Raised? by Jonathan Dodson and Brad Watson

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Oftentimes Christians are accused of being too confident in their beliefs, or using “faith” as a way to shut down questions or concerns from those exploring Christianity.

There’s no room for questioning. No room doubt.

Jonathan Dodson and Brad Watson get this. They don’t want to scare off doubters or make people shy away from questions. But they do want them to be willing to do something with their doubts—find answers. Enter: Raised?: Finding Jesus by Doubting the Resurrection.

In its four easy-to-digest chapters, Dodson and Watson offer readers an engaging look at what it means for Jesus to have been raised from the dead and why it matters, beginning by challenging the foundation of modern day skepticism.

Possibility before plausibility

For many who doubt the resurrection of Jesus, the authors argue, the problem begins with their foundation: do we have a category for the supernatural? By and large, we in the West have discounted such things as impossible. So when we hear stories of miraculous events, we automatically assume there has to be a natural explanation for them. The flood account in Genesis, the parting of the Red Sea, the virgin birth… you name it, there’s a naturalistic alternative.

But those who are truly looking for answers need to ask, “Is this position truly open-minded?”

It certainly seems biased and closed off to possibilities we may not have personally experienced. Shouldn’t we at least be open to the possibility of Jesus rising from the dead? In fact, many are willing to believe in the supernatural teachings of Buddha, Vishnu, and Eckhart Tolle, but what about Jesus? If we are to consider fairly the plausibility of the resurrection—whether it happened or not we must begin with its possibility. (19)

This is so important for those investigating the Christian faith to understand—if you’ve already discounted the miraculous, you’re going to be profoundly disappointed with Christianity, because it hinges on a miracle.

 

At the risk of belaboring the point (which itself is the foundation of the first chapter of Raised?, not the entirety of the book), we need to have to get this straight: If Jesus was not raised from the dead, Christians are to be pitied above all others because we’ve put our hope in something untrue (1 Cor. 15:19). And worse, if what we’ve put our hope in is a lie or a delusion, then we’re doing terrible evil to others by encouraging them to believe it, too.

But if we’re right, and the resurrection is true, it changes everything.

What the resurrection really means

The remaining three chapters of the book offer a look into the implications of the resurrection and how we move from doubt to belief:

  • Chapter two is an overview of the big story of the Bible using the “Creation, Fall, Redemption, Consummation” paradigm (which is essential in a book geared toward non-Christians).
  • Chapter three examines what faith really is.
  • Chapter four looks at what happens when we trust in Jesus.

Each of these chapters is filled with solid, helpful material. Probably my favorite element of the three comes from the third chapter, where the authors press in a bit more on the nature of doubt. Doubt, they argue, isn’t the lack of belief—it’s just the belief in something else:

In his observations of pluralistic societies, Lesslie Newbigin noted that “doubt is not an autonomous activity.” What he means is that doubt is not self-sufficient—it cannot exist on its own. Doubt does not live in a vacuum. It is propped up by faith in something else. To doubt one thing is to have faith in another.… if you put your faith in one company or spouse, you are—at the same time—expressing doubt in other companies or potential spouses. You are doubtful they are the best possible fit, uncertain they are the one for you. Meanwhile, you have faith in the other company or spouse. To put it another way, if you doubt one thing, it’s because you believe in another. (61-62)

Can you tell discussion of doubt made an impression on me? The reason for that is simple: this discussion really is the strongest element of Raised.

There are a lot of excellent books dealing with the evidence side of the argument, but few address the epistemological side of it. How we know something and what we can know to be true is critical for us to deal with when faced with a generation that’s uncertain of what can be known at all. But Raised? offers a thoughtful and welcome apologetic for a newer generation of doubters. If you’re looking for a helpful outreach resource for your church or a book to give to an unbelieving neighbor, you’d do well with this one.


Title: Raised?: Finding Jesus by Doubting the Resurrection
Authors: Jonathan Dodson and Brad Watson
Publisher: Zondervan (2014)

Buy it at: Amazon

Book Review: Fight Clubs

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All Christians everywhere are commanded to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19-20), but some of us aren’t all that great at it. Some of us are great at sharing our faith, but no so good at sharing our lives. We have community groups and accountability partners—but sometimes our idea of accountability is little more than a check list of things to not do, or a mutual pity party where everyone confesses worldly sorrow, but fails to repent.

But we’re called to something much greater than that. We are called to “fight the good fight of the faith” (1 Tim. 6:12) as we go forth and make disciples. And Jonathan Dodson, in Fight Clubs: Gospel-Centered Discipleship, wants to remind us of that.

In this short work, Dodson states that it’s by focusing on the person of Jesus that true discipleship happens. “We become what we behold. If we behold the beauty of Christ, we become beautiful like Christ” (p. 15). This is one of the most profound statements in the book, because truly, we do become what we worship. And when we take our eyes off of Christ, we become something ugly. We are not disciples worth imitating, because we are imitating the wrong things.

In focusing on Christ, inevitably our attention is  fixed on what we’re called to—the Gospel, the Church and Mission. We are saved by the death and resurrection of Jesus, into community with fellow believers, on mission to make disciples of all the nations. We do not exist in a vacuum. We are, as Steve Timmis says, “not individuals, but individuals-in-community.”

So what do we need? We need Fight Clubs, says Dodson.

“Fight Clubs are small, simple groups of 2-3 who meet regularly to help one another beat the flesh and believe in the promises of God. Men meet with men and women meet with women in order effectively address gender specific issues head-on” (p. 44).

There are three simple rules for Fight Clubs (and no, one is not “Do not talk about Fight Club”). They are:

  1. Know Your Sin
  2. Fight Your Sin
  3. Trust Your Savior

In order to fight our sin, we have to know what our sin is: Is it vanity, lust, pride, anger? Once we’ve identified our sin, we then need to know why we’re prone to it. We need to “get to the sin beneath the sin” (p. 46). Once we know where to strike, we can begin to put our sin to death so that our joy may be complete in Christ. And by trusting in Christ, we can be assured of both the promise of eternal life and the strength of the Holy Spirit to fight and put our sin to death (cf. Rom. 8:13).

Fight Clubs offers a powerful appeal. Biblical community on mission to glorify Christ. This is something that many of us sorely lack in our lives, and the concept is one that I want to implement into my discipling relationships. It’s honestly too easy to slip into a routine of “just hanging out” and not talking about Jesus or getting into some sort of bizarre checklist/sin management type thing that really kills the spirit of the relationship. I would highly encourage you to download the e-book or purchase a hardcopy from Lulu.com, and be inspired to continue to fight the good fight.

Sunday Shorts (08/02)

Get Religion Saves—Free!

Mark @ Here I Blog is giving away a free copy of Mark Driscoll’s Religion Saves and Nine Other Misconceptions.

To enter, all you need to do is comment and tell him why you’d like to win the book (and saying you like free books doesn’t count).

The drawing is August 8th, so enter today.

Free E-Book—Fight Clubs: Gospel Centered Discipleship

Jonathan Dodson‘s Fight Clubs: Gospel Centered Discipleship is now available as a free e-book from The Resurgence. Download a copy in PDF format or purchase a copy through Lulu.com.

UPDATE (08/04): Read my review of this book here.

Free Audiobook: The Divine Comedy

Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy is this month’s free audiobook of the month at ChristianAudio.com. Use the coupon code AUG2009 to get this book free.

Out of the Archives: Just Do Something

just do something“I feel like God wants me to be alone for a while.”

“I’m waiting for God to open a door to the right job.”

“If I choose this school, will I be going against God’s will for my life?”

We’ve all statements like these before. Whether it’s dating and marriage, the quest for the perfect job, what college to go to or where to buy a house, many Christians get hung up on the question of God’s will: Is it God’s will that I do XYZ? What is God’s will for my life and how can I know what it is? While it’s good to be concerned about living a life that glorifies God, sometimes we spend too much time navel-gazing when we really ought to just do something!

That, in a nutshell, is the point of Kevin DeYoung’s book, Just Do Something... Read the rest of this review.

In case you missed it

Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:

Everyday Theology: “Preach the Gospel always, if necessary use words” Why our approach to evangelism needs to be more than good works.

Some Doubted If people stood before the resurrected Christ and still doubted, we need more than a good argument or a nice experience: We need the intervention of the Holy Spirit.

“Free Pass” Theology Some early thoughts on a difficult subject: Do babies and young children automatically get into Heaven?

Sunday Shorts (07/26)

Dug Down Deep: New book by Joshua Harris

3D.DugDownDeep%20copy.jpgThe other day, Joshua Harris (Pastor of Covenant Life Church and author of such books as I Kissed Dating Goodbye and Stop Dating the Church) has released some information on his latest book. From the back cover:

I know from experience that it’s possible to be a Christian but live life on the surface. The surface can be empty tradition. It can be emotionalism. It can be doctrine without application. I’ve done it all. I’ve spent my share of time on the sandy beaches of superficial Christianity.This book is the story of how I learned dig into truth and build my life on a real knowledge of God. How I first discovered that orthodoxy isn’t just for old men but for anyone who longs to know a God who is bigger and more real and more glorious than the human mind can imagine.
The irony of my story is that the very things I needed, even longed for in my relationship with God, were wrapped up in the very things I was so sure could do me no good. I didn’t understand that seemingly worn-out words like theology, doctrine, and orthodoxy were the pathway to the mysterious, awe-filled experience of truly knowing the living Jesus Christ.

They told the story of the Person I longed to know.

You can read Harris’ comments on the origin of the title at his blog, and you can preorder a copy at Amazon.

Gnosticism and Fundraising

Jonathan Dodson offers some thoughts on the often dualistic approach to fundraising and the work of the ministry over at his blog:

Some of us need to repent of our dualism, of seeing God as sovereign and concerned only with our piety and not with our pocketbook. Some of us need to redeem our view of money with an understanding that the Gospel redeems consumers to spend, not just “spiritually” but practically. Our money should be governed by the gospel and move towards mission. But that is uncomfortable. We would rather live with the comforts of unspiritual spending, than invest our whole lives into the mission of God. Our idols of comfort, clothing, and standard of living hide beneath our functional gnosticism. God is calling us to repent and believe that Jesus is Lord over our entire lives, finances included, to bring us into a life of joyful giving and worship.

Read the whole thing. It’s well worth it.

John MacArthur on Spurgeon & Worldly Preaching

HT: Evangelical Village

In case you missed it

Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:

Everyday Theology: “God won’t give you more than you can handle” Exploring the question: does God really only give us what we can handle?

A Holy Terror Embracing a holy fear of the Lord

Timeless Truth: Mere Christianity Looking at an example of true wisdom that has only become more powerful since it’s writing 60 years ago.