Ask Mike Day (March 18-22, 2019)


(Carson Weitnauer) #1

Hi friends, @Interested_In_Ask_RZIM,

I’m so encouraged to share with you that Mike Day is back for another round in the hot seat! Some of the topics he addresses in his talks are:

  • Can a Thinking Person Believe in God?
  • Can We Trust the Bible?
  • Christianity and Freedom: Help or Hindrance?
  • Jesus: Myth, Man, or More Than?

I look forward to learning from your questions and his engagement with the issues you raise!


Mike Day’s RZIM biography:

Mike is currently a Senior Adjunct speaker for RZIM. He joined the speaking team in September 2016 after graduating from the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics (OCCA). He later completed his post-graduate studies in Theology at the University of Oxford. He further holds a post-graduate certificate in education (PGCE) from the University of South Africa and a first-class bachelors degree in English Literature and Classics from the University of Cape Town. Mike has taught English at an all-boys high school and was a member of staff at a church in Cape Town for five years.

After studying and working in the UK for two years, Mike is based in Cape Town but speaks in varied contexts across South Africa and Africa. He is passionate about communicating the reasons for and relevance of the Christian worldview, particularly with respect to the historicity of Jesus and the Bible, identity, ethics, issues of mental health, and questions to do with suffering and meaning. When he isn’t thinking too seriously about these issues, Mike enjoys running, writing, reading, and South African braais .

(Moses) #2

Hello Mike, Thanks for your time!

How would you answer this question - Is the bible relevant today?

For instance the pictures of stories in the historical books of the bible does not seem to match to today’s reality and some of the practices that Paul suggests for churches does not apply for the day (Women should be quiet in church) and many more gaps.

Why do you think the Bible is still relevant today?

(Bill Brander) #3

God day Mike, Carson says some of your talks are:

Where can we read listen to these relevant topics please?

(Kathleen) #4

Mike! Welcome back, brother. So glad to have you with us this week. :slight_smile:

As we are in the Lenten season, I wanted to ask you about some of the study you’ve done on the death and resurrection of Jesus. When trying to wrap your mind around penal substitutionary atonement, what was one of the things you found most surprising? Were there any insights that opened things up for you a bit?

As background to this question, I am reading NT Wright’s The Day the Revolution Began in the lead up to Holy Week, and I am finding it refreshing! Sometimes I think we, as evangelicals, can be guilty of only preaching that God is angry at our moral failures, and that His wrath needs to be satisfied…which is where Jesus (thank goodness!) comes in… :thinking: I don’t doubt Jesus’ role as the Passover lamb, but I think that when we keep Him only in that role we miss the larger picture. Would love to hear some of your thoughts!

P.S. I also wanted to thank you for your response on women in ministry last time you were here. I’ve directed people to it on a number of threads, and it’s been an encouragement to many folks. Your time and thought was (and is) much appreciated!

(Omar Rushlive Lozada Arellano) #5

Hello Mike,

I’m just wondering how you would answer these skeptical objections:

  1. Don’t use the Bible to prove the Bible.
  2. How can you be sure that the gospel writers wrote the gospels which are named after them?
  3. How can you be sure that what’s written about Jesus’ words and deeds are really what Jesus said and did?

Thank you so much for your time! :slight_smile:

(Michael Day) #7

Hi Bill,

Thanks for your message. Here is a link to a few of these talks:

(1) Can a thinking person believe in God?:

(2) Jesus: Myth, Man or More Than?:

I hope this helps!

(Michael Day) #8

Hi Moses,

Thanks for your question, it is a good one. You are picking up on an important aspect of reading the Bible, which must form part of our interpretive process. Let me try to explain below briefly.

Firstly, there are a number of reasons Christians have come to believe the Bible is relevant; here are a few that come to mind immediately:

(1) The believability of Jesus.
Christians are persuaded that the central person of the Scriptures (Jesus, who is the full revelation of God in history) is who he said he is. That is, the who at the center of the Scriptures is true and significant and therefore what is said about him is utterly relevant to all people at all times.

(2) It accurately describes the state of the world.
If we came to the Bible and it said things like ‘up is down’ or ‘murder is a virtue’ we would rightfully feel it was giving us a false picture of reality. But this is not the case. What we see is it talking about an initial state of innocence (creation), a departure from this intended design (the fall), an intervention to put things to rights (redemption) and a day when all will fully be put right (new creation). All this accords with what we see and long for as human beings.

(3) It’s claims can be tested historically
We can actually weigh what is said in the Scriptures with what evidence external to the Bible (e.g. other historical documents, treaties etc.) This includes claims about various nations, places, building projects, wars, materials, names, lineages etc. When it comes to Jesus, his life, ministry, death and resurrection are claims that can also be weighted for their historical probability. When this is done, it is clear that the Bible plays an important part not just in providing revelation, but revelation in history.

(4) The biblical documents can be historically verified.
How the canon of Scripture came together is a historical process that we can test and trace back to the earliest witnesses to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus (without doubt the most central figure in all history). The preservation of the apostolic proclamation found in the Scriptures makes the Bible very relevant. But even if one doesn’t accept the Bible as telling a true story, even the historical importance of Jesus to human history makes it relevant.

(5) The Bible and Jesus testify to the relevance of the Bible.
Here Scriptures like 2 Peter 1:20-21 and 2 Timothy 3:16-17 come to mind, which attribute the writing of Scripture to the prior inspiration of God’s own spirit. Jesus also has an incredibly high view of Scripture (e.g. John 10:35). The Bible possesses truths that are ‘eternal’, in that they describe the truth about the eternal God. What is true about this being will always be relevant.

(6) Its power is evident in individual lives today
People are still encountering the truth recorded in the Bible in the 21st century in powerful ways. This point alone should give us pause to admit its relevance in our society and personal lives. People are meeting Jesus, which means the Bible’s importance is not stuck somewhere in 1st century Palestine.

But here we come to the point you were hinting at regarding interpretation. While the the Bible possesses God’s eternal truth, it also comes to us through a particular historical period. The interpretive pattern that we need to follow, then, is to glean the biblical principle without getting stuck in particular cultural customs into which certain texts were written (there are, of course, some texts that are very clear, e.g. “Do not get drunk on wine”). Others require greater cultural flexibility: for example, greeting each other with a ‘holy kiss’ would have been entirely appropriate in Paul’s day, but in many cultures today it is not. What we take from this command is to be warm and hospitable to brothers and sisters in the church. If we take the heart of the principle and apply it to our current contexts, the Scriptures remain absolutely relevant.

Let me give the last word on this point to Gordon Fee:

“Because the Bible is God’s Word, it has eternal relevance; it speaks to all humankind, in every age and in every culture… But because God chose to speak his Word through human words in history, every book in the Bible also has historical particularity; each document is conditioned by the language, time and culture in which it was originally written.”

  • Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth (2005), p. 21.

(Jeremiah Schuler) #10

Hey Mike, I just had this question pop into my head and thought to post it here.
Why do we not have any written material from Jesus himself?

(Michael Day) #11

Hi Omar,

Thank you for your questions. I will happily take the first of these on now and try to circle back to the others at a later stage, if that is ok.

Using the Bible to prove the Bible

My first response to someone asking this question would be to probe the implicit hostility towards the Bible. Maybe with a question: what are the reasons that we ought to disregard the Bible itself as a source of evidence? Perhaps a follow-up challenge would include the question of whether the same strict criteria is applied to other books or not. For example, ought we to exclude Shakespeare’s works from the attempt to understand anything further about Shakespeare or Elizabethan society more broadly? On the one hand, it seems to me a strange standard to implement in general and, on the other, it wouldn’t make sense to apply this standard arbitrarily to the Bible, whilst not to other books.

The next thing to say: of course we need to go to the Bible to see if the Bible is trustworthy. Refer to my previous response for more on this (Ask Mike Day (March 18-22, 2019)), but suffice to say: if what we see in the Bible is internally coherent and corresponds to reality then it bolsters its case for authenticity.

Lastly, I do however understand the concern of ‘circular reasoning’ that may be in the questioner’s mind. So while we may go to the Bible to test consistency, coherence, correspondence, as well as pragmatic value, we may also go beyond the Bible. We do this to test its comparative accuracy with other historical texts and palaeontological, archaeological, sociological, architectural, and anthropological findings, amongst others. If the extrabiblical testimony accords with what is in the Bible, then the case is strengthened for the Bible’s reliability. Both internal evidence and external evidence is crucial for determining truthfulness.

I hope this helps a bit with your first question!
Mike :slight_smile:

(Michael Day) #12

Hi Jeremiah,

Thanks for your question! I am not sure I have a complete answer on this one, so let me shoot from the hip and offer a few preliminary thoughts.

Firstly, when we consider the evidence it is very likely that Jesus was literate. Three passages in the Gospels suggest Jesus could read:
(1) In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus stood up to read from the scroll of Isaiah (Lk 4:16-20).
(2) In John’s Gospel, we are told Jesus bent down to ‘write’ something with his finger in the dust (Jn 8:6; though this may have been nothing more than doodling and so is inconclusive about his literacy).
(3) In John’s Gospel again, it is asked of Jesus: “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?” (Jn 7:15). Craig A. Evans in his book Jesus and His World points out the importance here: “Literally, they have asked how he ‘knows letters’ (Gk grammata oiden), ‘not having studied’ or ‘not having learned’” (p. 202).

Evans offers a conclusion: “Although there is no unambiguous evidence for the literacy of Jesus, there is considerable contextual and circumstantial evidence that suggests that in all probability he was literate” (p. 206).

The question then is: assuming Jesus was literate, why did he not write anything himself? Here we get into a bit of conjecture. It seems that Jesus had a very specific focus to his ministry - that of proclaiming and demonstrating the Kingdom of God. After a successful day of healings, Jesus removes himself from that situation to refocus on the core of his mission. He says to the crowds: “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose” (Lk 4:43, bold mine). Perhaps this singular focus accounts for his lack of direct written testimony. Or perhaps the intention the whole time was for his apprentices to take up that responsibility at some point.

We are conjecturing a bit here, but the good news is that we have written evidence about the person and ministry of Jesus from credible, eyewitness sources (his disciples). This meant that while Jesus was getting on with his specific work of the kingdom, they were watching, listening, perhaps even recording what they witnessed.

I hope this helps to stir further thought, your question certainly has for me!

(Curran Harms) #13

Hello Mike,

I have a question. I have two beautiful daughters. One is almost 2 and the other is almost 6. I began trying to teach the oldest daughter apologetics along with the bible. In fear of how schools have become more resistant to allowing anything Christian related into the front doors of a school. I want to prep her early and at a young age to be prepared for the years to come to defend Jesus.

The problem is, most apologetic material is very adult based and hard to bring to a child’s learning level. Do you know of any books, materials, or any way I can reach my daughter in this field at a young age to prep her? I hear more and more stories of professors telling kids that their familes and churches are wrong and teaching their atheistic viewpoints. I want my daughters prepped for any day like that to come if it does.

(Jeremiah Schuler) #14

Thank you so much for answering my question. It really helped!

(Michael Day) #15

Hi Curran,

Wow, thank you for this question and for your inspiring desire to prepare your children to follow Christ in this post-Christian climate. The short answer is that I cannot think of a resources off the top of my head, so I will do some digging and get back to you soonest.

A few thoughts have popped to mind while reading your post.

  • First, it feels to me the most important thing we could do for our children is to teach them (in word and example) to love the Lord with all their heart, soul, strength and mind. Apologetics will only be effective built on a foundation of genuine relationship with God, meaning that the priority will be inviting them into this dynamic relationship. And then continuing to walk with them as they ask questions, make decisions, and mature into pre-teen and then adolescent years.

  • Second, it is helpful to teach them from as early as it is appropriate that they will come across different opinions, views of the world and people. This will take away the shock factor and, if communication lines remain open, they will be able to express hurt, frustration, confusion etc. to parents when the moment occurs. Hopefully, this will also mean they will be better prepared to make friends with people who are different and communicate with them. This is much needed in today’s society.

  • Third, it is fantastic if children can grow up knowing that it is totally ok to be open about their love for God and faith in Christ with others (even strangers). No shame or fear attached to this whatsoever. Perhaps there will be necessary growth in the approach to sharing, but rather the openness to do so and have to be corrected than be terrified of being ‘found out’ as a Christian and so remain silent.

Thanks again Curran, I appreciate your question a lot. I will attempt to find a helpful resource and get back to you. Perhaps someone will read this thread and know of something already.

Warm regards,
Mike :slight_smile:

(gerhard NvC) #16

Hello Mike-
I noticed that, like last time, Kathleen has left you with a cracker that unsurprisingly takes the longest to answer.

I have a slightly different interpretation of the biblical text when it comes to the atonement bit, as I do not see death to be God’s penalty for sin and no wrath to be satisfied as God is just. He can’t have any wrath against his own creation as it would make him logically incoherent.

Hitchins compares the concept of “penal substitutionary atonement” with the concept of scapegoating, the latter apparently being a ritual to appease the devil. Considering that God had rejected human sacrifice to him, which demarcated the Jewish religion from that of its neighbours. As such, I understand that Jesus died for me as a sacrifice of God to me… by letting Jesus bear the cross so I can understand not only that what we perceive as unbearable suffering can be endured if we are with God, and that if we are with God we can live in Jesus as he can live in us. I just can’t imagine an angry God as it would be incoherent with his omniscience about his creation

Peter Adam of the gospel coalition criticises NT Wright for being intellectually weak and attacking a straw man, whilst I think he addresses the likes of the new atheist who clearly argue the same way. As even William Lane Craig thinks death to be the punishment for sin, I wonder if we all lost it in the fall, as I can’t see any mention of death being introduced as a punishment for sin.

It says that on the day they eat from the tree they will die. This is to me a warning of the logical consequence of eating from the tree of self-realisation. Becoming your own self separates you from being part of God , e.g. enacting his authority, thus from his eternal existence. It makes you define yourself in your material existence, thus death is the logical consequence of that definition as material existence is time dependent.

Craig says:

“N. T. Wright, for example, characterizes these traditional atonement theories as saying that God so hated the world that he killed his only son. That is obviously not what Anselm and the Reformers were saying. From start to finish these theories recognize that the atonement is motivated by God’s love. It is out of God’s overwhelming love and grace expressed toward sinners that he gives in the person of Christ this substitutionary atonement on our behalf thereby satisfying the demands of his own justice.”

With that said, I am eager for your thoughts on penal substitution as well, particularly in the context of justification for God’s “wrath” and his call for a “death penalty” as a demand of his justice. Would he not want us to come back to him from our materialistic life as to break down the barrier that keeps us apart from him and see our farewell to our physical life as a new beginning? Isn’t that what he showed us in Christ?

Question on the atonement
(Curran Harms) #18

Thank you so much!!! I appreciate it

(Moses) #19

Thank you very much Mike for your elaborate reply! God bless

(Michael Day) #20

Hey Kathleen,

Again, what an awesome question – thanks for throwing this my way. Apologies on the delay in getting back to this, I was hoping to wait for some more time to have a ‘real’ crack at it. However, it turns out time is getting away with me, so I may need to provide my holding answer for now and send you something more detailed a little later, if that’s ok? My apologies!

I think the biggest point I would like to highlight has to do with the general frameworks we use to interpret the death of Jesus. I am inclined to agree that we hear a lot about Jesus as satisfying God’s perfect justice through his death and resurrection, so that sinners might be pardoned and receive eternal life. This is certainly part of the story, but I can’t help but feel it slants the story too much in one direction. N.T. Wright offers a helpful corrective to this by saying that the Gospel is not merely about salvation from wrath so that we can ‘go to heaven when we die’ (I too loved his book The Day the Revolution Began , which majors on this, and very much recommend Christians give it a read). It is not about going to heaven, says Wright, but New Heavens and New Earth ( pace Rev 21-22): that is, humankind being re-formed as genuine, image-bearing, vocational beings who embody the rule and reign of God on earth as it is in heaven. We are being re-given our vocation through the Victory of God on the cross. This of course includes the forgiveness of sins, but places it within a different story – the story of God gaining the victory over the powers of darkness and restoring humanity to their original vocation. For me, we fall short of the immensity of the Gospel reality if we stop at personal salvation without going on to see the expansiveness of Christ’s cosmic, restorative victory.

One of the ways to avoid the error of over-emphasising one theory of atonement at the expense of another, is to balance out the various NT “images of salvation” provided (Alister McGrath’s terminology). McGrath carries on in his book Making Sense of the Cross to say there are five main images that the NT highlights to make sense of the meaning of the cross, namely: ‘images from a battlefield’ (victory), ‘images from a court of law’ (justification), ‘images from a relationship’ (adoption), ‘images from a prison’ (redemption) and ‘images from a hospital’ (healing). Stephen Holmes does something similar in his book The Wondrous Cross , arguing for multiple “stories of salvation” and further translating them into corresponding social contact points – i.e. temple, marketplace, law court and living room (he misses out the hospital). The point in all this, it seems to me, is that the Bible argues for multiple images that can help us make sense of the immensity of the cross, one such image being the law court. However, it seems to me that in order to hold a biblical view we need to hold the various pictures in tension with each other. The danger of focusing, for example, on the legal metaphor to the exclusion of the relational metaphor means that we may end up with a forensic faith lacking in warmth and joy. On the other hand, focusing solely on the relational metaphor (i.e. removing God’s wrath at sin from the picture) may lead us to a casual view of sin and ultimately to a casual view of God. What we need is biblical balance. Not one metaphor elevated over another, but each given equal weight.

In Romans 3:23-25 alone, Paul uses three different images in a single unit of thought:

…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified [legal] by his grace as a gift, through the redemption [prison/ market place] that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation [temple] by his blood, to be received by faith.

I will give the last word to Alister McGrath: “The problem with many approaches to the cross is not so much that they are wrong, as that they are inadequate.”

I hope this helps a bit!
Mike :slight_smile:

(Carson Weitnauer) closed #21

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