An Open Letter to James Dobson

Dr. Dobson,

I think the phrase “focus on the family” is a word from God.  I think it has been ever since the beginning when you gave your ministry this name.

This is what the prophet Malachi said would be the watchword of the day of the Lord.  We live in the day of the Lord and it is obvious that the world is not focused on the family.  Rather, it is focused on self.

I pray that all of us who speak in the name of Jesus Christ may focus on the family – just as John the Baptist did, just as Jesus did, and just as His apostles did.  It is not by change of national government that the kingdom of God comes but rather by the changing of individual human hearts.  Since life is lived in the family, that is where we must focus.

As you know, Jesus said “a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household,” and He also said, “Love your enemies.”  This is the way life must be lived if it is eternal life we seek to experience.

Your call to “focus on the family” has been polluted with many other interests.  You seem to have been distracted by business and political concerns.  I pray that your message might be purified so that God’s will might be more clearly understood by people at large.  People need the good news of Jesus Christ if they are ever to break the cycle of sin and destruction.

Please consider these truths, especially with regard to practicing them in the context of family:

Seeking the Kingdom of God Instead of Church

Practicing the Presence of Christ

Whose Approval Do You Want?

Respectfully,

Michael Gantt

An Open Letter to Nick Norelli

Dear Nick,

I’ve thought over our recent exchanges and had a chance to sleep on them.  The outcome is that I don’t anticipate commenting any more on your blog, so your threatened ban is moot.

What has brought me to this point is further reflection about our exchanges in the comments section on your post Is the Father Alone Yahweh?, and again on your post When Trinity Sunday and Father’s Day Collide.  And then, of course, there was your post Just to Be Clear, prompted by those prior exchanges but upon which I didn’t comment.

I did address some of your criticisms of me in the comments to my own blog post Why Don’t Proponents of the Trinity Put Forward a Straightforward Case for It?

Your fundamental criticism seems to be that in our exchanges on your blog I 1) changed the subject, 2) repeated myself, and 3) made you repeat yourself.  My take on those exchanges is this:  I stated that the doctrine of Trinity obscured the doctrine of Christ.  You responded to my challenge (which I appreciated).  In part, it was a general defense of the Trinity but in it you said “Without the Trinity we wouldn’t see the significance of the Son nearly as much as we do,” and “Where a denial of the Trinity or problem with the Trinity exists, a deficient Christology is sure to follow.”  These statements were a direct rebuttal to my initial challenge (again, which I appreciated) and so I chose to respond to them – a more narrowed focus than broadly repeating that the Trinity concept is wrong.

Subsequently, you wrote “I haven’t commented on what epistemological starting point I find preferable; I commented on the deficiency of any Christology that is separated from the Trinity and of the Son’s place as second Person in the Trinity.”  If this was your recanting of the two earlier italicized statements, I apologize for missing it.  In good faith, I was trying to stay on topic to the specific part of our disagreement that offered the most hope for a meeting of the minds, however limited.

As for your list of 200 Trinitarian resources, I can’t imagine that someone with your intellect doesn’t discriminate among them.  To me, it seemed a small thing to ask you which you considered the best.  When you recommended one with faint praise (if not mild contempt: “overloaded with Scriptures”), I didn’t think it impolite for me to ask again.

In retrospect, we were ships passing in the night on these issues.  But this isn’t the reason that I don’t want to comment further on your blog.  Rather, the reason is that I’ve experienced you to be easily offended.  Testy, I’ve had to say.  Therefore, not knowing what might set you off, it’s better for me to remain silent even though I would have loved engaging more with you, given your knowledge and passion for the Trinity concept as well as my general admiration of your blog and most of your positions.

If I may be so bold, a servant of Christ should be “patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth.”  We should “sanctify Christ as Lord in our hearts, always being ready to make a defense to every one who asks [us] to give an account for the hope that is in [us], yet with gentleness and reverence.”  “To write the same things again [should be] no trouble [for us] and it is a safeguard [for those who read.]”  I say these things not that they be done for my sake, but for the profit that will increase to you and others as you practice them.

Nick, I love that you proclaim Christ.  There is a lot more that unites you and me than divides you and me.  I wish you the very best in your endeavors.  Go ahead and implement your ban, if you like; it won’t change any of these sentiments.

Mike

P.S. You will never be banned from this site.

(For readers who want to learn more about Christ versus the Trinity, see:

There Is No Trinity; There Is Christ

Posts to Date on the Trinity Versus Christ)

An Open Letter to Bart Ehrman

Dear Dr. Ehrman,

I know that you are a respected New Testament scholar who nonetheless either doubts or disbelieves the resurrection of Jesus because you are an agnostic.  Given this, I am particularly interested in what you think about the resurrection.

In a 2006 debate with William Lane Craig about the resurrection of Jesus, you closed your side of the debate with the following statement (which is on page 29 of the transcript and 12/12 of the video clips, accessible through the link above):

 Let me conclude by telling you what I really do think about Jesus’ resurrection. The one thing we know about the Christians after the death of Jesus is that they turned to their scriptures to try and make sense of it. They had believed Jesus was the Messiah, but then he got crucified, and so he couldn’t be the Messiah. No Jew, prior to Christianity, thought that the Messiah was to be crucified. The Messiah was to be a great warrior or a great king or a great judge. He was to be a figure of grandeur and power, not somebody who’s squashed by the enemy like a mosquito. How could Jesus, the Messiah, have been killed as a common criminal? Christians turned to their scriptures to try and understand it, and they found passages that refer to the Righteous One of God’s suffering death. But in these passages, such as Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22 and Psalm [69], the one who is punished or who is killed is also vindicated by God. Christians came to believe their scriptures that Jesus was the Righteous One and that God must have vindicated him. And so Christians came to think of Jesus as one who, even though he had been crucified, came to be exalted to heaven, much as Elijah and Enoch had in the Hebrew scriptures. How can he be Jesus the Messiah though, if he’s been exalted to heaven? Well, Jesus must be coming back soon to establish the kingdom. He wasn’t an earthly Messiah; he’s a spiritual Messiah. That’s why  the early Christians thought the end was coming right away in their own lifetime. That’s why Paul taught that Christ was the first fruit of the resurrection. But if Jesus is exalted, he is no longer dead, and so Christians started circulating the story of his resurrection. It wasn’t three days later they started circulating the story; it might have been a year later, maybe two years. Five years later they didn’t know when the stories had started. Nobody could go to the tomb to check; the body had decomposed. Believers who knew he had been raised from the dead started having visions of him. Others told stories about these visions of him, including Paul. Stories of these visions circulated. Some of them were actual visions like Paul, others of them were stories of visions like the five hundred group of people who saw him. On the basis of these stories, narratives were constructed and circulated and eventually we got the Gospels of the New Testament written 30, 40, 50, 60 years later.
   

I’m curious, Dr. Ehrman, about why you find this scenario plausible.  It immediately provokes several questions:

1. How were Jesus’ disciples able to find in the Scriptures prophecies of a Messiah who died accursed but who was then raised from the dead, when this perspective had alluded all Jews before them (including many who were far more educated)?

2. How were Jesus’ disciples able to convince other Jews that this radical interpretation was worth following (in the face of strenuous persecution from authorities) when the disciples had nothing to justify it but their visions?

3. Why do the New Testament documents go to such great lengths to portray the apostles as needing and providing evidence and proof if, as you say, it was the Scriptures and visions that led them to this conviction about Jesus being raised from the dead?  In other words, if they truly believed He was the Righteous One of God as you say, why would they dishonor Him with such blatant lies?

4. Further to previous question, if you believe that people other than the apostles wrote the the New Testament, who lied about all the firsthand experiences – the apostles or those who wrote the New Testament?

5. If Christ was not raised, who knocked Paul off his horse and how did it happen that half the New Testament came to be a man who violently opposed to the message of Christ’s resurrection?

Without answers to these questions, it’s hard to believe that you have really put your scenario under the microscope of even your own critical thinking.

Sincerely,

Mike Gantt



An Open Letter to Bill Hybels

Dear Bill,

I have watched you from afar for many years and admired so many things about you. You are bright, articulate, dedicated, and diligent.  Most of all, I love how you are passionate for our Lord.  You love Him and it is obvious that you do.

When you speak for the Lord Jesus Christ I stand with you and shout, “Amen!” 

However, when you say “the local church is the hope of the world,” we part company, for Jesus Christ alone is the hope of the world.  You have even parted company with yourself when you say this, for no one can serve two masters.  You can either serve Jesus or you can serve the church, but you can’t serve both.

You know that Jesus taught us to seek the kingdom of God above all else.  The church in the New Testament was preparing for the coming of the kingdom in that generation.  Do you really believe that the Lord and His apostles were wrong about the timetable? 

We live in the day of the kingdom of God, and building the local church is diverting energy from the Lord’s house into the houses of human leaders.  I hope you will join me in forsaking the works of our hands so that we might walk before Him in the house that He has built for us.

If you are at all interested, here is elaboration on what I have said here.  In the meantime, everything I believe can be summed up in the statement “Repent, and follow Jesus Christ our Lord!”

With warm regards and the utmost respect,

Mike Gantt

An Open Letter to Christopher Hitchens

Dear Mr. Hitchens,

You are going to heaven when you die.  This is because Everyone Is Going to Heaven.  I hope you will believe me, but even if you don’t, I am happy to say that the outcome remains the same.

As someone who believes in God, I have admired the way you have defended your atheism.  Specifically, you have done on the basis of morality.  Your debate opponents never seem to understand or address this point adequately, and they end up losing points with audiences for this reason. 

Your debate opponents have suffered from often having to defend religion.  Because religion has sponsored so much that is immoral or amoral, it is an impossible position to defend.  They stand on firmer ground when they defend God or faith in God.  They would stand on the best ground of all were they to defend simply Jesus of Nazareth, who was God visiting us for a moment.

You see, I agree with you that “religion poisons everything,” but, contrary to you, believe that “God is…great!”  The Old and New Testaments, taken together as the testimony of Jesus the Messiah, condemn and warn of all the evils that would be done in the name of religion.  Jesus even warned that people would do all sorts of evil in His name.  For this reason, we should not be surprised at the evils that spring from religion.  Neither should we reject the truth of God just because there are an abundance of lies about Him.

Ironically, one of your most common criticisms of God is that He is like a North Korean dictator.  The truth is that He gives humanity dramatically more freedom than any country in the world gives.  That fact explains why so much evil is done in the world – religiously and otherwise.  If He were a dictator, there’d be no human immorality and your debate opponents would not be confounded by your atheism. 

Even though everyone is going to heaven, God does judge every deed large and small.  Some of this judgment occurs on earth.  Of these earthly judgments, some we see and many we do not.  The balance of judgment comes in heaven after we die.  We certainly are not seeing heavenly judgments.  All that is to say that most of God’s judgment takes place out of our sight.  When we occasionally glimpse some of it (such as Saddam Hussein cowering in a hole in the ground), we shouldn’t think we are seeing all of it.  God is great, and we will all eventually acknowledge that He was right about everything all along. 

When I tell you that you are going to heaven, it is not in the hope that these words will convert you.  Rather, I hope they will comfort you – and your family.  Death is not the end for a human being, just as departure from a mother’s womb is not the end for the unborn child.

While you and I have disagreed about God, I have deeply admired the courage of your convictions.  Most of all, I admire you for refusing to exchange your integrity for some story about God that would require you to compromise your integrity and lower your moral standards.  You simply have not yet heard the pure and unadulterated story of Jesus Christ.  He will speak to you even now in your heart…because He loves you, and He always has.

Respectfully,

Michael Gantt