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CHRISTIANITY IS A PROPOSAL NOT AN IMPOSAL

Chuck Colson’s Speech to Seminarians  |  Why Christianity is a rational and reasonable proposition  |  Why Christianity is not an imposition  |  How Christianity is not just a proposition

Chuck Colson, the founder of Prison Fellowship

Chuck Colson, the founder of Prison Fellowship, a ministry to inmates.

Christianity is a proposal not an “imposal”. That is, Christianity is grounded is certain propositions that are rational, reasonable and evidential. Its propositions can then be either accepted or rejected. The notion that each person has the freedom to choose their response to a proposition is a biblical concept grounded in the teaching that every person has been created in the image of God with the God-given freedom to make their own choices and decisions. In one of Chuck Colson’s last speeches, he spoke to a group seminarians (theology students in training to become pastors) and reinforced this point to them. When you take up your pastorates, he told them, remember that Christianity is a proposition not an imposition. We cannot impose Christianity on anyone. Instead, he went on, we must give well reasoned propositions. This requires having the correct starting point for Christianity, Colson stated, and that starting point is the Bible and your unshakeable conviction that it is the very Word of God. Without this foundation we cannot offer the propositions that lead a person to meet with God and experience His forgiveness.

The sum of Your Word is truth,
and every one of your righteous rules endures forever.
I rejoice at Your Word like one who finds great spoil.
Psalm 119:160, 162

 

THE PROPOSITIONS OF CHRISTIANITY ARE TRUE, RATIONAL, & REASONABLE 

All Scripture is God-breathed, Paul reminded Timothy, and is profitable for teaching (2Tim. 3:16-17). This is because it is true. It doesn’t just contain truths, it is truth. When Christian leaders stray from the truth of God’s Word regarding matters of human exceptionalism, gender distinction, or sexuality, they will invariably attempt to impose their views rather than offer testable, verifiable propositions. Sometimes this involves twisting Scriptures to impose distortions of the truth into the Scriptures. For example, in Jude 9, the apostle Jude compares the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah (homosexuality) with the sin of the fallen watcher angels who took on human form and fornicated with human women (Gen. 6:2-5). In both instances, Jude declares, both the fallen angels who sexually sinned and the men of Sodom and Gomorrah who sexually sinned, did what was “unnatural” after “desiring different flesh” than what God had designed. In the case of those Watcher angels they were not designed to misuse their ability to materialise into human form, and the men of Sodom and Gomorrah were not designed to commit fornication at all – let alone with those of the same gender. The Creator has created a design for all of His creatures – which includes men, women, and angels. God’s Word is consistent from cover to cover that sexuality is sacred and spiritual and is gifted to humankind as an expression of the image of God that men and women each bear which intrinsically involves and includes procreation (Matt. 15:19-20; 19:4-6).

Chuck Colson warned these seminarians over 12 years ago that the issue of human gender and sexuality was going to be an issue that culture would oppose Christianity on – and it seems that he was rather prophetic. 

The Bible invites testing and examination of its claims. Because the Bible asserts to be true, we can have great confidence that it can stand up to scrutiny and investigation. Often times the objections that people have with the Bible are because they do not like what it says – not because they are disputing that it actually says it.  

¶ This is the disciple who is bearing witness about these things,
and who has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true.
John 21:24

The central claim of Christianity is the central claim of the Bible: The Creator became the Redeemer by becoming one of us and laying down His life as our substitute. He taught about God and God’s will for all people and this has been accurately and sufficiently recorded in the Scriptures. He then died an atoning death for the sins of mankind and was resurrected physically from the dead to be declared as Lord of all. He triumphed over the forces of darkness and ascended back to His Father where He was declared to be worthy of all creation’s worship. To live according to what He taught is to love God and others in word and deed. The historical impact of Christ’s atoning life has been well documented by J.Warner Wallace in his book, Person of Interest, where Wallace shows that all of the great social improvements in the world can be traced back to arrival of Christ. These are some of the reasons why we claim that the propositions of Christianity are not only reasonable, true, and evidentially verifiable, but are also good for the world and for each person. Living life the way Christ taught people to live can be shown to be beneficially physically, intellectually, spiritually, and mentally.

Because Christianity involves the acceptance of certain propositions such as the divine inspiration of the Bible, the Creator’s right to decree laws for our conduct, and foundation for true beliefs, Christianity has always been creedal. There are short creeds found in the Bible. These are statements of true beliefs. The word creed comes from the Latin word credo which means I believe. People who reject the Bible but still claim to be Christian sometimes spout, Christianity is about deeds not creeds! which itself sounds awful like a creed to me. Thus, Christianity is a set of propositions that are often presented as doctrines (“beliefs”), and theology (“how we understand God and is will”). In the apostle Paul’s last epistles, written to Timothy, his major themes in both epistles concerns sound doctrine. The basis of sound Christian doctrine is good theology!  

And He said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
Matthew 22:27-40

 

WHY CHRISTIANITY IS NOT AN IMPOSITION 

“You can’t legislate morality” is a false claim because you can only legislate morality – the question is, Whose? But it is true that you can’t legislate for anyone to become a Christian. Christianity cannot be imposed. This is why we make ‘a case’ in the public square about how all people, Christians or otherwise, should treat people — especially the poor, the marginalised, and the vulnerable. We are not arguing for governments to impose legislation to Christianise our society. Rather, we have good reasons for believing that the teachings of Christ are beneficial for all of society. That’s why we argue that marriage is sacred and designed by God for human flourishing. It’s why we argue that a pre-born baby has been given a sacred life and should not be murdered. It’s why we argue that men and women are equal and that men should use their strength to protect, provide, and pastor those in their care not harm or intimidate them. It’s why we argue that Physician Assisted Suicide (PAS, or a host of other euphemisms) should not supplant palliative care which coincides with a dying person’s natural end. We argue we do not impose.

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making His appeal through us.
We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
Second Corinthians 5:20

 

WHY CHRISTIANITY IS NOT JUST A PROPOSITION

I do not want to give anyone the impression that Christian is just a set of intellectually propositions. It is much more but it is certainly not less. One of the propositions that we Christians make is that Christianity is a spiritual transformation of a soul. While its propositions are true, they are not just true, they invoke a miraculous transformation in a human being. Jesus described this as being “born again” (John 3:3). The New Testament describes the moment this happens as being a transaction with God where we surrender our life and our sin to Him and He gives us His life and His pardon (1Jn. 1:8-9)! This transaction includes a hope that goes beyond the grave. God the Father adopts all those who turn to Him. It results a new way of seeing life and the world. The things that once troubled us no longer do, because we have a growing confidence that God has a plan and is currently outworking that plan. If you have never surrendered your life in a transaction with God, you can now. You are just one prayer away from peace with God and purpose for your life – both now and beyond the grave! The choice is yours. We can’t impose this offer from God on you, but I do have a proposition for you.

Your pastor,

Andrew

Let me know what you think below in the comment section and feel free to share this someone who might benefit from this Pastor’s Desk.

1 Comment

  1. LYDIA

    Yes Andrew, you wrote “The notion that each person has the freedom to choose their response to a proposition is a biblical concept grounded in the teaching that every person has been created in the image of God with the God-given freedom to make their own choices and decisions”…end of quote.
    If two people stand at a cliff’s edge and one says to the other ‘jump’ than that individual has the ability to choose, one either jumps or one does not. You cannot blame the other person if you decide to jump. God being perfect, created Adam and Eve as spiritual beings in His image, He most definitely BTW did not create Adam and ‘Steve’, otherwise the rest of the human race would be non-existent. God in His counsel, before the foundation of the world already knew that there would be a Saviour to die for fallen man, meaning Adam and Eve’s sin of not choosing to obey and trust God implicitly, God Who communed with them daily, Who still came to them in love that day, knowing they needed a perfect Saviour as nothing else would do.
    So again mankind was allowed to choose. If this is not love what is it? Being God He knew where they were when He again ‘walked’, but He still called out to them none-the-less…That must have been a bit of a painful exercise. Innocence for ever changed, taking their eyes off the goal when the fruit was taken, trusting in a lie instead of the Truth – and Adam followed suit. The Image of God was destroyed. Hiding from the God Who knows all.
    Now, this is where the parting of the ways could occur. Some could say…”Ah ‘man’ cannot choose anymore”. I choose to differ too. Standing on that cliff’s edge tells me people can indeed make a decision. Scripture tells me that all people are without excuse. Yet it is true Andrew we cannot make any other person a Christian as much as we desire that they would give their life to Christ and be renewed by His Spirit. All people may choose and choosing has consequences, eternal consequences.
    A thought comes to mind. An Elizabeth – so many Elizabeths around! This beautiful elderly lady sat in her room in her chair way back in 2004, in the nursing home I had the privilege to work in, something God had planned for me, a rather tough learning curve. There she sat and told me in determined excitement that she was NOT eating that day. Well, OK, righto… So I asked her “Why not Elizabeth? ” “I am not eating today because I am going to heaven and in heaven you do not eat” she responded promptly.
    In a nutshell, each one will arrive at death’s door and each one before death closes our eyes, prior to crossing over into a new dimension, will face the same opportunity of life eternal forever with the God Who walked in the Garden right back in time, Who in love sacrificed His only Son, Jesus the Christ Who was perfect, or, the opposite, without Him and feel that loneliness that no one can measure. Till our last breath, that time will be up. The call was made and even today is still made. All we need to do is trust and say ‘Yes Lord’. The scales will fall off our eyes, we will see our sin, that sin paid for in full by our precious Saviour’s blood which no animal sacrifice could do perfectly, because, history tells me, and the Bible tells me too, that Jesus loves me.

    Reply

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JESUS ATE with SINNERS!

This confrontation of the All-Good meeting face-to-face with Serpent-breath in the wilderness didn’t go the way the Dragon had become accustomed to. Even more baffling to him was what the Eternal Son did next. Rather than going to the supposed ‘rulers of this world’ He went to the despised and inconsequential: the people of His hometown, Nazareth and those in the socio-economically challenged region of Galilee. 

¶ And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as was His custom, He went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and He stood up to read…When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, he went away.
¶ Now when the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to Him, and He laid His hands on every one of them and healed them. And demons also came out of many, crying, “You are the Son of God!” But He rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew that He was the Christ.
Luke 4:16, 28-29, 40-41

Even more baffling to the Satan was that instead whipping up the mobs and leading a rebellion, the Christ went to the shunned, the despised, the broken, the humiliated, as their dinner Guest! It seemed like an odd strategy, especially to those who had been longing for so long for the arrival of the Promised One…

DIVINELY PRECIOUS TRIPLETS

Some of the profound truths in the Bible are expressed in just three words. The late J.I. Packer, one of the world’s most respected modern theologians, was asked to sum up the gospel message. He did so in just three words: “God saves sinners.” Many of the most eloquent prayers ever uttered have consisted of no more than three words: “Help me Lord”, “Thank You God”, “God save me”, “Please heal her.” One of the greatest royal invitations only consisted of three words: “Come unto Me.” Three words is all it takes to start an exciting journey: “Come and see.” Many of these three words statements, prayers, and invitations, have become divinely precious triplets that have rescued a lost soul, repaired a broken relationship, and replenished the worn-out.  

ETERNAL LIFE IS NOT JUST MERELY A MATTER OF TIME

The beauty of John 3:16 is that it is so simple it can be understood even by a child; and yet, as a believer’s knowledge of God and His Word grows, he or she will come to discover that there is a wealth of spiritually-satisfying treasure to be mined! In its simplest form, Jesus died so that all those who turn to Him in trust will go to heaven after leaving this life. Dig a little deeper though, and you also discover that the eternal life on offer is not merely about a location (‘heaven’) or a duration of time—but a quality of life and status of existence that elevates the believer into a glorified state with God Himself (Rom. 8:17; 1John 3:2). Our lives are now the training ground for our status as co-regents and co-rulers with Christ over all of His redeemed creation (1Cor. 6:2-3)! 

WHAT WOULD YOU DO IF YOU FOUND A NEWBORN BABY AT YOUR DOORSTEP?

What would you do if you found a newborn baby that someone had left at your door? Hopefully your answer sounds similar to “I’d take care him or her.” What if it wasn’t a baby? What if it was a young child or a teenager, or an adult, who turned up at your door requesting to be helped? I hope that each of us would also be prepared to help whoever it was. What if it was not an abandoned child, a youth, or an adult? And what if it was not your front door? Instead, how might we each respond if it was a spiritually abandoned, and spiritually hungry, person who turned up at our church seeking help to know how to be saved? While you might feel a similar compassion as you might have felt for the child at your door, you may not be as confident in how you would spiritually help this person seeking a spiritual connection for God through Jesus Christ. “Where would I begin?” “How could I be an effective discipler of a new believer?” you might ask. Well, I’m glad you’ve asked. For any Christian to effectively disciple a new believer it must involve an individual, a small group, and a congregation.

A DECREASING VISION

There is one sin that is worse than all others. It is the worst because it is insidious and imperceptibly deceptive. It is always at the root of all other sins. It was the original sin. In C.S. Lewis’s classic book, Mere Christianity, it warranted an entire chapter (“The Great Sin”) and Lewis claims that it is the greatest threat to any person – including the Christian – and their standing before God. Thus, to be truly spiritual, Spirit-led, Spirit-empowered, and spiritual, demands that the man or woman of God be on guard against what Lewis called “spiritual cancer” — pride. To have any chance of guarding against the spread of this deadly spiritual and character blighting ‘cancer’ requires that we adopt a decreasing vision of ‘greatness’.

THE WIND BLOWS WHERE IT WISHES – SO IT IS WITH THE SPIRIT

This week I have heard of yet more stories of people who had no knowledge of Christianity as they grew up, yet had an almost sudden conversion to Christ. This has included the stories of several Muslims (now ‘former Muslims’) who knew nothing to very little about Christianity, and had always been taught that Islam was the one true religion, who then heard a Christian explain the gospel and were then supernaturally converted to follow Christ. (Several of these Islamic converts to Christ also had supernatural dreams where they claimed that Jesus appeared to them!) I also heard of an atheist scientist who been taught that science could explain away the need for believing in a God, who then heard the gospel and was resoundingly converted to Christ. The other story I heard was closer to home and involved a young lady who had grown up in an atheist home where her parents were actually hostile to religion and forbad her from anything to do with Christianity. Years later, she ventured into a church one Sunday morning, heard the gospel, and was converted to Christ. Each of these stories confirm what Jesus taught about the work of the Holy Spirit and His mysterious and surprising dealings with people to undergird the church’s preaching of the gospel.

I WAS IN THE SPIRIT ON THE LORD’S DAY

A year earlier all hell had broken loose when the tyrant emperor Caesar Nero had outlawed Christianity; and now, the last surviving apostle of Christ had been banished to Patmos Island. All looked bleak. The youngest of Christ’s apostles, John was just a teenager when he witnessed the brutal and protracted execution of Jesus. John, now in his fifties, had many reasons to feel disappointed and even disillusioned with God. His apostolic colleagues had each been martyred – having been put to death in often gruesome ways including: crucifixion, flaying, and beheading. On this barren rocky island, separated from the woman he had pledged to her crucified Son that he would look after, and away from the people that Christ had shed His blood for, John was alone. Ever since Jesus had risen bodily from dead, these life-time faithful sabbath-keeping Jews now recognised that Christ had sanctified the first day of the week, Sunday, as His day. It was also on this sanctified day that Christ poured out Holy Spirit on his gathered disciples. Ever since that day, no matter how he felt or the circumstances he was in, John had made it his custom to be in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day. And his first Sunday on this island of banishment was no exception. He was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day. While some weak Christians find disappointment with God an excuse to forsake God, John did not. While some weak Christians allow their excuses for disappointment with God to walk away from their church family, John did not. John’s example has something to teach us. 
¶ I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day…
Revelation 1:9-10a

NEVER BE AFRAID AGAIN

Fear can be crippling. Being afraid is often the result of not what is happening, but what we fear might happen. Such fears make each of us vulnerable to withdraw, give-up, hide, or excuse ourselves from ever trying something new. The result of this happening is that we each become less than who God has created us to be and in the process we deny the world the benefit of what God can do through us. In the Bible there are many stories of many heroes who learned the secret of overcoming their fears by trusting God and learning how to ‘fear’ Him despite their circumstances or fearful expectations. We read of how Kings led their vastly outnumbered army to defeat immensely more powerful and ruthless enemy armies by fearing the Lord. We read how previously unsure, uncertain, unable people became fearless, decisive, and confident and able to solve previously insurmountable problems by simply fearing the Lord. We read how the arrogant were humbled and transformed into gentle and caring souls when they experienced the fear of the Lord. Then in the early chapters of the Book of Acts when becoming a Christian could cost you your life, we read of the numbers of Christians exploded across the Empire because they also no longer had a reason to be afraid because they learned what it meant to fear the Lord.

THE FRUIT DIET WORTH MORE THAN MONEY

How different would your life be if you were filled continually with the Holy Spirit? This seems to have been the experience of at least the first Christians. We know that Jesus told His disciples after His resurrection to “receive the Holy Spirit” (Jn. 20:22) which may have been the moment that they were “regenerated” which is a fancy way of saying that they were born again (Jn. 3:3). But then Jesus told His disciples to wait for the outpouring of the Spirit (Lk. 24:39; Acts 1:4) which was yet to come. The effect on the disciples when this happened was dramatic — especially in the Simon Peter (Acts 2:14). He went from being a cowering timid fearful backslider to being a bold courageous fearless leader of the Christ’s Church (Acts 2:15-39). Then some days later, as Peter was about to bear witness before the rulers of Judaism, he was filled afresh with the Holy Spirit (Acts 4:8). When Peter met again with the other believers to pray, all of them were filled with Holy Spirit again (Acts 4:31). Thus, being filled continually with the Holy Spirit seems to have been the usually experience of the early believers. As the Church grew and spread, the early Christians’ understanding of who the Holy Spirit was and what He wanted to do in each believer and church also grew. They discovered that the Spirit didn’t just fill them to be bold proclaiming witnesses, He also enabled them to bear witness to the power of Christ by how they lived. The apostle Paul called this, the fruit of the Spirit. 

HOW TO MAKE SENSE OF IT ALL

One of the emotional/intellectual problems that people who accept that there must be a God that resembles closely or exactly the God described in the Bible have had over the years is the problem ow Why would an all good and all powerful God allow suffering, evil, and tragedy in His world? Either He is not really all good and doesn’t care — or He is not really all powerful and is unable to do anything about it. Theologians refer to this problem as Theodicy (the problem of evil). This problem is resolved by asking a greater question: Does God ever ordain or allow what we perceive to be “wrong” because He has a morally good reason for doing so? This greater question is answered when we reflect on Christ’s passion and crucifixion. By working through these questions we may be able to understand why God might allow or ordain natural evil (floods, fires, disastrous weather events) and committed evil (such as wars, violence, crimes against people, brutal oppression of others). Especially when we view the world from the perspective of there being an eternal Judge who redeems those who turn to Him, and holds to account those who don’t. This is why answering the question of destiny is so important to making sense of life and the world we live in.