A parable, recorded as it came to me.

A distinguished lady was walking down the road when she spied a decrepit looking house ahead. Having plenty of experience with restoring dilapidated dwellings, she knocked on the front door. At length, and with the chain still clinging tighty, the door opened a crack. A young man squinted his eyes and peered out suspiciously from inside. "What do you want?" he coughed.

"Good evening sir," began the lady. "I was passing by your house, and, seeing that it is in a state of disrepair, thought that I might offer my services to renovate it."

The man unhooked the chain, and swung the door open. "I am quite insulted by your accusation!" he said, crossing his arms. "My house may not be perfect, but I assure you that it is in excellent condition!"

"I meant no offense," assured the lady. "But I beg to differ. You see, I have plenty of experience in this area, and can readily identify foundational problems."

Nonplussed, the man turned slightly, uncrossed his arms, and gestured inside his home. "I've lived here for my entire life," he said, "and the walls seem to be holding up just fine. I've never had any trouble."

The lady nodded understandingly. "That may be, but what you can't see can still kill you. As an outsider, I can identify certain surface and structural problems that you may not have noticed yourself. Why don't you let me make some suggestions? My services are free after all so you have nothing to lose."

"Would you also perform all of the repairs for free?"

"No," the lady said with a hint of remorse. "I'm afraid I don't have the resources to perform the necessary repairs."

"Well then, our conversation is futile, because even if my house were in need of grandiose repairs as you claim, I certainly don't have the skills to fix it myself, and I could not pay to have someone else to do it."

The lady's face brightened as she began to point towards the man's backyard. "What if I were to tell you that the resources to repair your house are already within your grasp?" she asked.

Mildly intrigued, the man asked "What do you mean?"

Encouraged, the lady continued. "Right now, the means to repair your house are already within your grasp. I happen to know that, right now, there is treasure buried in your backyard. All you have to do is dig it up, and it will pay to repair your entire home."

"Ridiculous!" the man scoffed. "If such a thing were true, it would already be abundantly clear to me. I wouldn't need some stranger to come and tell me."

"If what I say is true, there would be little to lose by checking. With me as your guide, it would take hardly any time at all. In fact, I would even dig it up for you and present it to you."

The man laughed. "I wouldn't bother wasting any time at all on such an idea, mine or yours. Where would this supposed treasure even come from anyways?"

The lady sighed. "I could explain it, and would be quite willing to do so, but would any explanation make your current situation any less dire? If a person is dying, what they need is the cure, not a complex scientific explanation of the chemical reactions by which the cure works. Similarly, if your house is falling down, what you need is the solution. Could you honestly say that if I explained it to you that you would then be willing to dig up the treasure with me to repair your house?"

Quickly becoming exasperated, the man protested "But I still don't believe there's anything wrong with my house!"

Remaining calm, the lady paused for a moment, seemingly collecting her thoughts. "Sir," she began, "A mouse who has spent his entire life in the city would of course be incredulous were a meadow described to him, but his confined worldview would be the problem, not the postulation of the meadow. I can't force you to accept my help. All I can ask is that you keep what I've said in mind, just in case your seemingly well-built house comes crashing down upon you, perhaps collapsing when you least expect it."

The man opened his mouth to speak, but reconsidered and quickly shut the door, leaving the lady standing on the porch outside.

He locked the door. Slid the chain into place.

Rattled the door knob a couple of times. Just to make sure.

Turning away from the door, his eyes began to dance from place to place around his home. Although he was loath to admit it, he could see the cracks in the walls. Hear the creaking foundations. And feel an ever-present -intangible and shadowy, yes, but nevertheless real- creeping sense of foreboding. In truth, he had always suspected that his house may be built upon a faulty foundation. But surely that couldn't be. After all, all his friends' homes were built the same way. And they couldn't all be wrong.

Could they?

He momentarily thought to call the lady back, but instead sternly resolved to put the matter out of his mind and continue on with his life as he always had.

Meanwhile, the lady had already began to walk on, but not before affixing a card to the man's door, urging him to call her, anytime, should he reconsider.

Filled with deep concern and sorrow, she walked on, glancing back over her shoulder at the decrepit house.

She hoped he would choose to call before it was too late.

!!!!!Further to my previous post, I've seen several other examples lately of people taking offense when Christians have the audacity to claim that the Gospel is actually true. First we have a commenter on the old Discuss DaVinci Code Blog who was apparently offended that the site claimed that the traditional biblical story of Jesus' life, death and resurrection is actually true. (See also my reply below their comments on that same page.)

Next we have a person's review of the book The Illustrated Guide to World Religions by Dean C Halverson. I have not read the book, but I noticed this particular review as I was browsing Amazon today (as I do FAR too often …) Anyways, here's their review in its entirety:

The goal of this book is to teach about other religions so people can use that knowledge to convert others to Christianity. If that's not your goal, don't bother. I find it very offensive and am throwing it away.

And my reply (posted in reply on Amazon):

Why would you find this offensive? Are you saying all Christians should abandon their own beliefs and believe like you do? If not, what exactly are you suggesting here? As far as I know this book makes no suggestion or approval of coercive techniques of evangelism, so I don't see the problem with attempting to more effectively share the Christian message with others who belong to different faiths.

If the book contains factual inaccuracies, then that is a different matter. But no viewpoint (whether it be Christian, Muslim, pluralist, secularist, whatever) is neutral, so please don't disparage this book merely because it is written from a Christian point of view, because there is no worldview-free book about religion.

Further reading:

The Historical Reliability of the New Testament eBook CoverFinally completed my update of my essay/eBook The Historical Reliability of the New Testament! My original essay was rather short (due to the prescribed limits of the seminary class assignment for which it was written) however I have greatly expanded the essay (from approximately 3,000 words to over 8,000 words) and included many more details, observations, and citation of important thinkers on many subjects. Therefore, I now feel it's more legitimate to consider it an eBook on its own, although if I ever finish my more comprehensive eBook, this will likely become a single chapter within that larger work. The only entirely new section in this update is "The Copycat Argument", which refutes theories that the New Testament is merely the product of copying other religious myths. (Though I lent out my copy of Strobel's newest, The Case for the Real Jesus, so I may add some material from that book once I get it back.)

If you've read it before, check out the new version! If not, no better time than the present to read it now! (It's got a swanky new cover and everything! :))

You can also use this shorter URL to link to the eBook: http://www.whyfaith.com/nt/

FaithI have unfortunately lost the source of these quotes. I saved them in a text file to reply to later on this blog, but the quote does not appear (anymore?) on the url I saved with it. (The quote was likely from a review of another book on Amazon.) Regardless, here are the comments and my replies.

One never has a "moral obligation" to impose beliefs that are not solidly backed up with proof. In fact, doing so is an insult and an offense to the person whose beliefs you attack with the well-intended suggestion that yours are better.

I agree, although I would substitute the word "evidence" for where he/she has written "proof", thus Paul says "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect" (1 Peter 3:15,16)

Think about it. Where did your beliefs come from? Someone told you to believe, and probably told you you would go to hell for not believing. Am I right?

Actually, no. I grew up in an atheist/agnostic home and came to my own conclusions based on my personal investigation (and, I believe, God's grace). Many people are Christians because they were brought up Christians; but that proves nothing about whether the Christianity is true. (See: Genetic fallacy.)

Don't arrogantly foist your belief system on people who have their own. Be a little meek and humble, the way the Bible tells you to be. Leave people to believe the way they choose to.

I certainly don't support "arrogantly foisting" things on anyone. Evangelism is about sharing the good news, not forcing anyone to do anything. But note that the implication here is quite stunning. Here's what is basically seems to be suggested: "If you believe all of those people are headed for eternal torment/destruction, just leave them alone. Don't try to help them. Don't even mention this to them, even though they may not be aware of it." If you believed someone was putting his life in danger, wouldn't you want to help them? Christians don't share their faith because it's always a fun time for them. It's often a frustrating and thankless endeavor. Christians share their faith (at least, in theory) because of their concern for others.

And respect that maybe – just maybe – what you think and believe doesn't matter one whit. Maybe it's just how we behave, and how well we follow the Golden Rule that counts.

Here we come to the crux of the issue. If "how we behave, and how well we follow the Golden Rule" are really what counts, then this author is right, we should stop all of this religious talk and just get on with being as "good" as possible. This is indeed what most religions believe, albeit they have different ideas about what being "good" means. But, unlike all other faiths, this is NOT what Christians believe. Christians do not believe what saves us is being good. What separates Christianity from other faiths is grace.

The question is: How good is good enough? Are you "good enough"? I mean, you're probably a pretty swell guy/girl. Compared to the jerk down the street who runs his lawnmower early Sunday mornings, or that "bad" uncle no one talks about, or … well what about, Adolf Hitler? Compared to them, you're a saint. But where, exactly, is the 'line' that determines goodness? 50% goodness? That seems a little low. What about 90% goodness? Remember now, if God exists, He is 100% holy, righteous, and "good" in every sense of the word.

It's something to think about. How good is good enough? This is not a rhetorical question … it has eternal consequences! The fact is that the common assumption (often not thought about and hardly ever challenged) that "good people to to heaven" is wrong.

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