Tuesday, June 19, 2018

There's Truth in Them There Works of Fiction

Josh McDowell saved me.

Well, no. Of course that's not true. Christ's sacrificial death on the cross wiped my sins away and His resurrection released me from my slavery to sin itself...but reading Josh McDowell's book, Evidence that Demands a Verdict, turned my belief in those things from something I was raised with into the fundamental core of my personhood.

Since that time in my freshman year of college, I have had a strong appreciation for apologetics ("systematic argumentative discourse in defense [as of a doctrine]") and it was with great interest that I purchased a book edited by Josh McDowell's son, Sean, titled Apologetics for a New Generation.

In the chapter written by Brian Godawa, "Storytelling and Persuasion", Godawa describes his love for the linear-thinking logic of classical apologetics but how today's culture demands a more imaginative approach than "If P then Q". And he uses some big names to back up his idea that maybe telling stories is a better way to share the Gospel than diagramming sentences:

       I looked closer at Jesus' ministry. Did He teach dogmatics from a pulpit? No. Jesus taught about the kingdom of God mostly through parables  -  dramatic stories. To Him, the kingdom was far too deep and rich a truth to entruat to rational abstract propositions. He chose stories of weddings, investment bankers, unscrupulous slaves, and buried treasure instead of syllogisms, abstraction, systematic, or dissertations. Jesus could do abstraction. He preferred not to. And He remained an enigma to the unbeliever. He did not explain His imaginative stories and metaphors to those who did not have ears to hear.
       Indeed, stories and parables may be superior means of conveying theological truth than propositional logic or theological abstraction. As N. T. Wright suggests, "it would be clearly quite wrong to see these stories as mere illustrations of truths that could in principle have been articulated in a purer, more abstract form.".... Theologian Kevin Vanhoozer writes in his book The Drama of Doctrine, "Narratives make story-shaped points that cannot always be paraphrased in propositional statements without losing something in translation." Claiming that the "ultimate meaning" of the parable of the Good Samaritan is simply that we should love or help the marginalized does not contain the full truth that comes only with telling the story with all its characters and emotions. If you try to scientifically dissect a parable, you will kill it, and if you discard the carcass once you have your doctrine, you have discarded the heart of God.

Truth is...Movies may have more impact than intellectual discussions, and there is truth in some works of art that is far deeper than will ever be memorized and recited.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Shot Down

I don't know how you respond to nasty rumors, but I do know how Larry Norman did. He wrote and recorded the song, "Shot Down", and made it the second song on the second side of his album, In Another Land.

It's got a good beat, is easy to dance to, and points out that it's wrong to cut people down instead of building them up. I give it a 95.

I've been shot down, talked about
Some people scandalize my name
But here I am, talkin' 'bout Jesus just the same

I've been knocked down, kicked around
But like a moth drawn to the flame
Here I am, talkin' 'bout Jesus just the same

I've been rebuked for the things I've said
For the songs I've written and the life I've led
They say they don't understand me, well I'm not surprised
Because you can't see nothing when you close your eyes

They say I'm sinful, backslidden
That I have left to follow fame
But here I am, talkin' 'bout Jesus just the same

You wanna talk about my life, hey listen to me
You got your facts all backwards, one two three
And spreading rumors and gossip is a real bad game
The only name to spread is Jesus' name

I've been shot down, kicked around
But like a moth drawn to the flame
Here I am, talkin' 'bout Jesus, brother
Here I am, talkin' 'bout Jesus, sister
Here I am, talkin' 'bout Jesus just the same
©1976 Beechwood Music Corp.
J.C. Love Publishing Co.

Truth is...none of us is perfect. All of us are flawed. It is only the love and forgiveness of Jesus that makes anything any of us say worthy of being listened to.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

His Name Means WHAT??!?

Surprise! This is NOT a piece about the name of Jesus.

I was reading The Final Days of Jesus, by Andreas J. Kostenberger and Justin Taylor, and got surprised by a little bit of knowledge that had never passed my way before.

In the chapter that was commenting on the trial of Jesus, I read:

Pilate, believing Jesus to be innocent and desiring to see him freed, proposes a solution that he believes will take care of the problem. Apparently, a custom had developed according to which the Roman governor released a prisoner each Passover. (Matthew 27:15, Mark 15:6, Luke 23:18, John 18:39) Pilate had likely [perpetuated] this tradition as a way of easing the political tension and anti-Roman sentiment that could have escalated at a time when a large number of pilgrims gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate God's past deliverance of the Jews from an oppressive foreign regime (i.e., Egypt). Pilate clearly assumes that the crowd will choose Jesus over Barabbas, a violent man who had been imprisoned for taking part in an insurrection and committing robbery and murder.

Nothing new there. And neither was the recounting of the crowd's insistence on Barabbas being released and Jesus being crucified.

The eye-popping moment for me wasn't in this main text, but in a footnote: "Note the possible wordplay and irony here: Bar-abbas means 'son of the father,' while the people reject Jesus, who truly was the 'Son of the Father,' that is, the divine Son of God."

Truth is...there's no new theology here. This is just a point of interest that as the people were saying "Give us Barabbas! Release the son of the father!" they were rejecting the true son of the heavenly father. How often have we rejected the very thing we wanted/needed the most, because we failed to recognize it when we had the chance?

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Take the Pain

"I'd like to tell you it gets easier. It doesn't. If there's any comfort, it's getting used to the pain, I suppose."

The 2017 movie is Wind River, written and directed by Taylor Sheridan, and starring Jeremy Renner as a veteran tracker with the Fish and Wildlife Service. He's a father whose daughter died (sometime in the past; before the action of the movie). In one scene, he is talking with the father of a young woman who was just found dead and passes on the words of a grief counselor he met at a seminar.

The counselor came up to me after the seminar. He sat down next to me and said something that stuck with me....He says, "I've got some good news, and I've got some bad news. The bad news is, you're never gonna be the same. You're never gonna be whole. Not ever again. You lost your daughter and nothing's ever going to replace that. Now, the good news is, as soon as you accept that, and you let yourself suffer, you'll allow yourself to visit her in your mind. You'll remember all the love she gave; all the joy she knew."

The point is, Martin, you can't steer from the pain. If you do, you'll rob yourself  -  you'll rob yourself of every memory of her; every last one. From her first step to her last smile. Kill 'em all.

Take the pain, Martin. You hear me? You take it. It's the only way you'll keep her with you.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...it is both acceptable and necessary to grieve a loss. I am grateful that, as a Christian, I "do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope." (I Thessalonians 4:13)

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The Sun Began to Rain

And now, ladies and gentlemen, before we get to some real thought-provoking content, let's start the second side of Larry Norman's In Another Land with a fun little ditty full of apocalyptic imagery and vaudeville toe-tappingness.

A thief fell out of heaven with some loaded dice
But the lamb rolled a seven back to paradise
The bread was finally leavened so I had a slice
And the sun began to rain

Water swelled from fountains and then turned to wine
Rocks fell from the mountains in a chorus line
He came in tails and top hat and He looked so fine
Yes, the Son began to reign

A fox snuck in to steal away the grapes
But the man who ran the vineyard shut the gate
So he could not escape

And now we'll live forever in another land
Everything is ending like it first was planned
Did you get your invitation to come play in the band
And let the Son begin to reign
©1976 Beechwood Music Corp.
J. C. Love Publishing Co.

Truth is..."The Sun Began to Rain" seems like a cute throw-away tune, but it still elicits a feeling of hopefulness and implies a desire for the listener to accept God's invitation. Life here on this planet will not continue the way it is forever. God is going to bring all things to their correct conclusion. Do you want to spend the rest of forever with Him...or without Him?

Monday, May 21, 2018


If you happen to be both a fan of this blog and of the band Switchfoot, this is right up your alley. I've got 7 Switchfoot CDs I'd like to give away to someone as a thank you for recommending the "Truth is..." Facebook page to their friends.

Recommend this page (https://www.facebook.com/DeweyTruth) to your friends, and for each one that Likes the "Truth is..." FB page and gives you credit for it by posting your name on the page, you will get an entry into a drawing taking place one month from today, June 21st. (The more friends that Like and post your name = the more entries = the better chance of winning) And yes, brand new "likers" can turn right around and recommend us to THEIR friends in order to enter the giveaway.

THE WINNER OF THE DRAWING will receive the following 7 Switchfoot CDs:

  • The Beautiful Letdown
  • Fading West
  • Learning to Breathe
  • The Legend of Chin
  • New Way to be Human
  • Nothing is Sound
  • Oh! Gravity.

ENTRY DEADLINE is 11:59 PM, Eastern Time, June 20, 2018.

Truth is...no endorsement of this blog by the members of Switchfoot is implied by this giveaway. No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited by law. No liability is assumed for what may happen to houseplants or small animals if the CDs are played at high volume. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Comedians in Cars Getting All Superior

The history of comedians goes at least as far back as the court jesters of old...although I think when God created the platypus He was ROFLOL.

Partly because of that background of speaking truth to power (veiled in laughter), today's comedians  -  and stand-up comics in particular  -  have no problem in expressing their opinions. After all, that's pretty much what most stand-up routines are...a person gets in front of people and tells them things that he thinks are ridiculous: "This is what I think. Isn't it crazy that the world is like this? Look at such-and-such. That's so stupid!"

It's not a huge leap, then, for a person to start thinking his thoughts about things ought to be agreed to by everyone. [Of course, I recognize that I think that about the thoughts I express here, too.]

Case in point: an episode of Jerry Seinfeld's Web series, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, in which Jerry is having a conversation with Ricky Gervais. Most of it was fairly interesting and mildly amusing, but there was one little interchange between the two men that I haven't been able to ignore.


I really think the death penalty is too depressing to even think about. I don't - I mean I don't agree with it that the state can show that sort of form of violence.

What about abortion? Do you agree with that?

Yeah, but that's different, isn't it.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

First of all, the period at the end of "that's different, isn't it" is intentional. He wasn't asking a question. He was making a statement and assuming agreement.

Secondly, just so there's no misunderstanding, I, too, don't agree with the death penalty. I know there are philosophical arguments in favor of it, but they don't persuade me. The moment I take someone's life, I take away that person's opportunity to choose Christ...which is exactly the opposite of what I ought to be about.

Thirdly, and most importantly, yes, Mr. Gervais, abortion is indeed different from capital punishment. In the case of abortion, we are 100% sure that the person being killed is absolutely innocent.

Truth is...there is a stereotypical alignment of attitudes about these two issues. On one side, it seems that those who support the availability of abortion generally think capital punishment is wrong, and on the other side, pro-life proponents are typically viewed as being in favor of capital punishment. It seems to me that either of these stances is illogical.

As a side note, it may interest you to know that Seinfeld responded to Gervais in a way that I thought was going to bring the whole episode to a screeching halt: "I guess, uh, you can just arrange things the way you like them...when you're rich...famous...like you."