Without the Bible, western democracy will become obnoxious as did the Greek democracies.

To give another example, the West’s confidence in human reason came not from Greece, but from the Bible via Augustine. Hinduism, Buddhism, and their products such as Greek gnosticism knew that unaided intellect cannot know truth. The Enlightenment corrupted western confidence in reason by (over time) separating it from revelation. After Nietzsche and Freud, everyone knows that here is no reason to trust human reason, unless it is made in the image of Logos and strives to conform to it.

Why do you begin your book recounting the suicide of rock musician Kurt Cobain and then contrasting him with Johann Sebastian Bach?

Vishal Mangalwadi: The first chapter uses music as an entry point into the West’s soul. It contrasts Christian West with (post-Christian) West without its soul. The chapter inquires: What made the West a uniquely optimistic and musical civilization, able to sing “Joy to the world (fallen, miserable and full of suffering)?”

Bach and Cobain were musical geniuses. Both lost their parents at nine. Bach’s parents died and Cobain’s separated. Bach’s faith in resurrection enabled him to celebrate “The Passion” (Suffering) of St. Matthew and St. John. Cobain inherited Bach’s musical tradition without its philosophy. Therefore, his music could only scream at suffering, making him an icon of a generation lost without a map of reality. Buddhism offered no hope to Cobain. Therefore, he cursed life and committed suicide.

Buddhism originated in India. Its pessimistic philosophy gave us great art and literature, but no hope, music, or musical instruments. Islam (and Orthodox Christianity) also ruled out music; therefore, it too pre-empted development of technology.

The German publisher published 10,000 copies of the first chapter as a stand-alone booklet. It is proving to be an excellent work of worldview evangelism. I hope someone will print it in Japanese, since Bach is Japan’s fifth evangelist.

How was the Bible “the force that created modern India”?

Vishal Mangalwadi: Why are “native” Americans Indians? Why are “native” Australians Indians? Why is Indonesia, Indian-Asia? Why were Columbus and Vasco de Gama looking for sea-routes to India (and not to “Spice-land”)?

The European mind was fascinated with India, because India, not Japan, Korea, or China, is the Eastern-most land mentioned in the Bible (Esther 1:1). By “India” the Persians meant “Sindustan,” the land around the river Sind (now in Pakistan). Up until the 1850s, no one living in Bengal or Kerala ever thought that he was living in “India.” That is why Michael Madhusudan Dutt (1824-1873), the pioneer of ‘Indian’ nationalism, actually wrote only about ‘Bengali nationalism.’

The pre-Columbus European concept of geographic India came from the Roman Catholic reading of the Bible. That is why Vasco de Gama’s coming to Kerala and Goa was the sea-route to “India.” Protestant reading of the Bible coined the ‘abstract’ concept of India as a geo-political nation state, half-a-century before England actually made India a nation in 1858. Prior to William Carey, no “Indian” had ever existed who started a paper (or organization) such as Friend of India (1818).

Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay, persuaded British Parliament in 1833, that Britain must govern Indians in such a way as to train them to govern themselves as an independent nation. Macaulay grew up in the company of the evangelical member of Parliament, William Wilberforce, in the Calpham community. He followed up his rhetoric by coming to India to give us the ‘Indian Penal Code’ along with the Jewish-biblical idea of rule of law. He helped transform our education and civil services. He played a critical role in the establishment of our first universities in Calcutta, Bombay, and Madras in 1858. These began as examination-conducting institutions to fulfil the vision of Macaulay’s brother-in-law, Charles Travelyan. The latter had defined the mission of Christian education in 1838 in his classic On the Education of the People of India. The objective of that herculean mission, he said, was to prepare Indians to govern themselves as a free nation.

After Macaulay and Travelyan, it took five more decades before an Englishman could inspire a few graduates of Calcutta’s Christian education to create the “Indian National Congress” (1885). Then it took 70 more years to prepare leaders such as Gandhi, Ambedkar, and Nehru, who could, in fact, lead and govern a free India.

India became a free nation in 1947. It could have attained that status if it had even one Indian, who thought of India as a nation during the “Mutiny” of 1857. When Indian soldiers started killing Englishmen and liberated Delhi, educated Brahmins and Hindu merchants organized prayer meetings around the country to pray for British victory over Indian mutineers. This was partly because the rebels who succeeded in defeating the British in Meerut and Delhi decided to revive the Mogul Empire by declaring Bahadur Shah as their emperor.

Most Hindu, Muslim, and Sikh soldiers and rulers disapproved of the revival of that exploitative and useless empire. Many decided to fight against fellow Indians to defend the British Raj. This was because, contrary to current, ill-informed (or deceptive?) debaters such as Shahi Tharoor, most of the Indians who actually lived under the British, perceived it as better than all other options available to “India”.

Mogul Empire had been so corrupt and inept that in 1738-39, the Persian invader Nadir Shah, met hardly any resistance as he travelled 1000 KMs. within the Mogul’s (Indian) empire, from Ghazani to Delhi to plunder the Mogul capital. The Empire’s rottenness had encouraged the Marathas to conquer and plunder Hindu and Muslim kingdoms. This threat of the Marathas and/or invaders from the Khyber Pass had forced Hindu/Muslim kings to take refuge under the Company Raj. Most Indians opposed the 1857 Mutiny, now called the First War of National Independence, because they could not trust Indians to rule India with justice and equity.

While the Hindu and Muslim rulers, intelligentsia, and merchants preferred the Company Raj over Indian rajas, it was the Bible-shaped conscience that saw the Company as a “gang of public robbers” (Macaulay) and its rule as the “rule of evil genii.” Yet, Independent India chose to remain a member of British Commonwealth and import its political, economic, and social ideals and institutions, because the Bible succeeded in (a) transforming India’s governance under the British, and (b) training enough Indians to govern India as a modern, democratic, nation-state.

Dr. Babu Verghese’s massive study, Let There Be India: The Bible’s Impact on Nation-Building, details how the Bible translators created modern India by turning our dialects into literary languages, bringing modern education, printing, literature, and modern press, and the modern ideas of human equality, dignity, and rights (his book is available from ManagerGoodBooks@gmail.com).

How did the Bible trigger the West’s passion for medical advancement?

Vishal Mangalwadi: Mainstream Hinduism taught that matter (including the human body) was evil—illusion or maya. In contrast, the first chapter of the Bible declared the material realm, including the human body, to be very good. Genesis 3 taught that sickness and death came as a curse upon human sin. The Lord Jesus came to give us abundant and eternal life. His soul did not reincarnate. His crucified body was resurrected and glorified. The Bible teaches that God will resurrect our perishable bodies as immortal and glorified bodies.

Because of God’s high view of the human person, including his body, the Lord Jesus healed the sick and commissioned his disciples to a ministry of healing. Therefore, medieval Roman Catholic monasteries did not simply pray, preach, and practice piety. Many of them took care of the sick. They studied, and taught medicine. The Schola Medica Salernitana became the world’s first medical school in the South Italian city of Salerno. It grew out of a 9th century dispensary in a monastery. This monastic tradition blossomed into modern medicine after the 16th century biblical Reformation.

What is the biblical ideal of human dignity and how did it inform the West’s social structure?

Vishal Mangalwadi: Gautam Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, saw human life as suffering. Thomas Hobbes, the only atheist in English Enlightenment, viewed life as “nasty, brutish, and short.” Pope Innocent III detailed “The Misery of Man.” Secular intellectuals have no option but to see man as nothing more than an evolved animal.

Species, races, and individuals do not evolve equal. Evolution does not bestow any rights upon any animal. Western notions of human dignity, equality, and inalienable rights are the Bible’s unique contribution to the modern world. Pico della Mirandela (1463-94) articulated the Bible’s case for human dignity in An Oration on the Dignity of Man. His case rested upon (a) creation of man in God’s own image and (b) God’s incarnation in the Jesus of Nazareth.

God became man in order to save man, because man was made in God’s image – precious and immortal. Full implications of these doctrines are still being worked out. Yet, much of our future will be shaped by the question: Is man merely another animal (organic intelligence) or is he uniquely God’s image—so precious to God that He would come to this earth to save him?

How did the Bible equip the West to cultivate compassion?

Vishal Mangalwadi: Through parables such as that of the Good Samaritan, the Lord Jesus explained the command ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ He exemplified it by blessing those who cursed and killed him. Jesus courted the wrath of religious establishment by caring for the sick even on Sabbath. He reinforced prophets such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Amos, by teaching that God’s holy law was made for man’s good. Therefore, a religiosity that did not care for individuals was worse than worthless. It was obnoxious. What we do for the littlest of his brothers, we do for him.

What is your response to people who say the Bible subjugates women?

Vishal Mangalwadi: The women’s lib movement started in America because social inequality between men and women was obvious. Many women got paid less then men for the same work. They were allowed to serve coffee after worship, but not communion during the worship. They could play piano in a church but not pray. Yet, crucial questions are: who told America that men and women were created equal; that sin brought subjugation as a curse; that the curse was nailed upon the cross of Calvary? The question that triggered my reflections was: Why didn’t the Saudi women burn their burqas and their bras? What empowered American women to launch the women’s lib movement? Was it because American women were more oppressed than the Muslim of Hindu women? Or was it because something had already made American women stronger than other women around the world? My counter-intuitive discovery was that it was the Bible that empowered women.

No culture has ever required a husband to love his wife. Every culture, including Jewish and post-Christian Western cultures, have permitted husbands to divorce their wives and/or take other women. In 1831-32, French magistrate Alexis de Tocqueville observed that American women had become much stronger than European women because the biblical ideal of marriage had had the biggest impact in America. No country in the world will even try to impeach a president who lies about his private sex life.

The Bible emancipated Western women because it alone asserted theological equality of male and female and also because it defined God’s idea of marriage as a one-man one-woman lifelong and exclusive relationship. A woman is liberated to develop herself and to strive for her dignity when she knows that her fallen husband is not permitted to despise her, divorce her, covet his neighbor’s wife or to take another woman as a girlfriend, concubine, or wife. He has to love her, irrespective of the level of her intelligence, charm, abilities, and fallenness.

Roman wives were the victims of Rome’s playboy culture. Many of them followed and financed the Apostle Paul and (over time) won the Roman empire for Christ, because they understood better than modern feminists that Paul was emancipating them.

Men and women are equal, but husbands and wives (like parents and children and all other formal relations) have to live in a hierarchical relationship. No institution can function on the basis of equality-without-hierarchy. Christian marriages are being destroyed because the Western church has surrendered to the world’s folly that equality precludes authority. The Christian idea of marriage is unique. It can be sustained only if we take seriously the Bible’s idea of the fallenness of men and women and the necessity of wives submitting to fallen husbands, and husbands loving fallen wives.

How is human equality a biblical principle?

Vishal Mangalwadi: Sociologically, the modern idea of human equality was born when Martin Luther discovered the New Testament doctrine of the “priesthood of all believers.” Gradually, this truth began to challenge the West’s social/racial injustices.

George Whitfield was the first white revivalist in America, who began preaching to the blacks. His preaching evoked protests: “Do you really want us to kneel with our slaves and drink communion from the same cup?”

In order to counter deep rooted prejudices, in 1740, Whitfield began writing a series of articles. These explained how and why the Bible teaches human equality. Whitfield’s writings created the consensus which Thomas Jefferson articulated in the original draft of the Declaration of Independence as, “We hold these truths to be sacred and undeniable that all men are created equal.” By “sacred” Jefferson meant derived from sacred Scriptures. Under pressure from Benjamin Franklin, the Declaration was changed to read, “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.”

To Indian sages, inequality was self-evident. That is why they invented the caste-system which still survives. Equality was “self-evident” even to American Deists because their worldview was shaped by the Bible. Now that evolution is shaping everyone’s intellectual lenses, only a fool will be able to assert that all men have evolved equal.

What role did the Bible play in the establishment of the university?

Vishal Mangalwadi: No Hindu ashram ever grew into a university. No Orthodox Christian monastery developed into a university in Eastern Europe, Greece, or Russia. Augustinian monasteries and Cathedral schools blossomed into West European universities such as Oxford, Cambridge, Paris, Prague, Heidelberg, and Wittenberg because St. Augustine taught that the human mind was God’s supreme gift to mankind. The mind was made in God’s image, therefore, in order to be godly, one had to cultivate the mind as well as piety.

These monasteries were different than every other center of religious education. Young boys came to a monastery to learn to pray and become a priest. But in these monasteries they had to study logic, literature, philosophy, mathematics, and rhetoric as well. This is what created the West’s uniquely rational religious leader, who prayed as well as studied birds and the solar system.

Following the Reformation, Christian thinkers realized that God wants all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4-7). In order to know truth, man has to study three books: The book of God’s words (the Bible), the book of God’s works (in nature and culture), and the book of God’s reason (logic and mathematics that run the human mind and physical universe.) This insight was captured in Harvard Crest in 1643. VERITAS is written on these three books. Today, the university has degenerated into a factory producing laborers for the market and the state because, without God’s word, the university has been forced to shy away from the very concept of truth.

Since the Bible is not a “fax from Heaven,” explain how sentences written by humans can be considered the Word of God?

Vishal Mangalwadi: Prophet Elijah said to king Ahab, “As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word” (1 Kings 17:1). By the end of the chapter, the Sidonian widow of Zarephath exclaimed, “Now I know that you are a man of God, and the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth.” (vs. 24). Eventually Ahab was forced to acknowledge that Elijah’s words—a man’s words—were, in fact, the word of God.

God said to Jeremiah, “Behold, I have put my words in your mouth…I am watching over my word to perform it.” (Jeremiah 1:8-11). God’s word includes the words He gives His men and also men’s words which He watches to perform, fulfill, and honor. Daniel and his friends were willing to go into the lions’ den and fiery furnace because 70 years of Jewish history had confirmed to them that Jeremiah’s words, disregarded by their fathers, were in fact God’s word.

The gospel is that Jesus Christ died “according to the Scriptures,” was buried and rose again the third day, “according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). That means that Jesus didn’t have to die. In the Garden of Gethsemane Peter gave him the opportunity to evade arrest. During his trial, Pilate gave to Jesus plenty of room to escape crucifixion. The Lord Jesus sacrificed his life because he believed that the words of Scripture, written by fallen and fallible men, were in fact God’s words.

As you observe the West’s treatment of the Bible, where do you see western society headed?

Vishal Mangalwadi: Germany, the birthplace of biblical Reformation, became the arch villain of the 20th century, because during the 19th century, German theology undermined the Bible’s authority. I see post-biblical America as the greatest terror to the 21st century. I think the future of greed-driven American capitalism is best captured by James Cameron in his terrible, pagan, and commercially hit movie, Avatar.

Muslim nations cannot be the world’s biggest threats because while Islam can build a strong Caliphate, it does not and cannot build nations. Protestantism has built history’s greatest nations; therefore, the world has the most to fear from Protestant nations that destroy the very foundations of their morality and civility.

What are your thoughts about Bible Gateway as a way to reinvigorate civilization’s soul?

Vishal Mangalwadi: Bible Gateway is the only site I use to get into the Bible. (Though I am yet to cultivate the discipline to use everything that it offers.) I appreciate this interview because the new generation needs to learn why the Bible must be studied, trusted, obeyed, and applied.

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

Vishal Mangalwadi: Christianity has lost America because the church forgot that “God wants all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth…” for this reason Paul the apostle was appointed a “preacher” and a “teacher of the gentiles in faith and truth” (1 Timothy 2:4-7). The American church has the capacity to disciple the nation, but for over a century it has lacked the theology for discipling nations. It has been preoccupied with saving souls, not with discipling nations.

The good news is that the state of Minnesota just started an education revolution that can disciple America. Students will enroll in an accredited college, but go to the local church to study online as a cohort in a face-to-face mentorship with a credentialed Academic Pastor. A student will get a college degree for under $10,000 a year. Check out www.VirtuesCampus.com.

Bio: Vishal Mangalwadi, LLD, was born and raised in India. He studied eastern religion and philosophy in India, Hindu ashrams, and at L’Abri Fellowship in Switzerland. He is a dynamic and engaging speaker who has lectured in 35 countries. He is a social reformer, political columnist, and author of 14 books. Christianity Today calls him ‘India’s foremost Christian intellectual.’

Bible News Roundup – Week of July 26, 2015

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ECPA’s Christian Book Award® Winners for 2015
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An Interview with Bible Gateway’s Rachel Barach
Living With Faith

International Network of Children’s Ministry Adopts the International Children’s Bible
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Read the International Children’s Bible on Bible Gateway
Browse International Children’s Bible editions in the Bible Gateway Store

Americans Rank the Bible the Most Influential Book in History
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BibleMesh Launches Bill Mounce Biblical Greek Courses
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The Mounce Reverse-Interlinear™ New Testament on Bible Gateway

Travelling Exhibition in Ostrava, Czech Republic, Brings Together More Than 500 Bibles from Private Collections
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A Collection of Bible Museums & Exhibits

Papua New Guinea Parliament House Accepts 404-year-old KJV Bible as National Treasure
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Read the King James Version Bible on Bible Gateway

Buenos Aires Gets Special Look at Rare Biblical Artifacts
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Exclusive Photos Inside the Bible Museum Construction Site
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B-I-B-L-E with a Lowercase ‘b': Hey Wall Street Journal, What’s Up with That?
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Retirees Help Asian Church Leaders Teach the Bible
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The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Military Pocket Bible
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A Missouri Sheriff has Placed the USA National Motto “In God We Trust” on Patrol Cars
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How USA-style Megachurches are Taking Over the World: 5 Maps & Charts
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Remembering Mary Magdalene, First Witness to the Risen Christ

The_Penitent_MagdaleneThis week, Christians from the Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, and Lutheran families took time to commemorate one of the most notable women in the Bible: Mary Magdalene. Going by the frequency with which she’s mentioned in the Gospels, Mary Magdalene was an important figure in the early community of Jesus’ followers.

Mary Magdalene was present at some of the most significant moments of early Christian history. We read in the Gospel of Luke that she traveled with Jesus after being freed from the oppression of “seven demons,” so she probably witnessed much of Jesus’ ministry. But most notably she was present at both the crucifixion and the resurrection of her Savior:

After the Sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to view the tomb. Suddenly there was a violent earthquake, because an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and approached the tomb. He rolled back the stone and was sitting on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his robe was as white as snow. The guards were so shaken from fear of him that they became like dead men.

But the angel told the women, “Don’t be afraid, because I know you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here! For He has been resurrected, just as He said. Come and see the place where He lay. Then go quickly and tell His disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead. In fact, He is going ahead of you to Galilee; you will see Him there.’ Listen, I have told you.”

So, departing quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, they ran to tell His disciples the news. — Matthew 28:1-8 (HCSB)

Here’s how Ann Spangler and Jean Syswerda describe the remarkable implications of the fact that Mary, a woman, was the first person to meet the resurrected Christ:

The risen Jesus had appeared, not to rulers and kings, nor even first of all to his male disciples, but to a woman whose love had held her at the cross and led her to the grave. Mary Magdalene, a person who had been afflicted by demons, whose testimony would not have held up in court because she was a woman, was the first witness of the resurrection. Once again, God had revealed himself to the lowly, and it would only be the humble whose hearing was sharp enough to perceive the message of his love. — from the entry on Mary Magdalene in Women of the Bible

Despite her presence at these important events, we know little else about Mary. Many Bible readers hoping to learn more about Mary Magdalene have identified her with Mary of Bethany or with the unnamed “sinful woman at the well”. However, there is little evidence in the Bible texts to make these connections, and the latter identification in particular has resulted in the widespread but biblically-unfounded belief that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute or that she led an immoral lifestyle.

Many Christian traditions today regard Mary Magdalene as a saint and remember her with an annual feast day; others regard her simply as an important and inspiring Biblical figure. Either way, it’s worth taking a few minutes this week to read about one of the most interesting women in the Bible. Click here to see a list of Bible verses in which she appears.

How to Understand the Bible: A Complete List of Articles

The How to Understand the Bible series has wrapped up! If you’ve been following along since the beginning, you’ve taken a tour of the entire Bible, and given thought to the major themes and questions raised by each section of Scripture. If you missed out on some or all of the series, this is a great time to take a new look at it now that it’s complete.

To that end, here’s a full list of the essays that make up How to Understand the Bible. Together, these essays form an excellent high-level overview of the Bible, written especially for those who are unfamiliar with Scripture. It’s also a good fit for those who are familiar with many of the details of Scripture, but who have never stepped back to consider the shape and direction of the Bible as a whole.

You can jump in at any point that interests you, but (particularly if you’re new to the Bible) it’s recommended that you start with the first few entries in the “Basics” section, since they go over some foundational questions about how to best read and understand the Bible.

How to Understand the Bible—complete list of articles

The Basics of Understanding the Bible

How to Understand the Old Testament

How to Understand the New Testament

Whether you’re a complete newbie to the Bible or have been reading it for decades, we hope these essays will help you understand God’s Word a little bit better. We’re grateful to Mel Lawrenz of The Brook Institute for sharing these insights with us. Look for more material from Mel here on Bible Gateway in the months to come.