Archive for February, 2013

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Did God Create Evil?

February 20, 2013

On Sunday we studied Genesis One. God created everything and declared it to be good. When we observe our world, however, we see many things that are not good – events and actions that are just plain evil.

If God created everything, didn’t God create evil? My friend Jim and I investigate this question in our next short video in the God Really Series.

Enjoy!

Chris

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Debating the Days in Genesis One

February 17, 2013

 *This is a transcribed conversation. As a result little attention has been given to grammar because sentences and phrasing are written down as spoken and the note taking was done at breath taking speed. Spelling has also been relegated to secondary importance in order to capture the actual content as spoken. 

Young Earth Yvonne: Why don’t you believe that Genesis One teaches that God created in six literal days and, as a result the earth is very young? Why should popular science force us to reinterpret the Bible? Why should we bow the knee to the secularists?

Old Earth Olga: That is a good question. I don’t think we should bow the knee to the secularists, and I’m not sure we should ‘reinterpret’ the Bible in light of popular scientific opinion. But you know very well Yvonne, that Clement of Alexandria, St. Augustine, Anselm, and other Christians didn’t necessarily read Genesis one as referring to literal days long before Charles Lyell, the principle of Uniformity, and modern day geology and biology. You also know that many old earth creationists reject the theory of macroevolution so how can you say we are just submitting to modern science, over and opposed to God’s word?

Young Earth Yvonne: Well, fine but why do you read the Genesis Story the way you do, if it is not because of science?

Old earth Olga: I’ll give you a few reasons. The Hebrew word ‘Yom’ translated as day can refer to a literal 24-hour day in scripture. It can, however, also refer to an extended period of time. For example, Genesis 2:4, “ In the day (Yom) that the Lord made the earth and the heavens”… Here Moses is referring to a period of time. Here is another example, “Like the cold of snow in the time (yom) of harvest are faithful messengers to those who send them”. Here the word refers to an entire season. There are plenty of other examples in scripture.

Young Earth Yvonne: Of course, but…

Old Earth Olga: Wait, wait, wait, and let me finish. Secondly, reading the narrative as referring to 24-hour days creates difficulties in the narrative. For example, the sun and the moon don’t appear until the fourth day. This should indicate to the reader that this is not referring to literal days like ours. How could it be without the sun, or moon? Thirdly, on the third day God said, “Let the earth put forth vegetation”. As a result, “ the earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with seed in it”. This process would take longer than twenty four hours.

Young Earth Yvonne: How do you know?

Old Earth Olga: Well, the process takes a lot longer now!

Young Earth Yvonne: So what, it doesn’t mean it wasn’t different back then. God could have done a miracle, or the processes could have been quicker.

Old Earth Olga: God could have done a number of things but the text doesn’t say that. Everything about the process described on that day seems natural (God created the earth to bring forth vegetation) and there is no miracle hinted at but, again, maybe I should finish and then it will be your turn.

Young Earth Yvonne: Fine.

Old Earth Olga: On day six Adam named the animals. In ancient times people took this very seriously because they believed a name should reflect the character of the thing or person and Genesis 2:20 suggests that Adam approached his task in this manner because during the process he realized that none of the animals would be a fitting companion. Anyways, if Adam took five minutes per animal he only could have named 288 animals in a 24-hour period. Lastly, the seventh day doesn’t have an evening and a morning and the book of Hebrew’s says this day is still continuing to the present.

Now, all of the above suggest that Moses wasn’t intending 24-hour days. Also, don’t forget there are passages in scripture indicating an old earth. For example, Habakkuk refers to ‘eternal mountains’ and ‘everlasting hills’ (Hab 3:6) and even if these references are poetic they are suggestive of an old earth.

And, look, science shouldn’t determine our exegesis but the fact remains that the vast majority of scientists, across numerous disciplines, including Christians and non-Christians, find the evidence for an old earth very compelling and to insinuate that they are all deceived and their entire methodology is wrong headed and laden down with all types of erroneous assumptions, appears rash and (I think) hurts the witness of the church. And look it is not just about radiometric dating, which for all I know may have been different in the past though scientist don’t seem to think so, or the speed of light traveling from distant stars.

The evidence goes way beyond that. For example, the length of time required for liquid magma to cool (a million years for a large formation in California), the time and pressure required for the formation of many metamorphic rocks that contain small fossils (some apparently could only be formed by the pressure of being buried twelve to eighteen miles under ground and later brought to the surface – not by a catastrophic flood). When would this occur on the young earth view? In addition consider continental drift, which proceeds at two centimeters a year, requiring at least 20,000 years for Africa and South America to drift apart (there seems to be good evidence suggesting they were once together). Lastly, consider certain coral reefs, some of which would require hundreds of thousands of years to accumulate enough deposits to attain their present state. And don’t forget sedimentary layers in lakes and ice core samples that indicate an earth older then ten thousand years. I’m not even touching on the evidence from Astronomy.

 

Young Earth Yvonne: I’ve heard enough and I’ve heard this all before and all that ‘science’ at the end of your statement is assuming the principle of uniformity which basically  assumes  that causes in the past operated the way causes in the present operate (I know I put that crudely). How do you know the catastrophic flood didn’t produce a lot of ‘evidence’ you are citing? Have you even read the Genesis Flood by Henry Morris? Have you investigated a young earth creationist’s approach to the evidence? Why don’t you read some of the articles on Creation.com?

Needless to say, I must admit I am not convinced. Your weakest argument, I think, centers on the word ‘Yom’. This word, like many words, can have a range of meaning but the exact meaning of yom in any given place is determined by the context. Whenever ‘yom’ is used with a specific number before it, such as Genesis One, it always refers to a normal 24-hour day. In fact, it is likely that if Moses wanted to convey the idea of a long age he would have used the word ‘Olam’.

In addition, elsewhere in scripture when the terms evening and morning are used it refers to a normal 24-hour day. And don’t forget Exodus 20:8-11, “ Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God…For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day…” Moses uses the same word ‘Yom’ here as he does in Genesis one. As a result we should read both accounts as referring to literal 24-hour days – it would be confusing to think otherwise. Also, Jesus says, “ But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female (Mark 10:6)” and doesn’t this imply that Adam and Eve were created, not billions of years later but at the beginning of creation? Jesus also mentions in Luke 11:50-51 the blood of all of the prophets shed from the foundation of the world starting with Abel. Doesn’t this imply that Abel was there at the foundations of the earth?

Old Earth Olga: Yah, but that last point you make is only convincing to those who are already convinced. Jesus is not answering a question about the age of the earth and he could be referring to the whole of Genesis one and two, or the creation of the man and woman. His comments here should be used to support his teachings on divorce not the age of the earth. In fact, the last two arguments are based on tenuous inferences that make the text in question adjudicate on an issue that it is not referring to in its context. Apart from this argument I would never read that text and think, ‘hmm, the earth must be young’. Rather, I would conclude that divorce is a serious thing and is not God’s intention and that there have been martyrs since the beginning of human history continuing to the end, both of which are Jesus’ actual points in the above scriptures.

Young Earth Yvonne: Hey, hey, hey I didn’t interrupt you that much. I don’t agree with what you just said  and I think Jesus would be a young earth creationist, but let me finish my entire argument please.

Old Earth Olga: Okay, sorry.

Young Earth Yvonne: Secondly, it doesn’t matter that the sun wasn’t created until the fourth day. On day one God created light and that is all you need for a day and night. Perhaps, the source of light for the earth was just modified on the fourth day but before that there still existed light to mark the day and night. Thirdly, the seventh day isn’t necessarily still in progress. Rather, the Sabbath rest that God began on the seventh day is, in some sense, continuing. Fourthly, Adam could have named all the animals because at this point of time he had an unfallen mind and who knows what his mental faculties could have accomplish untainted by sin. Also, it is possible that Adam was only naming a small amount of animals.

Lastly, the old earth position implies animal death and disease before the fall into sin. Didn’t death enter creation through Adam’s sin? God declared all of creation to be good. How can it be good if animals are being eaten and dying of diseases?

For all of these reasons I think the best way to read the text is as 6 literal days and a young earth. We know the majority of scientists have been wrong before and they will be wrong again. And don’t forget creation scientists have pointed out evidence for a young earth as well. Young earth geologists have accumulated an impressive body of evidence for a global flood that would create an appearance of age and explain much of the stratification we see today. Not only that but there is evidence for a young earth (for example, the accumulation of salt in the sea that doesn’t make sense given an old earth). We are a small minority now in the scientific community but we are a growing minority and perhaps a major paradigm shift is on the horizon.

Plus, in the end (or is it the beginning ?) God was there at creation and none of us were. Why would we put the words of fallible men above the word of God? That is a silly compromise.

Old Earth Olga: Okay. That is a lot to digest. I’m afraid the conversation can’t end there. It is true that elsewhere in the Bible ‘yom’ refers to a 24-hour day when preceded by a specific number but this is not a grammatical rule in Hebrew. In my view Genesis one demonstrates that ‘yom’ can refer to an indefinite period of time when proceeded by a number. You have to presuppose your interpretation of Genesis one to make this argument so you are arguing in a circle. And it is also likely that Hosea 6:2 is an instance of a biblical author putting numbers before yom in reference to a longer period of time then 24 hour days.

Secondly, Romans 5 and Genesis 3 claim that human death entered creation through Adam’s sin. That is what the text actually says and we should be careful about reading too much into it. In fact, it may not even be physical death that is in view here because when Adam eats the fruit he doesn’t die right away as the text appears to indicate, unless we are talking about spiritual death, which later leads to physical death.

Young Earth Yvonne: Yes, but God declares all of creation to be good. How can it be good if animals are dying?

 

Old Earth Olga: Well, I’m not sure if we can force our moral categories of good and evil onto nature for starters. But the truth is many people don’t have a problem with animal predation. You may be reading your sensitivities into the text. We are not even sure what an animals experience of suffering is like.  In fact, we now know that most animals don’t have a first order awareness of pain because they lack a pre-frontal cortex. Anyways, the truth is God celebrates the lion catching its prey in psalm (psalm 104:21) I’ll quote it for you, “ the young lions roar for their prey, seeking their food from God”. The entire context of the psalm is celebrating the greatness of God by extolling the goodness of creation. And look, I’m really not trying to upset your faith or poke fun but your whole approach raises some very serious questions. Does no death before the fall include vegetation?

Young Earth Yvonne: No, just animals, perhaps only higher animals. The text in Genesis one seems to imply that we were vegetarians, especially when compared with Genesis 9. And don’t forget in the New heavens and New earth, according to Isaiah, the lion and the lamb will lie down together, which seems to indicate God’s ideal, which is a world without animal predation.

Old Earth Olga: Okay, so there was death of some sort before the fall even if it is only vegetation. What about insect death? Insects aren’t really sentient. Why is it bad if they die? And if the animals never died wouldn’t the earth quickly become over populated? Why is it just the higher animals according to some young earth creationists? Either way there is some sort of death and there is no text of scripture that clearly states there wasn’t animal death before the fall and the geological record suggests there was so why take a stand against it? ‘Death entered the world through Adam’. Yes, but, come on, it is clearly referring to humanity which is evident when Paul writes, “and so death spread to all men because all men sinned”. God says to Adam, ‘when you eat of the forbidden fruit you will die, not animals will begin to die.’

I’m note trying to be contentious but was the Tyrannosaurs Rex a vegetarian before the fall? Doesn’t your position force you into so many unwarranted assumptions that go way beyond the text? And isn’t Isaiah using imagery (like the book of Revelation) when he talks about the lion and the lamb lying down together? We are not entirely sure, are we, about the fate of animals in the New Heavens and New earth. The longest teaching on the New Heavens and New earth is Revelation 21 and it doesn’t tell us anything about animals.

And look, my point with the sun not being created until the fourth day is simply that those first three days weren’t normal days like we experience. And I agree the scientists could be wrong. Maybe God did create stars billions of light years away with the light already reaching us. The text, of course, doesn’t say that but God did create Adam all grown up with the appearance of age. But it still seems like an act of deception on God’s part, not by creating Adam full grown because the text clearly teaches us that, but by creating starlight already reaching us, knowing full well how confusing that would be for us.

Young Earth Yvonne: But God is not deceiving us because He has told us in His word.

Old Earth Olga: No, God did not tell us the age of the earth in His world. He didn’t stamp a date on it – even the genealogies in scripture can’t be simply added up. And our best science seems to suggest the earth is old. I know creationists cite scientific data that seems to suggest a younger earth/universe. But very few scientists, Christian or not, take creation science seriously at all and tend to claim it is very flawed. Are they blind? Well, I don’t know. I’m not a scientist so how do I evaluate these claims?

Young Earth Yvonne: Well, just wait. I think I’ll be right in the end.

 

Literary Framework Lyle: This is an interesting discussion and I am glad we can all still get along. But I have to be honest with you both. I think you are both barking up the wrong tree. Yvonne, you are trying to fit science into Genesis One and Olga you are trying to fit Genesis one into science. The point and purpose of Genesis one is not scientific in nature. It doesn’t exist to answer the how and when questions but, rather, the who and why questions.

 

We all agree that the triune God created all things out of nothing. That he created men and women in his image and likeness to steward creation and to engage in the cultural mandate as God’s priests meditating his loving, care and concern to all of creation.  Aren’t these the main points of the narrative? Interestingly, these are points that could have been grasped and applied by the original audience as well, which makes me think this was what God intended to teach with this story – not how but why and who.

In addition, we all believe that sin has separated us from God and radically impacted our world. Also, we believe we are saved solely by the death and bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ and that this saving work is a gracious gift from God. We also agree that God is going to renew all things at the end of history.

We all believe that miracles can happen. The question is not what God can or can’t do. Nowhere in the Genesis one story does it clearly say that God did a miracle. We believe that science investigates what normally occurs and can’t, by its legitimate means of investigation, tell us whether or not a miracle can occur. We have good historical evidence that miracles have occurred. Therefore, rejecting the young earth position, or the old earth position, doesn’t imply that we can’t believe in miracles through out history clustering around climatic moments in God’s redemptive plan.

Also, God created the universe and man and woman in history and men and women sinned and broke their relationship with God in history. So my literary framework view is not completely non-historical. Rather, it refuses to read Genesis one and two as a straightforward historical account, or a scientific document because I don’t believe that was Moses’ intention – and remember to read the scripture literally should mean to read it in accordance with the genre .

The genre in Genesis one is different than hebrew poetry and different than Hebrew historical narrative and should be read in a way that makes sense given the cultural context of its original recipients and the various competing creation stories prevalent in that day. Given the cultural context Genesis One corrects erroneous teaching found in other creation stories using a similar literary structure. The texts purposes are theological and I adamantly deny that this implies non-historical or legendary it just means you can’t press the text for historical details, or the exact ‘how’ of creation and when you do you get in trouble – and that is true of young earth or old earth creationists.

Old Earth Olga: Where did you come from? Not to be rude but we are trying to have a private conversation.

Literary Framework Lyle: Sorry, sorry. I’ll leave now.

Perplexed Pastor Price: Well, there you go. Those are three popular views held by conservative Christians who believe the Bible. As long as we don’t fight about it pick your view, love God, love neighbor, read the Bible, and serve the world. Amen.

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The Clay and the Potter

February 15, 2013

I wrote this story a few months ago as I was reflecting on the journey God has been walking me through. For several years now, my husband and I have been waiting on the Lord and on His plans for our family. Through the waiting and all the ups and downs, it’s hard to see what God’s is making. Yet, even today, as I re-read this story I wrote, I realized that much of the simple story describes where I’m at today. I still feel like I’m in the dark, but I trust that God is at work and that out of this difficult season God is making something of worth.

The Potter and the Clay

“But now, O Lord, You are our Father,

We are the clay, and You our potter,

And all of us are the work of Your hand.”

Isaiah 64:8

“One more plate to throw today,” the Potter thought, reaching for a red lump of clay. The clay was hard, unformed…in this state it was of no use to anyone. The Potter had a vision though, of what it could become.

He tossed the clay back and forth in his hands a few times before slamming it down on the potter’s wheel. This would ensure that the clay would have a good adherence to the wheel.

The clay was falling through the air. It had been safe in his master’s hands only a minute ago but for some reason, the master he trusted let him fall. Fear coursed through the clay as he didn’t know where he would land.  With a resounding smack, the clay hit something hard. Feeling somewhat dazed and bruised, the clay realized that he had survived. Why would his master do this? The clay trusted his master, and his master just dropped him.

 

The Potter looked at the clay and knew what to do next. He started the wheel spinning, and gently cradled the clay with his hands. He gently applied pressure along the sides pulling up and then from the top pushing down. This would be a beautiful plate! The potter couldn’t wait to see how the clay would be transformed into a new shape.

The world was spinning! The clay couldn’t understand what was happening. Round and round he went! He was so dizzy! He didn’t know what was going on. He cried out to the master to help him! He was so confused! Surely the Master could stop the spinning. He wanted to get off. Then he felt it. The Master’s hands, gentle on his side lifting him up. So the Master hadn’t abandoned him in the spin. He was there holding him gently, lifting him up. But wait…the pressure was changing. He was being pushed down too. Over and over, he’d be lifted up, only to be pushed down again. Didn’t the Master care about him anymore? Why would the Master keep pushing him? It wasn’t fair! He was dizzy, confused, and even a little angry.

 

The Potter could see that the clay was getting dry. If he didn’t water it right away small cracks would form. These cracks could grow and would eventually ruin his perfect work. He quickly grabbed water and placed it over the clay.

The water felt so good. It slipped over the clay’s sides and worked its way into the center of clay where it was most dry. His Master did love him after all. He wouldn’t have given this water to him if he didn’t.

 

The Potter was beginning to see the plate take form. He was so proud of his work! It wasn’t yet finished but from a lump of clay, a new form was emerging. The plate was smooth and flat but a little misshapen on one side. He took his pottery knife and gently cut down around the edge to get rid of any excess that would mar the shape of the plate. There! Just right!

The spinning stopped. The clay could feel something was different. He could feel that he was no longer in the shape of a lump. He was flat and smooth. The Master had made him into something new! For a moment, the clay thought maybe all that spinning was worth it. He liked his new shape. Then he felt the blade of the knife. Suddenly the spinning started again but this time it was much worse. The knife cut deeper and deeper and pain once again rocked the clay’s world. When would this ever stop? “Please Master! Save me! It hurts too much!” he cried. But the Master didn’t stop cutting. Couldn’t he hear the clay calling?

 

The Potter looked at his perfectly round plate, pleased with what was emerging. What a wonderful plate this was going to be. He couldn’t stop now though. If he stopped, the clay could never hold anything. It would be too soft for any use. It had to go into the fire. The first step would be to remove the impurities so that when the piece was glazed it would not return to mud.

The clay had never known such heat existed. It was burning so hot all he could think of was getting out of this place. All his strength felt drained from the soaring temperatures. This would kill him for sure. He wished for it to end. Over and over he asked for the Master to pull him out until he could shout no more. Now he was resigned. He had no will to fight. Whatever happened would happen to him. It was out of his control.

 

The Potter waited anxiously to see how the plate fared in the kiln. Sometimes the clay just couldn’t stand up to the heat. It cracked and had to be thrown away. He had worked so hard on this plate! He wanted so much for it to survive and become the plate he saw in his mind. The time was up. He turned off the kiln and let it cool down. He then peered inside and the plate was still there. It was hard now and pure. It had survived the fire and could now be glazed. He was so glad!

The fire had stopped and he was still alive! He felt weakened by the blast but somehow he had endured. He hadn’t expected to see a new day but here it was. Not only that, he felt new again…clean somehow. He also felt stronger than ever. He felt ready to tackle whatever challenges came his way.

 

Before glazing, the Potter removed the rough spots on the clay. Then he thought about the glorious colours he would use on this plate. Bright purple perhaps, or sunflower yellow? Maybe a deep red, or a royal blue? This plate would not only be functional, it would be a thing of beauty.

He could feel the Master’s care as he was held in his hands. The sandpaper hurt a little but it was nothing compared to the blasting furnace he had endured. The glaze felt slippery on his sides. It was so cooling after the heat! He felt himself relax. The Master was at work and he was in good hands.

 

The Potter was ready for the final stage. The clay would have to be fired again but then he was finished. The high heat would seal the glaze so that it would be smooth like glass. He hated to put the clay back in the heat again. He hoped it wouldn’t break at this, the final stage of the process!

It was happening again! He was in a dark place! He couldn’t see anything but he could feel the small space heating up. Not again! He couldn’t endure the heat again. No loving Master would make him endure the same trial twice! Not only that, this time it was worse, the heat was hotter than ever. The clay felt so tired and weary, but what could he do? He only had one Master. Somehow he had to cling to the fact that the Master had brought him through this before. He would bring him through it again. He just had to hold tight!

 

The heat finally stopped and then there was nothing. The Master didn’t appear. It was so quiet in the small space…almost peaceful. At least the heat had stopped. Maybe he could rest for awhile. He fell asleep and as he slept he dreamed a beautiful dream. In it he was a beautiful plate. He was a deep blue colour and he was proudly being used to serve food on at someone’s house. The woman who held him was very careful…holding him as one would a valued treasure.

 

The twenty four hour wait was over. It was time to see what his work had wrought. The Potter carefully opened the kiln and saw a beautiful plate. It was blue, a deep blue that was almost purple. It was perfectly formed and had no cracks. What a lovely plate! It was ready to be used. The Potter knew just who to give the plate to…someone who would treasure it and use it for the purpose for which he intended.

By Alison Wagler

 

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Why Do Some People Not Like Christians?

February 13, 2013

Is it popular to be a Christian in today’s culture? I am sure that different people would respond to that question in different ways. Myself, I tend to lean towards answering the question in the negative. It seems like Christians are frequently mocked in the media, ridiculed in university settings, as well as being continually cast in negative stereo-types.

Are there exceptions? Of course, but the fact remains that our culture is becoming increasingly hostile to the claims of Christianity. Oh well, Jesus warned us it would be this way.

In the video below I respond to Jim’s second question about why so many people seem to dislike Christianity. Perhaps, you can address the the first question he raises in the interview.

Enjoy!

-Chris

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One Path to God?

February 9, 2013

Today we have two more videos from the God, Really? series. The first video draws a distinction between the religious impulse of humanity and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The second video addresses the issue of exclusivity. How can anyone say their way is the true path to God?

Now remember, this series is intended to make you think not to tell you what to think. In many ways these videos raise more questions than they answer. This is the nature of a 4 minute video. What I would appreciate, however, is any willingness on your part to add to the conversation by commenting on the blog.

How would you go about trying to answer Jim’s questions with gentleness and respect?

One Way?

God Bless,

Chris

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Did Adam and Eve Really Exist?

February 6, 2013

Did Adam and Eve really exist? Why do Christians so often seem to disagree?

In chapters 2 and 3 of the God, Really? series my skeptic friend Jim and I discuss these questions. Now, Jim in his opening comments raises a few issues that we didn’t dive into during the interview. Perhaps you could take a stab at answering his questions in the comment section of this blog post. I may even pass the comments on to Jim.

Perhaps this is just my insecurities shining through but keep in mind that I was thinking on my feet and had no idea what questions I would be asked. Jim, thankfully, was a charitable conversation partner and is a fair editor who accurately captures my comments in these short videos.

Why don’t Christians agree?

http://youtu.be/FmuNjJbMbjs

I don’t think my definition of ecumenicalism is technically precise but I hope you enjoy this video anyways!

-Chris

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Why do you believe?

February 2, 2013

Have you ever been asked, ‘Why do you believe in God’? How would you answer that question? What would you say if you were put on the spot’?

The Bible commands us to always be ready to give an answer for the hope that we have in Jesus. Here is my attempt sliced, diced and edited by a skeptic. Perhaps I could have done better. There is more I said that didn’t make the cut. Either way I hope this short video makes you reflect on the question,

‘What would you say if your co-worker, family member or friend asked you, in all sincerity, why do you believe in God? Or ‘ tell me, why are you a Christian’?

God Bless,

Chris