You've reached the shared blog of Michael Mckay and Todd Frederick. Two friends who have worked together in ministry and labored in similar educational endeavors. Please join us as we consider the interaction of Christianity with modern culture...

Monday, February 21, 2011

It wasn't luck...it was divine intervention

This morning while driving the kids to school, a car coming at me in the other lane started spinning on some ice, entered my lane, and was coming side ways towards my Ford Escape which was going about 30 mph. It was one of those moments when time seems to slow down. I felt like I had several thoughts going through my mind in that split second. I slowly applied the brakes, went off road without slipping into a ditch, and safely made it past the oncoming car which missed me (still spinning) by several inches. I am not doing justice to how close, fast and intense this 3 seconds was in my description. The first words out of my mouth were, "Thank you Father", and I meant them theologically, emotionally, psychologically and any other -ology you want to put on there. It seemed a miracle.

Upon further reflection throughout the day, I have come to the conclusion that it was not a miracle in the sense that God set aside his normal rules for how the universe works, but that it was divine intervention. I believe God protected me and the other driver. Atheists may explain that my years of playing video games had sharpened my hand/eye coordination to such a degree that I was able to time the escape so precisely. My worldview and beliefs in Scripture (not to mention my own intimate knowledge of being pwned in games) leads me to a very different conclusion: God rescued me.

This experience reminded me of a lesson I taught at church a few weeks ago on the purpose behind Jesus' healing ministry. Perhaps you have asked yourself, "Why didn't Jesus set up shop in Jerusalem so that He could heal people?" After thinking about it you probably came to the conclusion that Jesus had another agenda besides the physical health of those around him, and you would be correct. What would you do if you had the gift to heal any disease, any disorder and any disability? I doubt you would be doing what you are doing now. You would probably feel that you were given this gift so that you could use it to help people (insert the Spider-Man code: With great power comes great responsibility). You might travel the world healing children and those terminally ill. Or maybe you would set up a permanent location so that people could come to you (that would be very efficient and American :)). Jesus did not do either of those things. Instead his miracles were strategically done for reasons beyond just the healing of the individual. Here are some reasons that Dr. Craig Blomberg (Jesus and the Gospels) gives for why Jesus did miracles in his ministry:

1) Jesus used miracles to support his claims as to who he was. [Luke 5:17-26; Mark 4:41]
2) Jesus used miracles to support his message of the Kingdom of God. [John 9]
3) Jesus used miracles as a means to support people's faith in him. [John 2:11; 14:8-11]

My experience this morning fits mostly with #3. My faith in the Lord has been encouraged. I wanted to pass on this experience so that your faith might be encouraged along with mine.
Romans 1:11, "I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong- that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith." (TNIV)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Who wrote Matthew's Gospel and do we care?

Recently, I have been doing some reading on introductory issues to the Gospel of Matthew. One of the fascinating things about studying the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) is how much Matthew and Luke have in common with Mark's Gospel. Most scholars recognize what appears to be a high level of dependence on Mark as a source by the two other authors. In fact almost every verse in Mark is found in Matthew, Luke or both! Luke explicitly states that he did research before writing his Gospel and it makes sense that Matthew would have acted similarly.
Another interesting observation about Matthew's Gospel is that the Gospel has no claim to be written by the apostle Matthew (aka. Levi, formerly a tax collector). Our main reason for attributing it him as the author comes from several Church Fathers [Eusebius quoting a certain Papias (c. 125)]. This is strong external evidence (in other words evidence outside the Gospel itself). Even though there are difficulties understanding Papias' comments, they definitely indicate that Matthew wrote something.
A third interesting point about Matthew's Gospel comes from the previous two observations put together. If Matthew the apostle did write the Gospel and he used Mark as a source, then it is incredible that when he relates his own calling by Jesus (Matt 9) he uses Mark as his source! Perhaps by analogy this is the same as someone else writing your testimony of how you "got saved", and you using it instead of just writing your own version. This issue (and a few others) has caused Matthean authorship to be doubted by some biblical scholars.
But here is my point (finally, you may be saying); does it matter if Matthew wrote the Gospel or not? If there were an explicit, internal claim inside the Gospel itself that Matthew was the author, then I would say, "yes! it matters a lot", because then we have to evaluate whether the author was lying or being honest. But in this case no such self-acknowledgment exists. Perhaps we can treat Matthew's Gospel as we treat the book of Hebrews; included in the canon by the early church and therefore seen as authoritative presently, even though we don't know who wrote it.
Personally I think Matthew the apostle is the likely author based on the testimony of some of the early Church Fathers and some other arguments. I don't think I would die for this opinion though. Here is an area were conservative Christians who value "Matthew's" Gospel as authoritative and inspired need to be careful that we acknowledge the tentativeness of authorship for this book and not allow it to wreck our faith. Perhaps I am minimalizing something that means more for you. Are there other problems that develop from acknowledging only a tentative authorship for this Gospel?

Friday, February 4, 2011


Perhaps my greatest frustration with the new semester comes from the fact that I’m not done with last semester yet... I received an extension to finish my Calvin paper over the break, with a due date of March 1st. As of this writing, it’s coming together with two pages written so far.

My paper explores John Calvin’s view of material goods and how that does or does not solve the problem of political/economic corruption. The interesting answer to the question is Calvin’s own perspective on human nature and the problem of corruption. We’re wrecked by sin. Man, apart from God is completely, utterly, fantastically unable to effect anything good. Even the appearance of good in the unbeliever is only a relative good enabled by the grace of God.

Solving the problem of sin begins with the initiative of God. If you’re not familiar with Calvinism, God in His infinite mercy chose some individuals from the wreckage of humanity and chose them to salvation. Those who are chosen hear and believe the message of Christ and become Christians who then follow God through their entire lives and ultimately live blissfully in heaven with Him. It’s not my purpose in this post to discuss the process of salvation, but to understand the life of a Christian as it relates to solving political/economic corruption. It’s a nuts-and-bolts kind of a question that I am trying to answer. What process can we effect to solve self-interest that exceeds its proper bounds to become corruption?

Calvin’s answer is interesting: his explicit solution is that individual persons must devote themselves fully to the person of God. A person should view him/herself as the very possession of God. I am not my own, I belong to Another. I like that solution, but what the heck does that actually look like? When I am confronted by temptation to sin I should… what? Remember that I am not my own… Calvin actually does go farther in the way he influenced the church and I think this first, internal attitude is pointless without the second part. I am not my own and I am accountable for my actions. And not only that touchy-feely accountable to the Jesus-who-loves-me kind of garbage (French accent) that passes for Christian accountability but also the kind of accountability where you have to actually confess your wrongs to the people whom you have sinned against. Maybe even work to make things right (shock).

This dual principle of ownership (I am not my own) and accountability form twin principles of the human relation to wrongdoing that pertain to all of society. When you sin against your marriage partner, you aren’t hiding anything from God and you need to handle it. The same is true for sins against your friends, your family, your church and your country. You are not your own and you will be held to account.