About Jesus - Steve (Stephen) Sweetman
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