How far can we trust the New Testament?

Monday Musings for April 11, 2022

Good morning, Musers,

People of faith tend to trust the New Testament — and well they should! This is where we learn about Jesus Christ. But it’s not the only place. Other historians have mentioned him in their writings, so the thing critics cannot say is that we Christians are a cult and we have made up a legend to support it. The New Testament tells a history that winds around other known histories.

However, historical writings are not the only revelation of Jesus Christ. God made human beings spiritually sensitive, and he proactively “draws” people to his Son (John 6:44). Jesus said that no one can come to him unless the Father draws him first. This is an extraordinary piece of news. It means that even without the Bible, people have to deal with Jesus Christ.

Most people understand that the mere existence of the universe points to God the Father’s power and deity — with or without the Bible. And Romans 1:18-25 says that handling such knowledge honestly can keep a person from being condemned! But what about Jesus Christ? Does he reveal himself without the Bible? Let me tell you a story.

I am an American evangelical Christian. If you imagine a scale with a double-predestination-believing Calvinist on the right and a hyper-charismatic on the left, I see myself in the middle. I’m a lifelong New England male, though. As such, I don’t look for a lot of emotion in my life or my worship... and Charismatic excesses make me squirm. But God has “taken me to school” on this.

About 30 years ago I started getting interested in Christian apologetics. I had been saved for 20 years, and I was an earnest Bible student. But the Bible was tripping me up in spots... and I had a “crisis of faith.” It wasn’t really a crisis of faith, though. It was a crisis of hermeneutics.

The problem was that I could not make sense of life and the Bible through the dispensational lens that I inherited. So, although I was still a believing Christian, my worldview was in shambles... and this is where Mainsail Ministries began. I knew I had to deconstruct and reconstruct my faith, and I thought, why not share this process with others? Here’s how I did it.

I determined to study everything about God — including his word and his world — without prejudice... even though this involved setting aside evangelical algorithms, hermeneutical templates, legalistic excesses, etc.

My reconstruction platform had only two planks: all truth is God’s truth, and the inspired Scripture was written by common people to common people and in the common idiom. Mainsail Ministries is a record of my journey from a “holey” Bible to a holy Bible — with a robust Christian worldview on the side!

I established a website, so my articles would be available worldwide. My idea was that as I shared my processes, their record would be valuable to other people like me. I see myself as a thinking Christian... but with no particular CV. That’s Mainsail’s brand. No brag; just fact.

I’ve published my first article on January 1, 2012... a devotional called “In the Beginning God...” ... and this fall (Lord willing) I will publish my one-millionth word! So, I’ve been at this pretty hard... and I’ve been at it for a long time.

Now, I am an older fellow with a lot of Christian living and contemplation behind me, so I was going to retire from ministry busyness... but keep writing and publishing as long as I could. God, however, has a sense of humor — particularly when it comes to my retirement. He showed this through what we Americans call a “side-hustle.”

A “side-hustle” is a side job. An example would be a firefighter who builds decks on the side. He has a regular income through his municipality, but through the side-hustle of building decks, he could make some extra money... but he never forgets what his main job is. The difference between me and this firefighter is that I never chose my side-hustle. It was thrust upon me... hence God’s “sense of humor.”

At the beginning of 2015, I received a very kind email from a Kenyan pastor named Richard Marubi. He found some of my articles online and wanted to tell me that they helped him. Now, Pastor Richard had to walk a good distance to a “cyber site” to get online. He had no internet in his home. In fact, he had no electricity in his home. But he sacrificed time and money to drink from that firehose which is the internet. The good news is that he did not drown.

This demonstrates the power and timeliness of an online ministry. My site is small potatoes, and I get relatively few “hits.” But I get the hits God wants... and those are the only hits I need.

That’s how the kingdom of God grows, by the way. It’s like the leaven in a loaf of bread (Matthew 13:33). We know why and how the loaf expands, but mapping the movement of the bacteria would be nearly impossible. So, although we “know” what God’s up to in principle, we can’t trace the cause-and-effect relationship through more than a few steps. Here’s what I mean by my side-hustle being ‘thrust upon me.”

Pastor Richard took it upon himself to change the name of his church to the Omoringamu Mainsail Church. That was the moment of insemination for the Mainsail Conference of Churches (MCC). I was set to retire — but I’m going to be a father... and I joined with Sarai and laughed. But the MCC is no joke.

Today we have 26 churches... mostly in Kenya, but we have expanded into Tanzania, Uganda and Malawi. For the last six months or so, I have had at least one church in que applying to join the conference. I bring this up because, in today’s devotional, we’re talking about the veracity of the New Testament, Charismatic excesses and how our churches should run.

You see, only about a third of our churches have been planted by other churches. The rest have found me independently online. Now... I need to confess... miracles are often wasted on me. But the fact that the Holy Spirit was making the connections for these people was becoming more obvious with every church that we added. Remember, we’re talking about the internet... and most of our pastors live and worship on dirt floors. Plus, my teachings are published all over the world, so what’s the deal with Kenya et al?

One day I got an email from a pastor seeking to associate with us. When I asked him how he heard about us, he said he received a vision from God to go online and find Evan Plante. That was the most overt of the accounts of God interrupting my retirement... but I have many more stories like this one... so I’m going to use the “M” word. The establishment and growth of the MCC is a miracle engineered by God.

So, my American evangelical friends, are you afraid of miracles too? Are you afraid of the Holy Spirit threatening your stand on cecessionism... the extra-biblical idea that revelation has ceased or that some or all of the spiritual gifts have ceased too? I was in that camp more than I like to admit. But those “early church” kinds of miracles are happening to me — and they are blowing up my retirement and expanding my ideas of how revelation works. I suspect my worship style is on the chopping block too. (Film at eleven.)

What’s at stake personally is that the ministry that I’m called to is writing and publishing, not running a church conference... and although tending to the “Christians in hand” that have organized themselves around my teaching seems like it should be a priority, it is not.

Now, organization is one of my spiritual and natural gifts.. so I’m not sunk yet. But the business of ministry (the busyness of ministry) is threatening my main ministry — and if I have to cut one loose, it will be the conference. Please help.

Pray for wisdom and clarity. Send money. Send a ministry aid... a person to help me manage social media and make the jump to YouTube.

 

(Click here to read the article referenced above. For comments, or to join the Monday Musings mailing list, contact us at mainsailep@gmail.com. To submit a question about God, the Bible or the Christian culture, click here.)