Serving the High Plains

Articles written by Gordon Runyan


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  • You can trust modern translations

    Gordon Runyan, Religion columnist|May 15, 2024

    My last column addressed the objection that says the Bible can’t be trusted because of how often it has been translated and hand-copied through the centuries. My point was that the documented history (in over 5,000 ancient manuscripts) shows the result is really the opposite. That is, the many manuscripts, from different centuries and regions, prove there has been stunning consistency over the last 2,500 or so years. By comparing old ones with newer ones, we can see plainly where any copyist errors or bad translations were made. This is not s...

  • Bible not corrupted by translations

    Gordon Runyan, Religion columnist|May 1, 2024

    “Pastor, how can you believe in the Bible when it’s been translated so many times?” That’s a common objection. Meaning no insult, but it’s an argument based on ignorance. The objector doesn’t know anything about how the Bible came to be and assumes the worst: a shadowy history littered with corruptions both accidental and nefarious. It’s assumed that we got the Scriptures through a process much like the old party game, “Phone Message.” In that game, you line up several children in a row. A long sentence is told to the first child. He takes o...

  • Challenge: Why doesn't God show himself?

    Gordon Runyan, Religion columnist|Apr 17, 2024

    I was reading one of the thousand or so articles that pop up on my email homepage, about why people reject religious faith: “17 Challenges Atheists Have for Believers.” These are always good for a chuckle. One objection caught my attention. It was this: If God exists why doesn’t he show himself? Well, how big a show would it take for you to believe? Would 10 consecutive, pre-announced plagues, reducing the world’s most powerful nation to rubble, be enough? How about splitting the Red Sea so people could cross through on dry land? You simply...

  • Popular objection: Jesus never said 'I am God'

    Gordon Runyan, Religion columnist|Apr 3, 2024

    I’m seeing a particular objection to Christianity repeated often on the internet. It started, I believe, among some Muslims, but has spread to the larger culture. The objection is this: In the Bible, Jesus never claimed to be God. He never said, “I am God. Worship me.” I’m not sure what has made this criticism so popular recently. Can I be harshly direct and say it’s stupid? Maybe not. Maybe I should be lighthearted about it and say it’s “all hat and no cattle.” It’s a vacuous statement either way, especially if you’ve ever bothered to read th...

  • Truth about Abraham, Sarah surprising

    Gordon Runyan, Religion columnist|Mar 20, 2024

    In my regular Bible reading, I was back in Genesis the other day and here’s the thought that struck me as I went through the life of Abraham: Abraham and Sarah did not have the kind of marriage that a lot of evangelicals promote as ideal. Specifically, a lot of modern conservatives, such as the Duggars on television and those informed by material from men like Bill Gothard, advocate for a “biblical patriarchy” in which the husband rules over everyone else. He gets the final say about everything, over everyone, and things are ordered according t...

  • Human rights endowed by the Creator

    Gordon Runyan, Religion columnist|Mar 6, 2024

    I made the mistake of watching some talking heads on a mainstream news channel the other day. When will I learn? My wife’s not holding her breath. Anyway, there was a panel discussion on the scary, new political faction on the scene. Religious zealots have arisen out of nowhere, apparently. The news has dubbed them Christian Nationalists. A pearl-clutching lady pointed out one of the horrifying doctrines of this group. These cultists think that our rights come from God, and not from any government. You may have to read that sentence again. T...

  • Bible: You can have joy again

    Gordon Runyan, Religion columnist|Feb 21, 2024

    Psalm 51:8 - “Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice.” Whatever you think of the Harry Potter books, the author created a creepy monster called a Dementor. It was meant to be the personification of clinical depression. Dementors are invisible, heartless, and relentless in their desire to suck all the joy and happiness out of a person. One victim said the monster’s effect was to make her feel like she’d never be cheerful again. Live long enough and you’ll come to a place where you fear death less than you fear...

  • Redemption demands brutal honesty

    Gordon Runyan, Religion columnist|Feb 7, 2024

    Psalm 51:5 – “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” David is direct, even blunt, here. He’s not sugar-coating anything. Even so, these words are routinely misunderstood, especially by new readers of the Bible, or older ones who’ve never paid attention. The sense is the same as if he had said, “I was born into the tribe of Judah, and therefore Judah is my tribe.” Only, here, the tribe in question is that one we call “humanity.” As cats bring forth cats, and dogs have litters of puppies, so the d...

  • Our self-identification not enough

    Gordon Runyan, Religion columnist|Jan 24, 2024

    The truth is that within Christian churches we have a history of allowing people to “identify” as something they merely feel or wish they were, but for which there is no objective evidence. Not only have we done this consistently, but we have a little sub-culture in which this is enthusiastically encouraged. We make quasi-celebrities out of the preachers who can convince the most people to make this (false) identification. We call this evangelism. Sometimes we hold special services called revivals, in which the goal is to get as many peo...

  • Mount Hermon repossessed by Christ

    Gordon Runyan, Religion columnist|Jan 10, 2024

    At one point in the Gospel story, Peter confesses his belief that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus responds with a promise that he himself would build his church, and that the gates of hell would not overcome it. They were in a city called Caesarea Phillipi when this happened, and the location is important. Caesarea Phillipi was set on a large shelf or terrace 1500 feet up the side of Mount Hermon. Mount Hermon marked the northern border of Israel. On the other side was Syria. The slopes on the southern side of the mountain are called...

  • Have courage for coming victory

    Gordon Runyan, Religion columnist|Dec 27, 2023

    The new year stares us right in our faces like a gunslinger in a classic Western. Its gaze narrows. Its trigger finger twitches, waiting for a signal. The last several years have come after us like low-down, mangy desperados. After what we’ve seen, it’s normal to wonder what fresh misery has been brewed up for us in days to come. You may think you’re prepared, but you’ve thought that before, and still wound up having to ask, “Where in the world did all that come from?” This is a completely understandable way to think. We’re gun shy. We’ve be...

  • Restoration is focus of Advent

    Gordon Runyan, Religion columnist|Dec 13, 2023

    Many churches that follow a traditional calendar in their activities will regard this upcoming Sunday as the third Sunday in the season of Advent. In the first, they focused on themes of hope and expectation. Last Sunday was about promise and fulfillment. Looking over the suggested Scripture readings for the third Sunday, the theme of restoration is prominent. The people of God who had managed to hold on to their faith at the time of Jesus of Nazareth were in need of restoration, severely so. Beginning with the captivity in Babylon, at the...

  • Same law governs king and people

    Gordon Runyan, Religion columnist|Nov 29, 2023

    Israel wandered in the wilderness for a full generation (40 years) without a king, at the beginning of its national history. In fact, in the first giving of the law, which occurred at Mount Sinai, there was no provision given for a king in Israel at all. Moses was certainly the leader of the new nation, but his governmental function was to serve as the judge of Israel’s supreme court. The law created an appeals court system, with Moses as the court of last appeal. He was not their king. Under that arrangement, which we call the Old Covenant, G...

  • Definition of self is important

    Gordon Runyan, Religion columnist|Nov 15, 2023

    It can be cataclysmic when God’s plan for us forces a change in the whole way we’ve lived our lives up to that point. I’ve seen it happen several times since I was called to serve as a pastor. I have no Bible behind me when I say this, but experience leads me to assert that it’s especially difficult for men of action, or activity, to encounter a change in their circumstance that forces them to spend some time in what feels like “doing nothing.” This is because men especially are tempted to view themselves in light of what they do or accompli...

  • Psalm 2 calls us to be on right side

    Gordon Runyan, Religion columnist|Nov 1, 2023

    The second psalm is an amazing song of victory. God triumphs over his enemies and spoils the plans of the kings of the world. He does this primarily by installing the Messiah as his king, over all the rest of them, and by promising the whole earth as the Messiah’s possession. This psalm is quoted in the New Testament, including by Jesus, as an explanation for the suffering and resurrection of Christ, and as a promise of enduring, future victory over evil for the people of God. Jesus is the star of the show in this song. However, you’ve nev...

  • Bible teaches peace is better

    Gordon Runyan, Religion columnist|Oct 18, 2023

    Do humans have an inherent right to self-defense, including the use of violence? What about Christ’s consistent ethic of non-violent resistance toward evil? The Bible mostly assumes that people have the right to defend themselves. There are places, though, where this right becomes plain and is dealt with openly. At the beginning of the Bible, God pronounces a death-penalty on murderers. Since humans are made in his image, to commit murder is to strike out at God and is rewarded with death. It would seem logical that, if human life is worth t...

  • Libertarianism taught in the Scriptures

    Gordon Runyan|Oct 4, 2023

    Is libertarian political philosophy compatible with Christian faith? There are evangelical leaders who would say it is not. These tend to be cheerleaders for one party in our current system. I’m jaded enough to believe the real danger they see is that a Libertarian Party candidate might siphon votes from their favorite lesser-of-two-evils. In fact, I’m convinced that libertarian economic philosophy is the only one advocated in the Bible. It rises directly from its pages. Outrageous, you say? Here are three ways the Bible may be pushing you in...

  • Objective reality confirmed as God's creation

    Gordon Runyan, Religion columnist|Sep 20, 2023

    In the first line of the book, we find out that God created the heavens and the earth in the beginning. It’s a pretty big book, and a lot of stuff follows that. None of it could happen, though, if that first bit didn’t. The Bible unfolds in actual time and history. The reality it describes is the objective one we live in. God created the heavens and earth. This is not an illusion. Without that truth, all bets are off. You are reading these words with your eyes. But are you really? How can you be sure that you’re not a brain in a vat somewhere,...

  • Suffering no argument against God

    Gordon Runyan, Religion columnist|Sep 6, 2023

    The brilliant man in the video was asked whether he believed in God. He said the amount of suffering he sees in the world makes it hard for him to believe in a God who is good and loving. This is a common argument among skeptics. Suffering is bad, so God must not be good. He’s either too weak to do anything about it or unconcerned with it. For an atheist to make the whole suffering argument, however, is inconsistent with atheism, which can have no objective morality. He doesn’t believe in God, but he’s somehow confident that suffering is bad....

  • You must become small to be great

    Gordon Runyan, Religion columnist|Aug 23, 2023

    One day, the disciples asked Jesus who was the greatest in the kingdom. These were motivated dudes, after all, wanting to know how to advance, how to climb that ladder. Jesus pointed to a child and told them to become like that. Some preachers have turned this text into a “How To Be Saved” sort of story. They think the disciples were asking about entrance to the kingdom, not status within it. So, the evangelistic answer is that we must have a so-called childlike faith. They don’t consider this in light of places where Jesus recommends a lot o...

  • God's law provides for poor

    Gordon Runyan, Religion columnist|Aug 9, 2023

    When God brought Israel out of Egypt, he gave it a set of rules. Beginning with the Ten Commandments, he spelled out a constitution for the new nation, a law by which they were to govern themselves. The New Testament calls this the “perfect law of liberty.” In this law of liberty, there were no entitlement programs. Neither businesses nor poor folks received any handouts from the central authority. (This is because there was no taxation. Without this, the government had nothing to “generously” give to anyone.) This doesn’t mean the new const...

  • Christ's basin overturns all the kings

    Gordon Runyan, Religion columnist|Jul 26, 2023

    They didn’t understand what he was up to. When I say “they,” I mean all of them. The Pharisees and Sadducees (conservatives and liberals). The Herodians, politically loyal to King Herod, who suspected that Jesus might lead an armed insurrection. The revolutionary Zealots, who would’ve loved that. The 12 closest disciples of Jesus. Whatever it was that he was up to, it didn’t involve acting like a normal king. They knew kings. They were familiar. This Nazarene was not that. Many hope that when he returns, he’ll finally act like a normal king...

  • Purity culture opposes the Gospel

    Gordon Runyan, Religion columnist|Jul 12, 2023

    Within American Christianity, we’ve seen the rise of “purity culture” in the last generation. At the heart of this movement are the best intentions. The goal was to keep our children from the devastation that results from sexual sin, including unwanted pregnancy and disease. Purity culture places a lot of emphasis on sexual abstinence until marriage. As a father who raised daughters, I did the same. One of my goals for them was to make sure they didn’t fall prey to charming scoundrels. Y’know, young men who are just like I was. Purity cu...

  • 'Shiny Happy People' a sobering watch

    Gordon Runyan, Religion columnist|Jun 28, 2023

    Have you been too cheerful lately? You might take the time to watch the Neflix documentary series, “Shiny happy people.” Seriously, you should watch it. I know some are warning against it: “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.” Christians should never be afraid to look. While I’m at it, let me also recommend the documentary from “Christianity Today” magazine, “The rise and fall of Mars Hill.” If you’re a podcast listener, check out episodes 148 and 149 of the Bare Marriage podcast and hear the voice of a victim of so-called “purit...

  • Old objections to Christianity answered

    Gordon Runyan, Religion columnist|Jun 14, 2023

    I’m seeing an objection in short videos recently. It is an old Muslim argument, although non-Muslims make use of it, against Christianity: “Jesus never said he was God.” The charge is that Christians have wrongly raised Jesus of Nazareth to the level of divinity. We’ve made him our God, contrary to his own teachings and will. That’s the assertion. Part of the objection may be freely admitted. The Bible never records Jesus saying the words, “I am God.” (As an aside, before I address that in earnest, I’ll point out that Jesus is never recorded...

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