Thinking Out Loud

April 24, 2017

Reunion: The Relationship God Wants Us to Have

Book Review: (re)Union: The Good News of Jesus for Seekers, Saints, and Sinners by Bruxy Cavey

You’ve got a friend who you’d like to see cross the line of faith. You want to sit down and be able to answer all their questions in a casual, non-threatening manner. Problem is, there’s aspects of your Christian pilgrimage that have left you less than articulate on various core doctrines. If only you had another friend who could join you at the coffee shop to make Christianity make sense. 

Enter Bruxy Cavey [KAY-vee] teaching pastor at The Meeting House, an alternative, multi-site congregation in the greater Toronto area described as both “church for people who aren’t into church,” and also as “Canada’s fastest growing church network.” It’s been a decade since his 2007 title with NavPress, The End of Religion: Encountering the Subversive Spirituality of Jesus.  Since then he’s become more strongly alligned with his tribe, the Brethren in Christ and more identified with pacifist denominations which clearly are a minority in the United States.

Ten years later, that irreligious message of Jesus turns up in Bruxy’s “The Gospel in 30 Words” which forms the core of the book. 

Thinking of the parable of the landowner he writes

…But notice why people are thrown off.  It’s not because God is a miser or a tyrant, and not because he is too demanding or judgemental.  People get upset because he is too kind!  Jesus seems to be saying that God is so loving, so gracious, so generous that if you put him into a human context, he would appear crazy with kindness.

If you are a very religious person who has worked long and hard to achieve some sort of spiritual reward, you could be scandalized by this irrational grace.  If you are a religious leader stewarding a system that teaches people to work for their heavenly reward, this teaching might seem threatening, because it undermines your current system of salvation.  This is exactly what happened with Jesus: the religious leaders of his day became so threatened by his message of grace that they eventually plotted to have him executed. (pp 175-176) 

What happens when your friend in the coffee shop hears this irreligious message? I think it’s disarming; it breaks down their defenses. Ideally, it leads to a turning to Christ. 

Since we don’t have that other friend to articulate all this for us, there’s this book. But reading it and studying the language used can make the rest of us better able to share not only our testimony, but an understanding of the doctrinal puzzle pieces which fit together to form the larger theological picture; by which I mean, the pieces which matter; this is a book which refuses to be distracted. 

If you prefer more established methodology, the book includes a summary of The Four Spiritual Laws, The Bridge to Life, Steps to Peace with God and The Roman Road, but Bruxy would argue that “each of these outlines shares a common flaw: they are woefully fragmentary, reductionist and incomplete.” Most “focus primarily on salvation from sin as the central message of the gospel. This is certainly an important aspect… But if you’re going to be a student of the good news, then you need to know and will want to share the whole message.”

The book is equal parts basic Christian doctrine and apologetics, the latter in the sense of being able to explain the plan and purpose of God to the secularist. There’s something like a “sinner’s prayer” at the end, but there’s also a “seeker’s prayer” for those close, but not ready to cross the line of faith. The book releases in a few days fittingly from Herald Press, a Mennonite publishing company. 

 

 

 

 

March 30, 2017

Case for Christ Movie is a Must-See on Two Different Levels

You really do need to see this film.

In a world where a proliferation of Christian movies has meant some of us spend as much time at the local theater as we do at church, this one is a cut above.

After getting to see a preview, I took a first-time step of watching it all over again the very next night, finding the second view equally satisfying and engaging as the first. I think the reason was that for me the various elements of the movie worked; that is to say all the pieces of what makes up cinematography that we might not even notice played together here to create a movie that was simply believable. There were few of those caricature or stereotype moments that sometimes mar faith-focused films.

It’s no spoiler to say that this is the real-life story of Lee Strobel, a top investigative reporter with the Chicago Tribune, who also happens to hold a law degree, and has a history of taking on some big challenges, including the Ford Pinto scandal. (You can read a 1980 sample in the Trib’s archives.) He’s just been promoted out of street-beat reporting but is about to be called upon to cover a cop shooting, a story that he feels is really beneath him. That story has some interesting parallels to another, second investigation he’s about to launch on his own time.

That side project begins when his wife converts to Christianity through the ministry of an early incarnation — still meeting in a theater at that point — of Willow Creek Community Church. He feels he’s losing her but is confident he can win her back by simply bringing all his investigative skills to bear on proving Christianity in general, and the resurrection of Jesus in particular, to be a complete and utter hoax. While philosophy and theology isn’t his normal beat, he is relentless in his pursuit of credible experts who can handle his checklist of factors in the Christ story that need to be negated. The rest is the apologetics substance of the film.

It was the unexpected relational substance of the film that caught me off-guard. What happens in a marriage when one spouse is a believer and one is not? (It’s around this point that I remembered reading that Zondervan was re-releasing one of Strobel’s few non-apologetic titles, Surviving a Spiritual Mismatch in Marriage coauthored with wife Leslie.) The portrayal of Leslie Strobel — by an actress whose appearance and mannerisms reminded me so much of Bill Hybels’ daughter Shauna Niequist — is what caused one reviewer to comment as to the authenticity of the portrayal of this neophyte Christ follower; the believability I mentioned earlier.

The rest you need to see. Strobel does not lay down his guns halfway through and commence the ministry with which many of us are familiar. We know him today as the author of other titles in the Case for… series such as The Case for Faith, The Case for a Creator, The Case for the Real Jesus and the recent The Case for Grace; but throughout most of the film his life is not headed on that trajectory at all. Disproving Christianity is a fight he truly believes he can win.

This isn’t really a film for the whole family, though teens who face challenges to their faith from fellow students could benefit significantly. Taking a friend, relative, neighbor or coworker who hasn’t yet crossed the line of faith is highly recommended, because when it comes to what Christians believe, at the end of the day, the buck stops with the resurrection.


An opportunity to the preview the movie has been provided courtesy of Pure Flix Entertainment and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

Stills above were posted on Twitter by people associated with the production.

March 19, 2017

Case for Christ Movie Opens April 7

Last night we were able to watch a preview screening of the movie The Case for Christ which opens April 7th. While I will offer a full review of the movie closer to the release date, many of you have read the book by Lee Strobel, or one of the many others in the series: The Case for Faith, The Case for a Creator, The Case for the Real Jesus, etc.

Like some others who have leaked bits and pieces of this online, I also was struck by the authenticity of the two primary characters in the movie, Lee and Leslie Strobel. While the theme of the movie is very obviously evidentiary apologetics there is also a sub-theme dealing with the time when Leslie was a Christian and Lee wasn’t. It’s probably no accident that their 2002 book Surviving a Spiritual Mismatch in Marriage is now in re-release by Zondervan.

With those two themes in mind…

  • Think of friends you could invite to see the movie; and
  • Plan to see it, if at all possible, during the first weekend of release.

I’ll have more to say about it in a few days.  Use the following image on your Facebook page to make more people aware of this significant film.

February 21, 2017

Christianity in 30 Seconds

God Enters Stage Left - Tim Day

Three years ago, we introduced you to Tim Day’s book God Enters Stage Left. At the time it was published, it was part of a movement wherein many authors and publishers were looking for ways to express the Biblical narrative as a single story, unfettered by the divisions between its various books in general and the line of separation between the first and second testaments in particular. Today that sentiment among writers and Bible edition creators is, if anything, continuing to grow.

The thing I especially liked about God Enters Stage Left — and mentioned in the review — was that “everything is written with the non-churched, not-Bible-literate reader in mind. The pass-along potential here is huge…”

That was then. Very recently I was alerted to an interview that Tim Day did a few months ago on the program Context with Lorna Dueck on the power of story. (See below.) That got me thinking. The book is already very concise, but what if Tim had to reduce the story arc of the Bible’s 66 books to a 30-second elevator pitch? What would that look like? I got in touch with Tim through Twitter and what follows was his response. Note that the book and the core message of Christianity’s sacred text are somewhat synonymous; so this is also an elevator pitch for the book itself.

God Enters Stage Left is a creative retelling of the Biblical story as a six-act play.

Through history, the Bible has been used to support war, oppression and religious legalism, leading many people to question belief in God. God Enters Stage Left walks through the unfolding Biblical narrative to show that the actual meaning of this story is quite the opposite of popular belief.

God’s approach to transforming the human heart is not outside in – having the right rules, getting rid of bad people, following strong leaders and facing harsh accountability. Rather, Jesus shows us that God’s approach is quite the opposite. God changes the human heart inside out. As we experience deep love from a close friendship with God, this enables us to live a life of love. We are freed from a life governed by rules, top-down leadership, and harsh accountability. We can experience peace within and peace with others. We are freed us to serve others compassionately, even those we may consider our enemies.

God Enters Stage Left ends with a Q & A section that provides concise answers to many of the common questions people have about the Bible.

Tim Day is the Director of City Movement. He previously served for 14 years as Senior Pastor of The Meeting House. He lives in Burlington, Ontario, Canada with his family. He is married to Liz and they have three children, Nathan, Rachel and Josh.

Learn more about Tim and City Movement at his website.

Order the book at this link

What would your version “Christianity in 30 seconds” or “The Bible in 30 seconds” look like?


Watch the interview with Lorna Dueck: Fast forward to 17:23

December 6, 2016

Where We Left Off Yesterday

post-truth


Post Truth: Part Two

post-truth-bannerSo as you remember from yesterday, I was starting to write a piece for C201 — it was really going to be more of a scripture medley — on the concept of truth which is timely right now since the Oxford Dictionary people proclaimed post-truth as their “Word of the Year.” Previous year Oxford winners, going back from 2016 include: emoji, vape, selfie, omnishambles, GIF and at Global Language Monitor (some randomly selected words): microaggression, fail, hashtag, Olympiad, drone, meme… You can find more words in this Wikipedia article.

So I got to the point where I was ready to post some scriptures from TopVerses.com; verses like:

“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” – John 8:32

“You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” – John 18:37

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. – John 1:14

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” – John 14:6

“God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” – John 4:24

But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. – John 16:13You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. – John 8:44

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. – John 1:8

“When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father – the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father – he will testify about me.” – John 15:26

Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. – John 4:23

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever – The Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. – John 14: 16,17

It gave me great joy to have some believers come and testify to your faithfulness to the truth, telling how you continue to walk in it. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. – 3 John 1:3,4

For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. – John 1:17

It has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as the Father commanded us. – 2 John 1:4

If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 1 John 1:6

…and that’s when I start to notice that most of the verses posted — I had a few more yesterday — are all sourcing from the writings of the Apostle John in his gospel and his three epistles.  At that point I felt I should acknowledge this detail:

This isn’t all the verses on the page which contain the word truth in the NIV. You can read the entire list at this link. However, it’s interesting to note the number of occurrences of this word in the writings of John. Many of the above texts are from his gospel and the word occurs in each of the three epistles we have in our Bibles.

Traditionally, John’s is the gospel given out for evangelism purposes. It is consider an apologetic argument for the divinity of Christ. In a post-modern — and now we can add post-truth — world, there is no objective truth. I have written elsewhere that if you want to reach post-moderns with the person of Jesus Christ, perhaps the synoptic gospels are a better way to go. Now I’m rethinking that. Perhaps we need to continue, as the Apostle John does, to wave the banner for truth.

Seriously, I was indeed leading the charge for Christian publishers to rethink the convention of making John’s gospel the only gospel sold separately as an individual scripture portion. (The exception being the American Bible Society and its worldwide associates.) If we’re going to reach the Millennials, it would seem that Mark, Matthew or Luke would be the better choices.

Now I’m not so sure.

Which of course led me to yet a second postscript in yesterday’s article at C201, namely the whole similarity between the post-modern mindset and the post-truth mindset. I don’t want to sound like that old preacher who shows up at the end of the summer while the pastor is taking a week off, but it does all sound like ‘the same old lies being recycled over and over again.’ (Maybe you actually have to be an old preacher to have witnessed a sort of life cycle of worldviews.) The lies that truth is subjective; that there is no objective truth to be found.

So I wrote:

I can never write on a topic like this without thinking of the song One Rule for You. I looked at that song 4½ years ago and typed out the full lyrics at this article at Thinking Out Loud.

But today, just for you, I’ll save you the need to click:

One of my all-time favorite songs is by 80’s UK mainstream band After The Fire (ATF) which also happens to be a Christian band.  Since we changed the rules here to allow video embeds, I realized it’s never been posted on the blog.  This song basically expresses the frustration that many of us feel when trying to give testimony to what Christ has done for us around people who grew up in a postmodern mindset.

“That’s good for you, and I’ll have to find something that works for me.”

But truth, if it is truth, has to be truth for all people. There cannot be a “truth for you” and a “truth for me.” The postmodern condition is, if anything, a quest to deny the existence of absolute truth. But if you’re flying from New York to London, you want a pilot who believes that 2+2=4, not one that believes that 2+2=5, or that there are many different answers.

That’s what this song is all about.

What kind of line is that when you say you don’t understand a single word
I tell you all these things, you turn around and make as if you never heard

What kind of line is that you’re giving me
One Rule for you, one rule for me

Too many people try to tell me that I shouldn’t say the things I do
I know that you would only do the same if it meant as much too you

What kind of line is that you’re giving me
One Rule for you, one rule for me

They say believe in what you like as long as you can keep it to yourself
I say if what I know is right, it’s wrong if I don’t tell somebody else

What kind of line is that you’re giving me
One Rule for you, one rule for me

written by Peter Banks & Andy Piercy

 

December 5, 2016

Living in a Post-Truth Era

Filed under: apologetics, bible, Christianity — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:04 am

This started out as word study on “truth” from the website TopVerses.com I was writing for C201 but ended up going in an entirely different direction.

post-truth-banner

If you follow media of any type, you’ve probably bumped up against the phrase “post-truth” in the last few weeks. Wikipedia defines it as, “a political culture in which debate is framed largely by appeals to emotion disconnected from the details of policy, and by the repeated assertion of talking points to which factual rebuttals are ignored.” The Oxford dictionary online is much the same denoting “circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”  

The same dictionary publisher group named it the “word of the year.”

According to Oxford Dictionaries, the first time the term post-truth was used in a 1992 essay by the late Serbian-American playwright Steve Tesich in the Nation magazine. Tesich, writing about the Iran-Contra scandal and the Persian Gulf war, said that “we, as a free people, have freely decided that we want to live in some post-truth world”.

“There is evidence of the phrase post-truth being used before Tesich’s article, but apparently with the transparent meaning ‘after the truth was known’, and not with the new implication that truth itself has become irrelevant,” said Oxford Dictionaries. [italics added] [source]

Of course you see where we’re heading today. As Christians, we believe in objective truth, not subjective post-truth. We appeal to the scripture as our rock, our anchor, our source for knowledge. But it’s easy to fall into subjectivism.  We go back to Wikipedia for a definition of that term; “the philosophical tenet that ‘our own mental activity is the only unquestionable fact of our experience’. In other words, subjectivism is the doctrine that knowledge is merely subjective and that there is no external or objective truth.” [italics in last clause added]

How do we become subjective? Perhaps it’s:

  • When we say the situation ethics of a given set of circumstances means violating a scriptural moral principle (see note below)
  • When we try to accommodate evolution into the first few chapters of Genesis (see note below)
  • When we make allowances for homosexuality which contradict what the church has historically taught on the subject (see note below)
  • When we ignore teaching on the judgement of God and say that a loving God would never send anyone to hell. (see note below)

Okay…I guess I need to stop typing “see note below” and just say it: While the statements above would seem to imply that I am coming from a very conservative, dogmatic perspective I am no longer entirely settled on some of these issues. What I would want to say here very clearly is that I hope that whatever Biblical worldview I have is formed from debates, forums and careful study of what the Bible actually does or does not say, and not from my subjective view, or personal perspective on how I wish things were.

Basically, I can’t allow my own feelings — the way I wish things were — on an issue to override God’s objective truth on any given matter the same way the Roman Catholic church allows The Catechism of the Catholic Church to override scripture.

God does have an opinion on these matters and though “we see in part” and “we see through a glass darkly” it’s our job to try to discern what it is; especially in the cases where it impacts our personal code of behavior or a factor in our current circumstances.

It’s complicated, yes?

December 2, 2016

Objections to the Christian Faith

I spent most of the morning working on this afternoon’s article for the other blog and the rest of the day is committed. So instead I bring you this article from 2012 which looks at ten common objections raised in opposition to embracing Christianity. 

Bob Ayton is a teacher and Science Department Chairman in Marion County, Florida who has been named as one of the top three science teachers in the state of Florida for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching – one of the most prestigious awards a science teacher can receive.  Before teaching, he had over 7 years of experience as both an Analytical Chemist and Laboratory Manager in the Pharmaceutical Industry for an industry leading pharmaceutical contract company.

You are encouraged to click the link in the title below to read this at source and then look around his blog, Engage.
 

The 10 Most Common Objections to Christianity

1) The Bible has mistakes

The Bible is in fact the most reliable and accurate book of antiquity.  It is textually accurate due to the number of manuscripts and the dating of those manuscripts.  There are over 5,000 complete Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, 10,000 Latin, and 9,300 other with some of the earliest copies dating to 120 AD.  Complete New Testaments could be compiled with even the direct quoting of early church fathers.  The archaeological evidence is simply overwhelming in that 29 ancient kings from the Old Testament have been found in chronological order with the exact same depiction of names on monuments excavated and written in their own time.  The internal evidence of consistency of 66 books from 40 authors written in 3 different languages in different genres over a span of 1500 years and there is one consistent message throughout the entire book.  Lastly, the prophetic evidence is profound in that the Messianic prophecies alone that came true in Jesus were about 300 in number.  To just fulfill 8 of these would be along the order of 1 in 10 to the 17th power or equal to filling the state of Texas 2 feet deep in coins, marking one black, stirring it up, and letting one blindfolded guy pick out the exact one.  Objection over-ruled.

2) What about all those different translations

Translations do not in fact make the Bible or Christianity inaccurate.  We have some of the most literal translations of the Bible in the English language that are consistent and accurate with regard to the original language through the New American Standard Bible (NASB) and the English Standard Version (ESV).  You would be correct in saying paraphrases like the Message and other liberal translations have swayed drastically from the original words of God, but literal translations are different ways to say the exact same thing.  Objection over-ruled.

3) Hell is just not reasonable

This objection has its roots in the over-estimation of man and the under-estimation of God.  It takes a philosophical worldview starting point that man is essentially good and God forgives everyone in not really upholding any justice at all.  The Bible states that man is not good, that man can do no good that would merit favor with God, and he is ultimately accountable for his thoughts, words, and deeds.  I am just about as excited about Hell and the next guy, but it is a reality according to the wretched sinner that I am.  It fits with justice that breaking the highest laws in the land deserves the highest judgement for which we are accountable.  The amazing thing is that God Himself, Jesus, lived a perfect life, took on God’s wrath for which we deserved, and offers us the free gift of salvation through repentance and faith in Him alone out of His mercy, love, and kindness.  Through faith in Him we get His life of righteousness and He takes on the payment for our sin so that grace is bestowed and justice is satisfied.  With the correct starting point and a proper view of man and God, Hell is definitely reasonable.  Objection over-ruled.

4) What about all those hypocrites in the church

This objection is actually true.  I totally agree with the unbeliever here that there are hypocrites in every church.  It is true that the church is full of hypocrites because we are sinners that are saved by grace alone in Christ alone through faith alone for His glory alone.  We get no credit, we get no glory, we get no accolades.  Now there are true and false believers in every church and the true believer is growing in holiness and is a new creation with a new heart and new desires.  However, truth should never be ultimately determined by the actions of the presumed followers but the standard of truth itself – which is Jesus.  Jesus was the only non-hypocrite and He is the truth.  Therefore, test Him as the benchmark for sincerity.  Objection over-ruled.

5) Science and evolution has disproved God

I could go on forever on this one.  Evidential science proves there is a God.  It does not prove who God is but it does prove in the complexity and amazing nature of our Creator.  Macro-evolution is a falsehood which has not one shred of evidential scientific proof and is ultimately a religion in and of itself.  Just click on the categories of Evolution and Atheism and I make my case throughout this blog.  Objection emphatically over-ruled.

6) Only one way to God, what about all those other religions

The exclusivity of Christ is a tough thing to swallow for unbelievers in our “tolerance-driven” culture. That is, tolerate every view except the one view that says there is only One Way.  The logical conundrum that Biblical Christianity presents is that Jesus says, “I am the Way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”  This is an exclusive statement that is either right or wrong.  However it cannot coexist with other religions.

If you really look at all the other religions in the world, they are man trying to work to become righteous enough to satisfy God.  Biblical Christianity is the only religion that says that you are not good and no good work can satisfy God.  All God should do is justly punish the sinner who is a lawbreaker.  But God, out of His loving-kindness and mercy, sacrificed His only Son to take the penalty that the sinner deserves.  He died in our place, He took on our iniquities, He bore our sin.  Buddha never died for anybody, Mohammed never died for anybody, only Christ died for us.

How then can we stand before God on the Day of Judgment and say, “God, You have not done enough.  One way of salvation is not enough.”  Objection over-ruled.

7) What about all those wars started by Christians

The key to this questions is again…do not base Christianity on the basis of the actions of some of the presumed followers of the faith that are acting contradictory to what the Bible states.  The Bible clearly states to love your enemy and this has been demonstrated in countless examples of martyrs through the ages.  I urge the person that promotes this complaint to buy and read Foxes Book of Martyrs.

The unbeliever has to look to causes of extreme horrors perpetrated by atheism that is completely justified and aligned with the worldview that there is no God that we are accountable to.  Stalin was responsible for 40-100 million people slaughtered, Hitler killed 20 million people for his evolutionary genocide, Mao Tse-Tung murdered between 40 and 80 million people, and Pol Pot killed 2 million of his own people.  Objection over-ruled.

8) Christianity was spread by the power-hungry people

Yes, the apostles who were all poor, made no money, had absolutely no power, were oppressed by Rome in the world and the religious elite in Israel, and all died martyrs deaths were all power-hungry people who spread Christianity throughout the known land.  Do you see the illogical nature of this objection?

Christianity was spread by God’s ordaining power throughout history by those who were weak, unpopular, uneducated, unimpressive people (see 1 Corinthians 1).  Christianity, time and time again, has been attempted to be eradicated by those in power, only to be unsuccessful.  Objection over-ruled.

9)  If God was really all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving, why is there pain and sickness and death?

This again shows a misunderstanding of God and an over-estimation of man.  It is our fault that there is pain and sickness and death.  It is our sin that has brought about these consequences, not God.  The consequence of our sin is death and God should justly bring about that death the instant we first sin.  He is right and just to do this in the same way we want a murderer or rapist to be guilty and have a consequence for their despicable crime.  Our sin are crimes against the highest law, which is God Himself.

However God is patient and merciful and kind and offers forgiveness through His Son.  Therefore, objection over-ruled and that leads us to the final objection.

10)  All objections in every form and facet

All objections are rooted in a person wanting to divert the issue away from the true source, which is themselves.  They are all smoke to cover up the sin and pride that the sinner loves.  The Bible says that a person must repent and put their trust in Jesus to be saved.  If you are that person who has brought about these objections before, focus on your own sin and understand that God offers to pay for that sin through His Son.  He offers to pay the price for your crimes and dismiss your case on the basis of all of the evidence being placed on His Son.  Then and only then can all objections to your condemnation be emphatically over-ruled.

November 8, 2016

Immunity to Christianity

Filed under: apologetics, Christianity, evangelism, Jesus — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:08 am

immunityBecause of the various types of interactions I have with people, I have some things that I find myself constantly saying, some of which are analogies, to help clarify things spiritually. Every once in awhile I will discover that as much as these make up the core of the material that I use, some of them have never appeared on the blog.

I asked my wife what I should write about today, and she said, “Flu shots;” because minutes earlier we had just received ours for this season. It reminded me of what follows, and when I started searching here, I was amazed that this has never appeared because it fits the condition of so many different people, some of which are probably in your school, workplace, neighborhood, or even your extended family.

Did you get a flu shot? What was in it? Basically you got a small dose — albeit inactive — of the disease you want to avoid. You’re getting an artificial version of the illness to kick-start your immune system.

I don’t know who it was that first said this, but the substance (which you should see coming) is this:

When it comes to Christianity most people have been inoculated with just enough of the artificial that they are immune to the authentic.

Just enough Bible stories.
Just enough ritual.
Just enough preaching
Just enough Christian television
Just enough focus on works; doing good
Just enough emphasis on giving money
Just enough hypocrisy…
…Just enough religion.

Most people in the world at large — and I’m speaking here as someone part of what I consider a minority — have had just enough that now, the authentic elements of what it means to know Christ and follow him are rejected.

They’re immune now, and that no matter how passionate you are about your faith, they have a built-in resistance.

Maybe they haven’t really met Jesus.

 

 

 

 

 

September 23, 2016

What’s Up With the Flying Spaghetti Monster?

Filed under: apologetics, Christianity, Faith, guest writer — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:06 am

clarke-dixon-picClarke Dixon is a Canadian Baptist pastor whose posts at Sunday’s Shrunk Sermon end up at Christianity 201 on Wednesdays or Thursdays. The one this week was a little bit different, though; and I thought it would be a good fit here as well…

Guest post by Clarke Dixon

You may be wondering “what’s up with a sermon called ‘What’s Up With the Flying Spaghetti Monster?’” You can blame this one on one of my sons who over the summer said “hey Dad, you should preach a sermon on the Flying Spaghetti Monster.” If you have never heard of such a thing, be assured many others have, including, of course, my sons.

So what even is it? The Flying Spaghetti Monster is the god of a new religion called “Pastafarianism.” Now to be clear, most “Pastafarians” do not actually believe this religion per se, rather it is practiced as a parody of religion. When you hear that some Pastafarians get their ID pictures taken with colanders on their heads, you may think that it is a big joke. It kind of is, but at the heart of it are some important issues that the atheist community want people to think about. “Belief” in the Flying Spaghetti Monster all began in the United States with one man challenging a school board to reconsider whether Creationism should be taught alongside Evolution. He was reasoning that if time was given to the story of God creating the universe as found in Genesis, then equal time should be given to his god, “The Flying Spaghetti Monster.” His letter was put on the Internet and it has since become “a thing.”

There are two questions that the The Flying Spaghetti Monster should cause a Christian to grapple with:

  1. Should Creationism be taught alongside Evolution in schools?
  2. Is Christianity just a made-up fable like the Flying Spaghetti Monster?

1. Should Creationism be taught alongside Evolution in schools?

My answer to this may be tainted by the fact that I am Canadian. If a school system is publicly funded, and is made available to all the public, then one particular religious viewpoint should not be privileged over the rest. Many a good Christian will be very disappointed with me right now, but if we Christians were in the minority, and Muslims in the majority, would we want Islamic precepts being taught in our public schools?

However, are we too quick to roll over and play dead? I fear we Canadian Christians often are. There is a field of study that looks at the origins of the universe from no particular religious viewpoint. It is commonly referred to as Intelligent Design (ID for short) and begins not with a religious text, like “In the beginning, God . . . ,” but with the study of our world and the universe. It looks at the apparent elements of design in the universe and infers that behind the design is a Designer. The illustration is sometimes used of flying an airplane over an island and finding the letters “SOS” written in sand. You know someone is, or has been, there based on three letters. Then go on to consider the amazing amount of information stored in DNA. Or how amazing it is that so many things have to be “just so” for life to be possible. Such evidence of design begs for a Designer.

Some think that the more we learn about the universe from science, the less we need any notion of a god to explain things. God has been moved to the margins it has been said. However, this would be like someone taking apart an iPhone and in figuring out how the parts and software work together, saying “there is and never has been a Steve Jobs or Johnny Ive. We don’t see them present with us making this thing work.” You see the misstep. As John Lennox has pointed out, God is not a “God-of-the-gaps” God, that is, the explanation of the things we cannot understand, but rather is the “God of the whole show.” If an iPhone is an incredible achievement in design and engineering, the universe is infinitely more so. As the Psalmist writes:

The heavens are telling the glory of God;
and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. (Psalm 19:1)

Should ID be taught in schools alongside Evolution? After all, some would point out, perhaps correctly, that it is not science strictly speaking. It wanders into the realm of philosophy. Whatever it is, it is good, clear thinking. Schools should be places of good, clear thinking.

But does ID get you to Jesus? Or to the Flying Spaghetti Monster for that matter? This brings us to our second question.

fsm2. Is Christianity just a made-up fable like the Flying Spaghetti Monster?

This is an insinuation of those who practice Pastafarianism, namely that belief in Jesus, or in any god for that matter, is as ridiculous as believing in something like the Flying Spaghetti Monster. So is it?

Here we look to the where the evidence leads, particularly with respect to the origins of each religion. For example, if you were to investigate the origins of “belief” in the Flying Spaghetti Monster, the evidence would lead to knowing exactly when, where, and even why the whole thing started. You can easily account for the birth and development of Pastafarianism without needing the actual existence of the Flying Spaghetti Monster to account for it. It is clearly a people made religion. You can go on to apply this same inquiry of all religions, asking “how did they begin and develop, and can you account for such things without the existence of the god they point to?” This all works very well until you come to Christianity. I am only scratching the surface here, but birth and development of Christianity falls nicely into place if Jesus rose from the dead. If Jesus did not rise from the dead, then it is hard to account for why the first Christians believed what they believed, did what they did, and wrote what they wrote. N.T. Wright is one of the best scholars to look up to learn more about this.

If you are looking for a more accessible read you could look up the writings of an expert in evidence by the name of J. Warner Wallace. He was a cold-case detective and an atheist, who upon reading the Gospels came to realize that what he was reading bore the marks of genuine eyewitness testimony. I am only scratching the surface, but he gives us pointers on handling the evidence, some of which are paraphrased poorly by me below, but told in better detail himself. Consider:

  • The variations between the Gospels are evidence of genuine witnesses being behind them. Detectives get suspicious of collusion when witnesses all end up saying the exact same things in the exact same way.
  • The case for the reality of Jesus and the truth for Christianity is a cumulative case, built upon many bits of evidence.
  • While there is no direct evidence for Jesus available to us today, circumstantial evidence is enough to establish truth. All convictions of cold cases are built on circumstantial evidence.
  • Evidence does not need to get you beyond every possible doubt for a conviction, but beyond every reasonable doubt. Some people hold the bar far too high when it comes to Jesus so that no amount of evidence would ever be enough.
  • Not every question that is raised in a case needs to be answered. Belief in Jesus as Lord is reasonable, even when questions linger.
  • Unbiased jurors make the best jurors. That is why there is a process of jury selection, to weed out those who would begin with prejudice and bias. Some people will never believe Jesus rose from the dead because they start with a bias against the possibility of any miracle.

The evidence points to the unreality of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and the reality of Jesus. Evidence is spoken of in the Bible:

3 This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
5 For there is one God;
there is also one mediator between God and humankind,
Christ Jesus, himself human,
6 who gave himself a ransom for all
this was attested at the right time. 1 Timothy 2:3-6 (emphasis mine)

The word for “attested” is a word meaning “evidence, proof, testimony.” That there is one God, and that Jesus is how we can know God has been “attested to,” or “evidenced.” Jesus is the greatest proof of Who the Designer is, and the greatest evidence of His love for us. Which brings us to our conclusion.

The evidence points to what seems too good to be true. If the evidence pointed to atheism being true, that would be a depressing thing. If the evidence pointed to Islam being true, that could be a scary thing. If the evidence pointed to Eastern religions being true with their focus on karma, that would be an unfortunate thing. But the evidence points to the resurrection of Jesus, the reality of God, and the reality of God’s grace and love for the sinner. That is the best possible place for the evidence to lead. It seems too good to be true! Yet that is where the evidence points. So instead of asking “what’s up with the Flying Spaghetti Monster,” we should instead be asking “what’s up with God loving us so much?”

All scripture references are taken from the NRSV

 

January 10, 2016

The Jesus Footprint

Filed under: apologetics, Christianity, Jesus — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:16 am

Today’s article is taken from the blog of Andy Bannister, who is the author of The Atheist Who Didn’t Exist (or: The Terrible Consequences of Really Bad Arguments) and is also the Director and Lead Apologist of RZIM Canada (Ravi Zacharias International Ministries). Click the title below to read at source.

A Powerful Footprint

It would be hard to underestimate the significance of Jesus. No other person has had a greater historical impact. Even those who aren’t Christians acknowledge this: Muslims revere Jesus as a prophet. Hindus consider him a holy teacher. Even many atheists are very willing to say they admire Jesus; for example, the late atheist Christopher Hitchens once said he respected “the virtue of his teachings.”

Apologetics IconYet a common skeptical remark you hear is that we can’t really know anything about who Jesus actually was. He was probably a great guy, but the early Christians invented so many stories about him that we have no way of separating what’s true in the Bible from what’s false. Most skeptics don’t realize, however, that academic historians take Jesus very seriously. We’re talking historians, not theologians; not least, because we have so many historical sources for Jesus. Many people don’t realize the New Testament is a collection of books, for example, and represents multiple sources about Jesus. Many are very early; for example, Paul’s letters date to the 40s and 50s AD and some of the material he quotes is dated even earlier, to within months of Jesus’s death.

Literary studies of the gospels have also shown that their authors were intentionally setting out to write biography—not fiction or hagiography. Where we can test them against archaeology or other historians of the period, they’re shown to be reliable. Thus, historians take Jesus seriously. No credentialed academic historian in a university ancient history department would suggest that Jesus never existed, for instance. Throw out Jesus and you would have to throw out a wealth of other historical figures for whom lessevidence exists, such as Julius Caesar.

In recent decades, there has been a renewed interest in the study of the “historical Jesus,” by which we mean what we can say about Jesus using the methods and tools of the historian. There are a wide number of facts upon which historians agree. To list just a few, it is generally agreed that Jesus was raised in Nazareth. That he was baptized by John. That he had twelve disciples. That he had a reputation as a healer and miracle worker. That he taught in parables and stories. That he clashed with the religious authorities of his day. That he spent time with social outcasts. That he had an extremely high view of his own identity and his relationship to God. That at the end of his ministry he rode into Jerusalem, was hailed by many as the Messiah, performed some kind of prophetic action in the Temple and was subsequently arrested, tried, and executed.

It’s simply not the case, in other words, that Jesus’s life was invented decades after his death by well-meaning Christians. And that means we are forced to take the life of Jesus very seriously—at the very least, we need to read the Gospels as we would other ancient literature and weigh them accordingly.

And that brings us face to face with Jesus himself: a Jesus who made astonishing claims about himself. C S Lewis once famously said that Jesus left us only three options. Either he was mad—utterly insane. Or he was bad—a cynical liar. Or else Jesus was who he claimed to be. While this threefold choice may slightly oversimplify things, the broad thrust is right. Jesus forces all of us to answer the same question he asked Peter in the Gospels: “Who do you say I am?”1

One thing is certain: Jesus has left a powerful footprint on history, too great to ignore. “Who do you say that I am?” The answer each of us gives to that question matters profoundly.

Older Posts »

Blog at WordPress.com.