Each chapter begins with the phrase: “I Could Never Believe in a God Who…”
A God Who Hasn’t Proven His Existence
A God Who Gave Us a Faulty Bible
A God Who Condoned Genocide in the Old Testament
A God Who Creates Hateful, Hypocritical Followers
A God Who Suppresses Women and Minorities
A God Who Sends People to Hell
A God Who Says Some Love is Wrong
A God Who Lets Bad Things Happen to Good People
A God Who Doesn’t Answer My Prayers
Book Signing This Sunday
For those who are within driving distance of Longmont, Colorado, this Sunday I will be signing copies of the book after each of our 3 services at White Fields Church. We will have copies for sale on site. If you can make it out, I’d love to see you there!
In this episode, Michael interviews me and Curt, who edited the book, as we discuss the backstory behind how it came about, as well as the content of the chapters, and who this book is for.
I hope this book will be a great resource to help both those who are wrestling through facing these barriers to embracing Christianity, as well as those who seek to be equipped to help their family and friends move from doubt to belief.
I’d love it if you’d consider buying a copy of the book, and if you’d help spread the word about it online!
Book Release Announcement & Preview – The God I Won't Believe In: Facing Nine Common Barriers to Embracing Christianity –
Theology for the People
Nick wrote a book! It's coming out March 6, 2022 and is available for pre-order on Amazon here.
The book is titled, The God I Won't Believe In: Facing Nine Common Barriers to Embracing Christianity.
In this episode, Nick sits down with Michael Payne and Curt Fuller, who edited the book, the discuss how the book came about, who it's for, and what it's about.
Make sure to visit the Theology for the People blog at nickcady.org for more articles and content.
Looking for some light reading? How about an audio book for your next leisurely drive? This might not be it. If you’re looking for a short but extremely thoughtful book with intensely helpful cultural insights, then here you go:
Smith’s purpose in writing a book about a book is that A Secular Age is both intimidating in its size and is written in a way which is inaccessible to many readers who would benefit from its content. I for one, though I am intrigued by Taylor’s book and its analysis of modern secular culture, balked at the 900+ page tome.
The Imminent Frame: Haunted by Transcendence
Smith’s book introduces you to Taylor’s key concepts and arguments, as well as some of his key terms, such as his analysis of the secular mindset as the “imminent frame.” This reminded me of a conversation I had with a relative years ago, who is my same age (an older millennial); when we started talking about the existence of God, she said, “Maybe God does exist, but: who cares?”
The imminent frame is only concerned with what is right in front of them, “the here and now”, and yet, Taylor explains that exclusive humanists who inhabit the imminent frame are “haunted by transcendence.” Smith points this out by quoting lyrics from The Postal Service:
And I’m looking through the glass Where the light bends at the cracks And I’m screaming at the top of my lungs Pretending the echoes belong to someone Someone I used to know
The Postal Service, “We Will Become Silhouettes”
Basically, no matter how much a person claims to not care whether God exists, or there is life after death, they are haunted by thoughts of it. I remember another family member describing how utterly terrified she was of dying, yet when I asked her what she believed about life after death, she said she doesn’t know, and assumes there is nothing. I don’t believe her: why be afraid of nothing? There is a nagging, haunting hunch in the heart and mind of every person, that there is something more than this life and this world… A God to whom they will answer, an existence beyond the grave.
Another aspect of the secular, exclusive humanism is the concept Taylor called “the buffered self”, which refers to the idea that an individual is an island unto themselves: that there is a firm boundary between the self and others, as opposed to the “porous self” which characterized people in previous eras.
James K.A. Smith’s book is not just a summary though, he also applies many of Taylor’s ideas to Christianity: both how Christianity contributed to and is influenced by this modern secular age.
I first listened to half of this book via audiobook on a drive to climb La Plata Peak, a Colorado 14-er. Later on, I picked up a hard copy to read as well, as there are some parts of the book which aren’t particularly well-suited for digesting properly listening at 1.5 speed while driving at dawn through the mountains.
One phrase Smith used, which my friend who was listening with me in the car ended up discussing for a while afterwards was: Epistemic Pelagianism. It’s the kind of phrase that forces you to hit the pause button and break it down in order to unpack what these two words together mean.
Epistemology = the theory of knowledge, especially with regard to its methods, validity, and scope. Epistemology is the investigation of what distinguishes justified belief from opinion. Epistemology deals with questions like, “How can we know that what we believe is really accurate or true? To what degree do we have the capacity to accurately discern truth and/or reality?”
Pelagianism = Pelagius (354 – 418 AD) was a theologian who denied the doctrine of original sin. He argued for the innate goodness of human beings and for absolute free will. Pelagius argued for these things in contrast to Augustine of Hippo, who taught from the Scriptures that human beings are fallen, and our fallen condition affects our will and nature.
“Epistemic Pelagianism” therefore refers to the idea that as human beings, we are capable of figuring everything out by ourselves, without any help from God.
Epistemic pelagianism denies the fact that we don’t see everything clearly. It denies the idea that, apart from God’s intervention in our lives, we are fallen, limited beings whose hearts are not pure. It places far to much confidence, to the point of hubris, in our ability to accurately discern and interpret the data we take in, in a way that can lead us to all truth, apart from any intervention or help from God.
Rather than epistemic pelagianism, the Bible teaches us that without God’s help, we cannot see clearly, and are incapable of objectively assessing and interpreting things. We need God to remove the blinders from our eyes, in order for us to see clearly.
This biblical epistemology leads us to humility rather than hubris; it leads us to the conclusion that we can’t see or know everything, that we can be wrong.
The Bible teaches that we only see in part, as in a mirror dimly (1 Corinthians 13:12), that a natural person is incapable of comprehending all truth apart (1 Corinthians 1:14), that our hearts are fundamentally broken and have a tendency to mislead us (Jeremiah 17:9), and therefore it is possible to hear and not understand, to see and not perceive (Acts 28:26).
There are things that we can know (Romans 1:19), but even in those cases we have a tendency to suppress that knowledge if we don’t like the conclusions it would lead to (Romans 1:18)
Thus, confidence in our ability, or willingness for that matter, to comprehend and follow the truth, apart from God’s intervention, is misguided. Instead, we need to take a more realistic and humble view of ourselves, which admits that we need outside assistance in order to receive, comprehend, and appropriately respond to the truth.
Ultimately, we see that theology shapes the way you view all of life. Modern exclusive secularism is based, at least in some part, on bad theology which is clearly refuted in the Bible. Good, robust, comprehensive Biblical theology therefore, is an antidote to many modern philosophical pitfalls.
If you’re looking for an accessible book that helps you understand Charles Taylor’s piercing insights into the exclusive humanism which is prevalent in many of today’s Western cities, as well as the cracks in those theories, and ways in which the gospel uniquely speaks to people today, check out James K.A. Smith’s book How (Not) to Be Secular, but make sure to take the time to break down and digest each sentence.
I like to joke that as a pastor I only work one day a week, but the truth is that on average most pastors work 50-60 hours a week. This time is spent managing, planning, corresponding – and of course: studying and preparing a sermon.
Sermon preparation can take a lot of time, especially for a perfectionist. I know that I have often certainly spent an inordinate amount of time preparing my sermons before; partly because I consider it a high and holy calling to preach and teach the Word of God, and also because it is something I enjoy doing and I want to do it well, in a way that truly honors God and impacts peoples’ lives.
So how much time should a preacher spend on preparing a sermon?
I heard one well-known pastor say once at a conference that he only spent about four hours per week preparing his message. He then added that this is because he has a team of people who do all of his research for him, and he takes the material they bring him and organizes it into a message. Most pastors don’t have this luxury, nor would they want someone else doing their studying for them.
A friend of mine who pastors a small church told me that he spends 30 hours per week preparing for his Sunday message. He also has a midweek service, for which he prepares about 15 hours. The result of that is that he doesn’t have time for anything else except sermon preparation. In other words: he doesn’t have any time left over to be a pastor (Greek for “shepherd”) to his congregation. He is only a preacher. Particularly in smaller congregations, it is important that a pastor not only be a preacher, but a shepherd, and he and I both agreed that his time allocation in this area was more of a detriment than a blessing to his congregation.
As for myself, in addition to my regular duties as a pastor, I have a wife and young children who I like spending time with, and in the past few months I have taken on hosting a live radio show once a week and I’m studying for my Masters, which requires about 16 hours of my attention every week. All this means that I need to be good at managing my time well, not only for my own benefit, but for the benefit of my family and my church.
So I was intrigued a few weeks ago when a friend recommended this book: 8 Hours or Less: Writing Faithful Sermons Faster by Ryan Huguley. It sounded a bit gimmicky to me at first, but after reading it, I think it’s a great resource that I would recommend. Basically, in the book, he outlines a plan for your week, which has you doing certain tasks each day for an hour or two, which help you focus and write better sermons faster. I think that’s really key; it’s not hard to write sermons faster – the question is if they will be good sermons. The system he lays out is intended not only to improve the speed, but also the quality of sermons.
One part which was foreign to me is that on Tuesdays he has you study the text and review your outline with a small group of people. This is probably the part I was most hesitant about, but the part which I have enjoyed the most.
If the end result is better sermons and more time for a pastor to spend pastoring people, leading the church and preparing for the future, and having more time for their families, that’s a win-win-win. I recommend this book whole-heartedly.
I have been doing some premarital counseling for a young couple recently, and was feeling unsatisfied with materials I’d used in the past, so I picked up a copy of Tim and Kathy Keller’s book, The Meaning of Marriage.
My expectations weren’t particularly high; I figured it would be similar to all the other marriage books I’ve read before, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised. In fact, although I’m not finished with it yet, I have been impressed by how much they address many of the questions which I think people today are really asking: questions like why couples shouldn’t live together before getting married, or whether the biblical command for wives to submit to their husbands isn’t outdated at best and misogynistic at worst.
One of the things which Tim Keller is really good at is something called ‘presuppositional apologetics’ – which means understanding another person’s position and point of view so well that you are able to articulate it in such a way that they themselves would say, “I couldn’t have put it better myself!” It is only when you have done that first that you can really begin to show someone the flaws in their concepts, because you have proven that you really do understand where they are coming from and why they think the way they do. That will always be much more effective than just stating your view loudly.
As I was reading this book today, I came across something which I found very insightful. Speaking about “woundedness,” which they describe as “compounded self-doubt and guilt, resentment and disillusionment” which results from hurtful experiences from past relationships – here is what they say is the effect of woundedness: Woundedness makes us self-absorbed.
When you begin to talk to wounded people, it is not long before they begin talking about themselves. They’re so engrossed in their own pain and problems that they don’t realize what they look like to others. They are not sensitive to the needs of others. They don’t pick up on the cues of those who are hurting, or, if they do, they only do so in a self-involved way. That is, they do so with a view of helping to “rescue” them in order to feel better about themselves.
They get involved with others in an obsessive and controlling way because they are actually meeting their own needs, though they deceive themselves about this. We are always, always the last to see our self-absorption.
When you point out selfish behavior to a wounded person, he or she will say, “Well, maybe so, but you don’t understand what it is like.” The wounds justify the behavior.
– Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, pp. 60-61
I have certainly experienced this in other people, but as I read it, it made me also think of myself – because as they say: We are always the last to see our own self-absorption.
The common view in our society of how to cure this problem is by encouraging people towards self-realization: to focus on themselves, finding themselves and seek to fulfill themselves. Ironically, this encourages already self-absorbed people towards further self-absorption, and actually is counterproductive for that person in further relationships, because it encourages them to think that their feelings and desires should take preeminence in the relationship because of all that they have been through.
The biblical view on this is to realize that self-absorption is part of our fallen nature, and that it is actually in giving up our self-centeredness, embracing that Jesus died for the sins which have been committed against us and focusing our attention on honoring God and on serving others, and put those things before ourselves, that we will find the life and the happiness which will actually fulfill us – and the cure for poisonous self-absorption.
I took my son to the store on Sunday night to buy some trading cards for a game he plays. As we were walking around the store, a book caught my eye.
The title: “God is Not Mad at You.” To be fair, I haven’t read this book, however, I did take the time to go and read some reviews of it online to see if my initial assumptions about the message of this book would turn out to be mistaken. It would seem from these reviews that they were not.
Here’s the thing: the author is correct, God is not mad at you…that is unless, of course, He is.
What do I mean? What I mean is that God is mad at some people – and rightly so! The Bible makes it very clear that God “opposes” some people, and that God considers some people “enemies.” In fact, “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” (Romans 1:18) and the objects of His wrath are in fact people (Ephesians 2:1-3)!
After all, isn’t it only right that God should be mad about some things AND at some people? The Bible, in both Old and New Testaments, makes it explicitly clear that there are things which God abhors, and which we should also abhor, for example: injustice, deceit, abuse. God is mad about these things, and more than that: God is mad at the people who do these things. God is mad at the person who exploits another or takes advantage of them from a position of power. God is mad when children are abused, when women are raped, when racial injustice occurs, and God is mad at the people who do these things.
Here’s the thing: it’s easy for us to say, “Well, yeah, okay, I get what you’re saying: God is mad at the bad guys who do bad things. That makes sense… But aside from those guys, who need to know that what they are doing is wrong and that divine justice is promised, the rest of us need to be comforted and encouraged that God isn’t mad at us – after all, most of us aren’t that bad.”
The question is: who defines “bad”? And how bad do you have to be to be “bad.” The Bible says this: “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” (James 2:10) Furthermore, Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount and the Bible says elsewhere that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” and that “there is none who is good, no not one.”
What this all means that you and I are more sinful than we even realize, and therefore more deserving of God’s wrath than we even know.
But here’s the message of the Gospel: it’s not that you are a good person and therefore God isn’t mad at you – it’s that God LOVES you in spite of your sins and failures and shortcomings so much that He sent Jesus, the Divine Son, to die in your place, and absorb the wrath which you deserved.
What that means is that if you are in Christ, then indeed God is not mad at you – because Jesus became the “propitiation for our sins” (1 John 2:2), which means that he absorbed not only the legal judgment for our sins, but the righteous anger of God toward our sin.
If you are in Christ, then indeed: the message of the Gospel is that God is not mad at you
However, if you are not in Christ, then the Bible says that you are still in your sins. Jesus himself said this: “Unless you believe that I am He (the Messiah, the Savior), you will die in your sins.” (John 8:24). And if you are still in your sins, then the wrath of God remains on you! Again, Jesus himself said this very thing: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.” (John 3:36)
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them. – JESUS (John 3:36)
Here’s the point: God is not mad at you IF you are in Christ, because God’s wrath was poured out on Him in place of you – the undeserving in place of the deserving. Apart from Jesus, however, there is no such promise and no such hope.
The reason I take issue with this book is because it declares something to all people as a blanket statement, a broad generalization, which does indeed apply to some, but only some! To others, therefore, it gives a false sense of comfort and security, which actually does them a disservice.
The false prophets in the day of Jeremiah did the same thing. God had called Jeremiah to call the people of Judah to radical repentance, to turn away from sin and wickedness and turn with their whole hearts to God, and if they did that they would experience blessing. Jeremiah preached this message, which turned out to be radically unpopular, despite the fact that it was from God. At the same time, another group of prophets came with a message which was wildly popular, despite the fact that it wasn’t from God! Their message? “Don’t worry; be happy. God’s not mad at you. God just wants you to be happy, so just do your thing and don’t bother yourself with feelings of guilt or needing to repent.” About these false prophets, God said: “They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace.” (Jeremiah 6:14)
“They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace.” (Jeremiah 6:14)
The message of the Gospel is that Jesus died on the cross, so that God could end sin without ending us.
No matter who you are or what you’ve done, that is how much God loves you. If you are in Christ, if you have put your faith in Jesus as your Savior, as your righteousness, as the propitiation for your sins and as your Redeemer – then indeed, take comfort: God is not mad at you!
A few weeks ago I saw a promotion on Twitter, offering this book for free on Kindle. I assumed it would be somewhat cliché and predictable, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised!
The book is thoughtful and gives context to many verses which are frequently quoted out of context, and then explains how they are usually misapplied and gives their proper application.
If you’re looking for something to read, I recommend it.
Christianity suffers from too many trite clichés and platitudes; too many scriptures are stripped of their original meanings and used to say things they were never meant to say.
Here are a few quotes from the chapter on Matthew 7:1 – “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.”
When we take a closer look at the context of Matthew 7 and the teachings of the rest of Scripture, it is clear that this verse cannot be used to substantiate unrestrained moral freedom, autonomy, and independence. This was not Jesus’ intent. He was not advocating a hands-off approach to moral accountability, refusing to allow anyone to make moral judgments in any sense. Quite the opposite, Jesus was explicitly rebuking the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, who were quick to see the sins of others but were blind and unwilling to hold themselves accountable to the same standard they were imposing on everyone else.
No one will reach perfection in this life, but together we are to wage war against and forsake the sin that results from living in our fallen flesh. We are to “take off the old life,” so to speak, and “put on the new,” growing in holiness out of reverence for God. But the reality is we can’t accomplish this without the help of the indwelling Holy Spirit and the mutual encouragement and accountability of our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. We can’t do this alone; we need each other! This then, is why the apostles called us to help one another in our struggle with sin. For example, James says: My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins. (5: 19– 20 NIV 1984) Paul said something similar in the book of Galatians: Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (6: 1– 2 NIV 1984) Notice that both James and Paul assume two things. First, there will be times when fellow believers will wander off the straight and narrow path. Second, they assume that other Christians, out of love, will seek to come alongside that brother or sister in an effort to bring him or her back from the error of their ways and save them from the destructive power of sin (see Jesus’ method for doing this in Matthew 18: 15– 17). Since we have been commissioned to proclaim a message of repentance and faith to those outside the church who need to hear the good news, certainly we need to proclaim the same message of repentance and faith to those inside the church.
Therefore, Jesus does not forbid all moral judgment or accountability. Rather, he forbids harsh, prideful, and hypocritical judgment that condemns others outright without first evaluating one’s own spiritual condition and commitment to forsake sin. It is my contention that the popular misuse of “do not judge” reveals just how far the discipline of sound biblical study has slipped in recent years. More than that, it sheds light on the state of our culture, a culture that seeks to avoid accountability and responsibility for personal actions. This current trend and mentality runs counter to the teachings of Scripture. For the collective teaching of the Bible insists that those who are created in the image of God are morally responsible to God and to one another. So to use “do not judge” as a means of dismissing oneself from moral responsibility would be to interpret it in a way that pits it against the rest of Scripture.
Bargerhuff, Eric J. (2012-05-01). The Most Misused Verses in the Bible,Surprising Ways God’s Word Is Misunderstood (pp. 25-30). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
This book is worth the price. Check it out.
“Christianity teaches the infinite worth of that which is seemingly worthless and the infinite worthlessness of that which is seemingly so valued.”
I came across this quote from Dietrich Bonhöffer listening to the audio book of Eric Metaxas’ book Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. – (which is actually available for free if you sign up for a new account with Audible!)