About Jesus - Steve (Stephen) Sweetman

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A Transformed Atheist  


Craig S. Keener wrote the New Testament commentary footnotes and annotations for the 2016 NIV Cultural Background Study Bible.  Keener is professor of the New Testament at Asbury Seminary, a Free Methodist seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky.  He is a highly-respected Biblical scholar (PhD, Duke University and more) having written many award-winning books and articles, one of which is his 2012, 869 page book entitled "The Historical Jesus of the Gospels."  In appendix 8 of this book he briefly shared how he was transformed from being a full-fledged atheist to being a born-again Christian.  His rationale for his past atheism was premised on history, philosophy, and science.  There was, however, another reason for his past atheism that we must seriously consider.  I quote.


"When I was an atheist (largely for what I thought were for scientific reasons), one of my central (albeit nonscientific) objections to believing anything about Jesus was that eighty percent of people in my country claimed to be his followers, yet most of them apparently lived as if it made no difference for their lives."    


The above quote struck a chord with me.  It confirms my long-standing belief that many who claim to be Christian live as if their claim makes no difference in the way they live.  It leads me to ask, "Are these people really Christians?"  I would suggest that a mere claim of anything does not validate the legitimacy of the claim.  It's just a claim and a claim should be challenged and verified.      


Jesus said a Christian is one who has been born again of God's Spirit (John 3:1 - 5) causing him or her to become a new creation, as Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:17.  If, then, one's claim to be Christian is validated by being a new creation, this life-changing metamorphosis will have made a difference in the way he or she lives. 


Not all who claim to be Christian are Christian.  Jesus also said that a Christian is recognizable by the fruit exhibited in his or her life (Matthew 7:16).  That being so, the fruitful Christian life would provide a realistic alternate lifestyle for the atheist and others to consider, something Keener didn't see much of, and why?


I believe that much of what we have called Evangelical Christianity, which I have spent all my seventy-two year life in, has abandoned the transforming gospel of being born again of God's Spirit.  What remains is a mere intellectual claim of being Christian that does not lead to a transformational metamorphosis in a life.  It's my number one, heart-felt concern for church.  Putting it bluntly, even literally Biblical, this failure should scare the hell out of the church, and I hope it does.  It's no wonder the term "Evangelical" has become a political term instead of the Christian term it originally meant.          


Despite the lack of transformational Christianity in the United States where Craig Keener lives, the born again gospel (John 3:1 - 5) which is the power of God to save (Romans 1:16) transformed him into a new person with Christian fruit that has fed my spiritual apatite.  I hope and pray that I have some Christian fruit whereby others can benefit.  




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