He’s made a lot of enemies within the faith because he practices what he preaches: Hank tests everything others preach in light of scripture. And quite often, what others preach is found wanting. Word-of-faith preachers, faith healers, end-times apocalyptics, slain-in-the-Spirit babblers and pure heretics and apostates have all come under criticism from Hank and CRI, and consequently, he is hated and persecuted and told he is going to hell.
There’s too much for me to talk about in a simple blog post, so you’d have to tune in to his Bible Answer Man radio broadcast or go to http://www.equip.org/ to learn more. I didn’t have time to stand in line to actually meet him and get his autograph, but I did get a halfway decent picture or two. (They're a little blurry, though.)
Last night, Hank hit on one major, overriding theme: Christians MUST know scripture and must have “a ready defense” for their faith. Otherwise, they fall for the fads of the heretics and apostates, or have no answers for the attacks of the scoffers like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens.
“Jesus had an extraordinarily high view of scripture,” said Hank, “but in our culture, it is seriously and continually being challenged.”
For example, Hank described militant agnostic Bart D. Ehrman, in Misquoting Jesus, pointing to the passage in Mark 4 where Jesus Christ uses the parable of the mustard seed to describe how the church will go from the smallest speck to spread far and wide. Here’s the passage:
Again he said, "What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade."Ehrman takes this passage and twists it to make the ridiculous claim that Jesus couldn’t possibly be God because God would know that the mustard seed is not the smallest seed. Well, DUH! That wasn’t Jesus’ point. The smallest seed that a 1st century farmer in Palestine would know of was the mustard seed, and Jesus Christ would naturally use the most common frame of reference. What’s more, He was using an analogy to illustrate how the church would start tiny, like the mustard seed, and grow to immense proportions, like the full-grown mustard tree.
Hank’s point was to demonstrate that Christians can easily shut down such objections and criticisms but only if we read and study the Bible for all that it is worth. We need to know who, what, when, where, how and why. We need to know context. We need to know history.
We need to be able to demonstrate, with confidence, that the Bible is divine, not human, in origin. Keep in mind, Hank says, that God supernaturally preserved the Bible. The manuscript evidence has proven conclusively that there are differences in style and spelling between various ancient copies, but absolutely no differences in substance. Any mistakes we have today are errors in modern translations.
I’ll talk more in-depth about that another time. But Hank, as some may know, is not a believer in the popular view of the end times that has gripped much of the evangelical church. My understanding is mostly in line with his, and this is yet another area where Christians really need to study their Bible for all that it is worth—and do so without today’s headlines in mind. I know many Christians hold to the end times scenario promoted by many leading evangelicals, including John MacArthur, but I am increasingly convinced that it comes from a fundamental misreading of scripture. I’m preparing a series of posts to that effect, but I’ll just use Hank’s example from last night that illustrates holding to a high standard of reading the Bible for all that it’s worth.
A frequent example the atheist scoffers cite to disclaim the deity of Jesus Christ is His description of the description of Jerusalem in Matthew 24. If that chapter speaks of the destruction of Jerusalem with all of the horrible things accompanying it, AND the “Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn” and “they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory” AND “this generation will not pass away until all of these things have happened,” the scoffers claim that Jesus is a false prophet. Why? They say that Jesus did not return as He promised before “this generation” died, so therefore He is not God.
Latter-day Christians have compounded the problem by taking that passage, and combining it with other passages from Revelation and Daniel, to say that the entire chapter applies to the Second Coming.
Neither reading is correct, says Hank, and I totally agree. Jesus was forecasting the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. and was using apocalyptic metaphors to describe the coming judgment upon the current generation because it was rejecting and would reject Him, the messiah. The Lord, says Hank, was employing the same kind of language that the Old Testament prophets used when prophesying judgment upon Israel, peoples and nations. Why would the Lord speak any differently than His own prophets?
Hank argues that Christians need to understand what kind of language is being used, and recognize when Jesus is speaking literally and speaking with prophetic hyperbole. I totally agree. While I don’t believe that end times debates are something to divide over (Hank says this is one of the things to debate over within the pale of orthodoxy, and not divide over) it is something that needs serious re-evaluation within evangelical circles.
So, anyway, there are more things that he said that I’ll save for another time. To sum: Christians must read scripture for all that it’s worth. If they do that, they’ll be much better “prepared to give and answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” (1 Peter 3:15)