Thinking Out Loud

September 28, 2017

Kids Who Don’t Need Convincing Can Convince Others

I use the word a lot. Perhaps even overuse it. The word? Apologetics. I’m a fan. A huge fan.

Apologetics isn’t a necessarily an element of systematic theology. I way that because it’s been noted that the word doesn’t appear in many theological texts. But it’s definitely a branch of evangelism, and some would argue it’s at the core of Christian outreach. Relying heavily on logic, it defends Christian belief from detractors and skeptics.

But it’s not child’s play, right? Or is it?

J. Warner Wallace, author of Cold Case Christianity and God’s Crime Scene would have you think differently. The former book was spun off into a kids edition and earlier in the year, some friends surprised me with the news that they were suspending their usual Sunday School curriculum for one quarter, and instead take the 13 weeks to look at Cold Case Christianity for Kids.

So I was delighted the other day to receive a sample copy of the kids edition of the second book in the series, in the form of God’s Crime Scene for Kids.

While the first book (in either the adult or children’s series) looks at the evidence for the resurrection, the second looks at creation, or the evidence for what some call intelligent design. Can my friends’ 9-12 year olds absorb that?

With his trademark illustrations, J. Warner Wallace offers entirely new analogies to help kids see the trail of evidence leading to a creator. There are more pictures than the adult edition, but these images help bridge the distance between ostensibly difficult content and a child’s imagination. There is also a website with supporting videos for each chapter hosted by the author.

Let me suggest an analogy of my own. Parents often ask me about the difference between the NIV Bible and the NIrV Bible for children. I explain that for easy readability, the latter uses shorter sentences and a reduced vocabulary, but when it comes to people names, place names and the storyline itself, there are some things that can’t be dumbed down or tampered with.

Similarly, Wallace tosses out terms like causation and reasonable inference like they were after-school snacks, but only because he’s convinced that in the context of the book they’re holding in their hands kids can grasp these concepts. (A cat named Simba bears some of the responsibility for keeping the story accessible to young minds.) He gives kids credit for being able to understand more than we might estimate.

Which brings me to my conclusion: I think God’s Crime Scene for Kids isn’t just for kids. I think there are adults who struggle with the idea of understanding apologetics who would never read Wallace’s longer, adult book. Furthermore, I think there are people reading this who can think of one friend to whom they could say, “I got this book for your kids, but I want you to read it before you pass it on to them.”

I think the presence of a book like this could open a lot of doors to discussion that would cut across all age lines.


Related:


The full title is God’s Crime Scene: Investigate Creation with a Real Detective, David C. Cook, 2017; 144 pages, paperback.

A copy of the book was provided by the publisher.

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May 2, 2016

This Sunday’s “Mother’s Day” is Better as “Women’s Day”

One of the things that struck me when reading Pete Wilson’s book, Plan B, was the many mentions of infertility. I remember thinking, ‘This is a big issue among people in his congregation.’ And maybe for some of you.

With Mother’s Day happening this Sunday in many parts of the world, Russell Moore has written an ever-timely article on infertility. We link to Dr. Moore quite often here, but I don’t know if we had ever committed wholesale theft of one of his blog posts before stealing this one three years ago. But it needed to be seen, and still does. You are encouraged to click through to read it.

Mother’s Day is a particularly sensitive time in many congregations, and pastors and church leaders often don’t even know it. This is true even in congregations that don’t focus the entire service around the event as if it were a feast day on the church’s liturgical calendar. Infertile women, and often their husbands, are still often grieving in the shadows.

Mothers Day and the ChurchIt is good and right to honor mothers. The Bible calls us to do so. Jesus does so with his own mother. We must recognize though that many infertile women find this day almost unbearable. This is not because these women are (necessarily) bitter or covetous or envious. The day is simply a reminder of unfulfilled longings, longings that are good.

Some pastors, commendably, mention in their sermons and prayers on this day those who want to be mothers but who have not had their prayers answered. Some recognize those who are mothers not to children, but to the rest of the congregation as they disciple spiritual daughters in the faith. This is more than a “shout-out” to those who don’t have children. It is a call to the congregation to rejoice in those who “mother” the church with wisdom, and it’s a call to the church to remember those who long desperately to hear “Mama” directed at them.

What if pastors and church leaders were to set aside a day for prayer for children for the infertile?

In too many churches ministry to infertile couples is relegated to support groups that meet in the church basement during the week, under cover of darkness. Now it’s true that infertile couples need each other. The time of prayer and counsel with people in similar circumstances can be helpful.

But this alone can contribute to the sense of isolation and even shame experienced by those hurting in this way. Moreover, if the only time one talks about infertility is in a room with those who are currently infertile, one is probably going to frame the situation in rather hopeless terms.

In fact, almost every congregation is filled with previously infertile people, including lots and lots who were told by medical professionals that they would never have children! Most of those (most of us, I should say) who fit into that category don’t really talk about it much because they simply don’t think of themselves in those terms. The baby or babies are here, and the pain of the infertility has subsided. Infertile couples need to see others who were once where they are, but who have been granted the blessing they seek.

What if, at the end of a service, the pastor called any person or couple who wanted prayer for children to come forward and then asked others in the congregation to gather around them and pray? Not every person grappling with infertility will do this publicly, and that’s all right. But many will. And even those too embarrassed to come forward will be encouraged by a church willing to pray for those hurting this way. The pastor could pray for God’s gift of children for these couples, either through biological procreation or through adoption, whichever the Lord should desire in each case.

Regardless of how you do it, remember the infertile as the world around us celebrates motherhood. The Proverbs 31 woman needs our attention, but the 1 Samuel 1 woman does too.

January 2, 2015

#the15 and Calvinist Hate Speech for Children

First of all, I promise we’ll do our best to move away from #the15 as a topic tomorrow and look at something else. I also modified yesterday’s post mid-afternoon yesterday slightly so as to not characterize the whole thing as a Reformed-based or Reformed-centered. More blurry lines. But you don’t have to follow TULIP to have that spirit, but again, as I said, the issue here was LifeWay, not who specifically was calling them out. The nuances to this story are endless…

However, from the beginning, I kept thinking I’d seen the name J.D. Hall somewhere*, and then I found this on my own blog, from Summer, 2013. The books in question indoctrinate children to fear Arminians (i.e. in this case, people who believe a different ‘religion’) so I wonder if a good lawyer here could prove that under Canadian law, they constitute hate speech, and it could actually be illegal to bring them across the border. I’m not about to find out.

Tag this “grieving the Holy Spirit…”


Help Arminians Are Giving Me Nightmares Again - Sample

Help Arminians Are Giving Me Nightmares AgainI hate it when I hear of children waking up with Arminian nightmares. Yes, seriously. Do I look like the kind of person who would make this up? From the description at Amazon:

Book Description
Publication Date: April 15, 2013

Come along on a journey with Mitchell, as he recalls his nightmare for his mother. Mitchell was in a land of darkness and gloom, when due to no cooperation of his own, a Knight in shining armor saved him and all the other captives He intended to save. “Help! Arminians are Giving Me Nightmares Again!” is a children’s allegory designed to teach your kids the Doctrines of Grace through the use of creative story-telling.

About the Author:

Hall is the pastor of Fellowship Church in Eastern Montana, where he lives with his wife, Mandy, and three children. JD is a co-founder of Reformation Montana, a network and mission society consisting of Reformed Baptist churches in Montana and the surrounding region. He is a columnist for the Intermountain Christian News, and operates the Pulpit and Pen website. JD received his B.A. in Christian Education from Williams Baptist College and M.A. in History from Arkansas State University.

Help Mom There Are Arminians Under My BedOh no! It’s part of a series of books…

We heard about this at the blog Spiritual Sounding Board which did an analysis of the doctrinal war going on in the comments section — and remember this is for a children’s book — at Amazon.

…We’ve talked about the idolatry of doctrine before. I believe the idolatry of doctrine can create an environment in which abuse is allowed to continue in churches. The obsessive focus on doctrine can become a distraction to the message of Christ and what it really means to live out the life Christ intended: loving God and loving others.

I have a problem with training children (sic) this stuff at such a young age. What is the purpose? To raise up little like-minded warriors to defend your brand of Christianity?…

…LDS carry their Bibles, too, along with the Book of Mormon when they go to their wards to worship. I have seen some combo versions that include the Pearl of Great Price and The Doctrines and Covenants. These are all part and parcel of LDS.

The way I’m seeing it, there are some Christians who behave the same way as Mormons. They have their Bible along with the Institutes of Calvin. I wonder if there is a combo Calvin Institutes/Bible in publication yet?…

Staging this doctrinal battle in the pages of a children’s book is indoctrinating kids at the earliest against anyone who is part of the Arminian tradition. It’s almost what we in Canada would call hate speech (which is illegal here) against groups such as the Wesleyan, Free Methodist, Anabaptist, Salvation Army, Church of the Nazarene, Christian and Missionary Alliance, Four Square, Pentecostals, Assemblies of God, Free Will Baptist, Charismatic, and many, many others.

Sadly, while the blog post at Spiritual Sounding Board — who is now over 450 comments since Saturday — gets a little worked up on this, we have to agree with her. The Reformed movement just sunk to a new low. This is unconscionable. This type of book is simply not of God.

The fracturing of the body of Christ continues…stay tuned.


* [Update] It turns out that was the only place I knew the name from. (Remember, I track about a hundred stories weekly.)  It gets worse: read more about him at this story.  This guy is a menace.


 

Related post: Drawing the Body Together, Tearing the Body Apart

September 27, 2012

Microblogging Again – Material for your Facebook Page

First, from your friends at Dayspring Cards:

Or if you want to evangelize your mostly non-churched Facebook friends:

Or encourage mostly Christian Facebook friends:

Or this one actually found on a Facebook page:

If the label is a clue, this Aeropostale t-shirt parody is by Kerusso:

For Christian seniors who can never find a graphic for their blog:

And then from Absolutely In Love With Him:

And finally, for those of you who prefer to put substance over style on your Facebook page, this one from Sabrina:


Decision Making Principles for the Christian

Before you decide, ask yourself the following questions.

  1. Is it Biblical?
  2. Would Jesus do it?
  3. Will it bring glory to God?
  4. Can it be done in the name of the Lord Jesus?
  5. Is it coming from selfish or unselfish motives?
  6. Have I prayed seriously about it?
  7. Is it a righteous use of my time?
  8. Do I have any doubts about this?
  9. Will this cause anyone to stumble?
  10. Will it cause me or anyone else to think about anything that is not pure, lovely and excellent?
  11. Does it appear or “seem” to be evil?
  12. Will it cause you to have anything to do with evil things?
  13. Is it constructive and beneficial?
  14. Is it seeking your good or that of others?
  15. Is it a first priority matter for me as a Christian?
  16. How will it effect the lost?
  17. Does it help unbelievers understand about God and the Gospel?
  18. Is this upbuilding to fellow Christians?
  19. Am I doing the good that I know to do?
  20. Is there a substitute for this that is better?
  21. Have I examined all of the possibilities?
  22. Have I sough the counsel of wise men?
  23. Will it build unity in my family and the Church?
  24. How will this effect myself, and my family in the future?
  25. Will I be glad about this tomorrow or in the future?
  26. Where will this possibly lead? Do I want to go there?
  27. Does it hinder my doing the things God commanded or nullify His Word?

Joe Brumfield, 1995 X

Okay, I know I said ‘finally’ but then as I was putting this to bed, I found this at this week’s Happy Monday at Master’s Table:

December 17, 2009

What If God Was One of Us: Which He Was, Briefly

If selling the idea of the virgin birth to unbelievers has been tough over the centuries, it’s an especially hard sell in an age of greater sexual abandon.   It’s just too easy for the skeptic to wink and go, “…Yeah…right…”

I get into discussions with people on atheist and general religion discussions sites about this.   (If you’re a Christ-follower, and you want to have a real ministry online, consider spending your time apart from Christian blogs.   But you need to be creative and allow God’s Spirit to lead you at each step.   The rest of the world has heard all our formulaic answers already.)

Sometimes I’ll engage in a rather risky game of speculative theology.  “What if?”   I ask, “What if there is a God, and for whatever reason — because if there is a God, He can do whatever He darn well pleases — He wants to fully enter into the human condition?”   Except that recognizing who I’m dealing with, I don’t always capitalize “he” and sometimes I don’t hedge with a word like “darn.”

What options does He have at that point?

  1. Vulcan mind meld — While part of Him is still running things at Heaven Central, another part totally enters into the thoughts, feelings and emotions of a randomly selected victim.   It’s not bad, but it’s a bit subjective to that individual to whose mind He is joined at that point.
  2. One to beam down — Yes, that’s right.   Two consecutive Star Trek images.   As Captain Kirk often did in the original series, God could simply borrow a period costume from the wardrobe department and simply show up in [insert name of your local community] and walk over to [insert name of your local community hangout] and begin a conversation about [insert name of your local community’s losing sports team] and then move on to a discussion of higher things.   It’s better than #1, but He would have no history with those people and that would prevent the conversation from going in certain directions.    Then again, Jesus had history with the people of Nazareth which made it hard for them to do the stretch when He suggested He might actually be Someone Else.
  3. Take the entire journey — When you get right down to it, entering into the human experience from conception to birth to adolescence to manhood does start to make a lot of sense.   The “how” of conception must by definition be consigned to the realm of mystery, though.  But compared to other options, it satisfies the need to empathize fully (“…tempted in all points as we, yet without sin…”) with greater disruption to the natural order of things here (i.e.  people don’t usually ‘beam down’ on a regular basis.)

So ultimately we haven’t made the kind of progress the skeptical mind would like to see.  We still begin with two propositions; (1) that God exists and, (2) that He desires the full IMAX experience of what it is to be one of His created.   Then, on top of the two propositions, we have to relegate the full “how” to mystery.

But this is indeed the premise on which our faith as Christians is based.   And this is the faith that has survived all manner of attempts to shut it down.   Throughout history, from the time Christianity began to as recent — I’m sure — as last week, people have been willing to die for belief in a creator God who enters fully into the experience of HIs creations.

But he doesn’t just show up.    He comes “in the fullness of time.”  Timing is everything.   The prophets give the heads-up that it’s going to happen, though no individual prophet has all the puzzle pieces.   While here, He plays by most of our rules — which are actually His rules, His design — but offers a glimpse into greater power.

A party trick with some washing water that becomes wine starts things off rather innocently.    But there is a wisdom in this rabbi’s teaching that transcends anything the people have heard before.    Then there are the healings.   Reports of the raising of the dead begin innocently, too; you can think Jarius’ daughter was only sleeping, but then what do you do with Lazarus, dead four days?   But then He, Himself beats death itself.

In the end, His identity can’t be hidden any longer.    From age 0 – 30 he did his best to ‘blend,’ but then for three years, His identity becomes less and less veiled.   And finally…

Finally…the God who didn’t just ‘beam down,’ does, in fact, ‘beam up.’

To be continued…

More on this tomorrow, but with a twist… you’ll be directed to click to another blog to continue this topic…

September 3, 2009

Does Your Denominational Label Describe Who You Are?

Filed under: Christian, theology — Tags: , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:16 pm

Denominational Wordle

Yesterday in the comments section Kaybee hit the proverbial nail on the proverbial head with this:

“…Not sure what to call myself: Christian, of course; disciple of Christ; believer in, follower of, Jesus; born-again….

“Maybe that should be the next question you ask, Paul: ‘Does your denomination/church name describe who/what you are (ie: evangelical, reformed, pentecostal?) Or do you have an alternative label?'”

OK!  I’ll take the bait.   Maybe your form of compromise on this involves a hyphen (Post-Charismatic, Anglo-Catholic) or an amalgam (Bapticostal, Methodistmatic).  (I made the last one up.)   Or maybe, following what must be an increasing trend, your spouse worships somewhere completely different from where you attend weekend services.

Do you buy in on everything your church officially stands for?   Are you a Reformer who has reservations about limited atonement?   An Assemblies of God member who believes in tongues, but not as the sole manifestation of the fullness of the Holy Spirit?   A Roman Catholic who isn’t so sure about transubstantiation?

And what if you’re the pastor?   Is there a problem if the leader of the flock doesn’t buy in on the official statement of faith?    Can he/she have a public position on doctrines different from his/her private position?

I know that the comments-to-stats ratio on this blog is rather low.   I attribute that to the way I so eloquently present everything — I mean, what’s to add?   But now here’s one you can really sink your teeth into.   C’mon, you know you want to…

*Image: Cloud generator at Wordle.net

August 6, 2009

Early Marriage: Cure for Temptation?

Filed under: Christian, evangelism, marriage — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:53 pm

When an article in Christianity Today online is closing in on 200 comments — and they keep coming — you know they’ve struck a nerve.

Skim the article, but by all means, don’t miss all the responses; and don’t expect that all those comments are going to agree.     And save the link (underlined section below).   Someone you know may want to read this article.

UPDATE – AUGUST 9 — The article has been picked up by ABC News.    See their version here.

July 4, 2009

Words You Wish You Could Take Back

Filed under: Christian, Church — Tags: , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:26 pm

The morning of February 19th had started out very quietly.   I was taking it easy after a hectic day before.

At 12:56 PM, I got an e-mail from my pastor.   Earlier in the week I had used something that happened at our church as a springboard for a blog post.   He was not pleased.   But he made it clear it wasn’t just displeasure with what I’d written, he wasn’t pleased with me either.   If a pastor could write a parishioner a letter of divorce, I suddenly knew what one would look like.

By 3:05 PM, I was calm and composed enough to draft a reply.   I was engaging ideas, not debating his leadership, and decided to defend the ideology of blogging in general, and lament that on a personal level, my friendship with this man was obviously fading.

Words_can_Hurt_or_Heal_smallBy 4:25, he had seen my reply and was already in damage control mode.   But it was too late.   The words in the first e-mail had to have come from somewhere, and I knew that my time at that church was over.    It was sad really, because I had been stepping up my commitment to that particular assembly over the ten weeks that preceded this unexpected development.

I counted them.   There were ten words in his first e-mail to me that were extremely negative.   But it was the tenth one I couldn’t forget.    And no matter how much I wanted to pick up the phone and say, “Okay, I got your second e-mail; let’s move forward…” I couldn’t get past that one word.   And I can’t to this day.

Pastors often meet with me and unburden themselves of situations in their congregational life that leave them worn out.   It’s a vocation that leaves people very vulnerable, and they often speak of that “one person” who exhausts all their human resources.   I just never considered the possibility that any pastor, in any church I ever attended, would consider me that “one person.”    I mean, for one thing, I think you have to take up a lot of a pastor’s time — in the office or on the telephone — to even qualify.

And I don’t think he meant it fully.   I think that either he wrote it in haste; had some other situation that was already eating away at him that day; or someone was running some third party interference.

But that one word simply cut too deeply. I knew we were done.   I miss some of the people there.   But I don’t have the energy to try to make another start.     Too bad, really.

So today’s question is:   What words have you spoken or written that you wish you could take back?

And its reciprocal question:  What words that others have spoken have you found it hard to forgive and forget; or in what situations were you successful at forgiving and forgetting?

Forgetting is often considered a human failing; but with God, it’s a Divine attribute.   And yes, I know what you’re thinking…

June 17, 2009

Born Again But Not Evangelical?

laftovers - converted soupI frequently hear people speak of Evangelicals as “Born Again-ers,” so I was intrigued to learn last night that Barna Research make a distinction when surveying people.     They use “born again” to reflect some point at which we confess our sin and seek forgiveness, making Jesus Christ lord of our lives.

But they use a series of questions to determine if a person has what they consider a true Evangelical worldview.    The two are not automatically synonymous.

All this is in my continued reading of unChristian by David Kinnaman, the book that has for some reason become my end-of-the-day reading, which means some days I don’t get very far.   But spending 15 minutes stuck on page 159 last night didn’t help, as I pondered the worldview issues they use to clarify the distinction.

The criteria are laid out at Barna.org along with poll results.   I’ve paraphrased here in question form:

Born Again

  • Have you made a confession of sin?
  • Have you made a profession of faith in Christ?

evangometerEvangelical

  • Do you believe the Bible is accurate in the principles that it teaches?*
  • Do you view God as all-powerful?
  • Do you view God as perfect?
  • Do you view God as active in the world today?**
  • Do you contend that Jesus did not sin?
  • Do you assert that Satan is a real spiritual being?***
  • Would you disagree with those who say that heaven can be earned through good works?
  • Do you believe Christians have a responsibility to share their faith with others?
  • Would say your religious faith is very important in your life?

*This refers to principles the Bible teaches.   You can believe this and still also hold that there’s a problem in the dates of some kings in your KJV or in the naming of a city in your NRSV

**Barna combines these three into one question.   I broke them up because I think we can rush to quickly to answer a question like this.  We need to constantly have our perspective on God in full view.   The linked article refers to 9-point Evangelicals, which I believe to include the two ‘born again’ questions.

***Real being as opposed to idea or concept.   Among those who said they were Evangelical, rather than those who adopted the stringent Barna criteria, this area had the greatest potential for variance.  60% were less likely to agree on this one.

So Kinnaman, again on page 159, defines the U.S. voting population as consisting of

  • 9% Evangelicals
  • 38% Non-Evangelical, born-again Christians
  • 29% Other, self-confessed Christians
  • 24% Those outside Christianity

On page 162, he says to pastors, “In your church on any given Sunday, chances are you have all four of the faith slices represented in the audience.  How are you communicating so that everyone in the  congregation can understand, think about and respond to social, political and spiritual issues in appropriate ways?  In your sermons as well as in the environments and conversations your church facilitates, are you helping to develop people’s capacity to think, act, and pray in terms of a biblical worldview?”

That’s a good question for anyone in Church leadership; or anyone who is part of the Body of Christ for that matter.

born-again-cartoon

June 12, 2009

Apologetics in a Box

Filed under: Christian, Faith — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 4:31 pm

apologeticsSo there I was, a young, zealous Christian guy in my 20s, flying back from two weeks immersion in Christian community in southern California.    He was a French scientist, en route from Los Angeles to Toronto.

I shared a little bit of what had driven me to spend two weeks in Orange County, and then decided to probe him about his faith.   Eventually the conversation rolled around to evolution, which he said he believed in.

So of course, I started to unpack my reasons why evolution can’t possibly be true, and number two on my list was the Law of Entropy, which states that things tend to break down in complexity not increase in complexity. Devolution, not evolution.

That’s when he interrupted me and said there was a flaw in my logic.   I was taking the Second Law of Thermodynamics and applying it to a life science.   “You can’t do that;” he said.

Oh.   How come nobody mentioned this issue before?

I mention this story because I know a young guy who is, figuratively speaking, on his own flight from L.A.    He’s encountering people and ideas online that are, in one sense, like a breath of fresh air, but his box of apologetics is too neat, too ordered, too unchallenged to accommodate these recent objections.

So the atheists, agnostics, and followers of New Thought, while they have not won the war, are certainly winning the battle.

It’s a confusing time.

I’ve decided I can’t win those arguments.   I know people who can hold their own in discussions of science and faith, but I have to content myself that knowing the God who is revealed in Jesus Christ is sufficient.   I can trust that he’s got it all worked out.    What I can do is communicate the reality of the faith I experience.  And once in awhile, I can articulate the way out of an argument trap, simply because I know God’s got it all sorted.

I wonder what might have happened if I’d asked the scientist, “Where do you think ‘love’ came from?”  “What is your view on why we are here?”  “Do you believe that humans are endowed with a soul?”  “What do you think of Jesus?”

Instead, I, an arts major, tried to debate thermodynamics with a French scientist.    It’s laughable, really.

Anyway, pray for my young friend.   I don’t know him well, but I know his family and I know they’re trusting God that the present season of doubt and uncertainty will not last long.

And pray that he encounters someone whose faith is robust enough to withstand the challenges to faith that happen to us all.    Maybe I’m that person.  Maybe you’re that person.

The comic is from Back on Earth, which began online in January, has posted 40 episodes so far, and is, well, certainly one my more interesting online finds!

Related reading:  The Changing Face of Apologetics — An interview with Lee Strobel at Christianity Today Online.

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