I was on a return flight from Prague this past summer and found myself studying for a test upon my return to Texas. I was taking a theology online course at Moody and had several hundred pages to pour through before my exam. The lady next to me noticed I was frantically reading and taking notes and generally did not disturb my study. But I guess curiosity overcame her and she broke the ice by asking, “What is systematic theology?” I explained to her what I do and why I was studying Christian theology. She responded by asking, “Do you believe Jonah was really swallowed by a whale?” I have been asked some strange questions in regard to my faith and calling in life, but the reality of Jonah and the whale was one I had not been asked as an initial inquiry into the Scriptures. I answered that I do believe in the infallibility of Scripture and the reality of the events in Jonah. Her response was, “I just can’t believe a book that reports a man being swallowed by a fish and then being spat upon shore.” Our conversation shifted to the gospel for a brief moment, but she could not get beyond Jonah 1:17 and returned to the conversation with her travel companion. I returned to my study of the attributes of God and preparing for my impending test.
I was reminded of this conversation as I read about the controversy of Duck Dynasty, the reported discovery and killing of Bigfoot, the myriad of ‘reality’ shows on television. It amazes me that our culture can watch these shows and news events and discern them as truth, yet view scripture as fiction.
“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions.”
~2 Timothy 4:3
Stephen was a man chosen by his peers as one whom is well respected, wise and full of the Spirit to lead a vital feeding program in the early church. Stephen was arrested under false pretenses and brought before the council to answer the ‘drummed up’ charges. Stephen gave a passionate presentation of the historical truths of the Jewish people and the truths foretelling the coming of the Messiah, Jesus. The council had Stephen taken from the city and stoned to death. Stephen’s last words were “Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!” Stephen gladly gave his life for a cause much greater than himself, the truth of Jesus Christ. How rare in today’s culture is it to find someone willing to stand for truth and be willing to sacrifice his life for it.
I would think that our culture would have a greater problem ‘swallowing’ the account of Stephen more than that of Jonah.
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”
~2 Timothy 3:16-17