The following has been adapted from the just-releasing book, God The Reason: How Infinite Excellence Gives Unbreakable Faith by Craig Biehl (Carpenter’s Son Publishing). It appears on the blog Pilgrim’s Rock.
September 12, 2015
March 24, 2015
Your friend dropped by the Christian bookstore last week when I happened to be there. Every once in awhile, I get into a conversation with someone who really opens up; who really wants to share something, and this was one of those times.
Your friend has a lot going on inside her. There’s a battle raging between the more conservative values she was raised with, and her desire to be a more progressive, rational humanist, liberal wife and mom. She gets nothing out of church, but she goes to please her husband. She thinks it’s good that her kids are getting some type of faith focus in their Sunday School, but bristles at the absolute exclusivity of Christianity and worries that perhaps they are getting brainwashed.
And then, she has you.
You probably don’t see yourself as such, but you are her one spiritual anchor in a sea of confusion and questions. You are the person she talks about as a Christian influence in her life, more than her husband or any author or TV personality. You are the only Bible she reads.
And you are part of the problem.
First, you leave no room for her questions. Your faith and personal theology are so neatly wrapped up and tied with a bow that you seem to have trouble seeing life from her perspective. This is how it was, is, and ever more shall be would be a statement describing your intransigence. Don’t get me wrong, the scriptures are clear, God is unchanging, and if the buck is going to stop somewhere, solo scriptura is not a bad place to land the plane.
But you need to meet her in the middle if you’re going to bring her back to your starting place. You have to have the conversation. She wants to have the conversation with you. If you don’t have empathy for her situation, you need to at least pretend to have some sympathy for whatever has brought her to her present spiritual state.
She needs to see compassion. She needs to see that God is a God of grace, and that grace extends toward her.
Second, you need to embrace her in a spiritual sense. Instead, you regard her has some toxic influence in your life that should not be permitted. You shut her down when she starts saying things that you don’t approve of or using language you can’t condone in your house. At that point, all you offer her is your own self-righteousness.
You are afraid to listen. Your world is probably saturated with Christian books, Christian radio or podcasts, and Christian television. When your friend starts talking with you, her words are so totally foreign to your everyday experience that you are afraid of being polluted by them. You want to spend your entire Christian life at the conference; at the retreat; at the worship service.
Jesus got his hands dirty. He hung out with political zealots, tax collectors and prostitutes. There’s a lesson there, I think.
Third and finally, you need to invest in an intense study of Christian apologetics. You may be shutting her down at every turn because you have nothing to offer her. The idea of ‘always being ready to give a response’ is lost on you. It’s easier to put your hand in her face and tell her you don’t want to talk about it.
When the gang gets together for a social evening, you win every round of Bible Trivia, but when it comes to discussing your faith with seekers and skeptics, Atheists and Agnostics, you’ve got nothing.
You’ve preached to the choir for so long you haven’t noticed the audience behind your back.
Listen _________, your friend needs you. She needs you to be her link to a world of Christian belief that she is missing right now, but she needs your love and your time and your willingness to enter into her spiritual world.
The Bible can take her challenges. Our doctrine and theology can deflect her doubts. Christian resources can answer her questions.
But right now you are her contact point, and as a team, we’re all counting on you not to drive her away. Or you can continue to make a mess of it, and hopefully somebody else can pick up the pieces.
October 3, 2014
At least 24 hours after hearing of the death of Ken Silva of Apprising Ministries, it occurred to me that Erin Benz at the blog Do Not Be Surprised would probably have noted his passing, and I was correct. In a ten minute span that followed I clicked around her blog and gained some insight into what motivates her as a blogger.
While there are probably some theological things Erin and I would disagree on, I want to say that I am in total agreement with everything I’ve copied and pasted below. I don’t feel called to do a blog that has the same tenor perhaps, but I have waded in on certain breaking stories, but I’ve also waded out when the stories went mainstream. Similarly, Do Not Be Surprised doesn’t seem to belabor a particular issue.
But first, the name as explained in her very first post:
Strangely, it took me quite awhile to determine what I wanted to call this blog… But then it all just sort of came to me. Not Surprised actually has a dual purpose. Of course, it seemed a natural title considering everything that’s happening in the world. Yes, I’m frustrated and saddened by so much of it, but at the same time, we had ample warning that this was all coming, so why should I be surprised? Then as I was flipping through my Bible, two passages stuck out to me:
1 Peter 4:12 “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” and
1 John 3:13 “Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.”
The words “do not be surprised” really stood out to me as I was literally simply flipping through the Word and I thought, “duh, Erin, everyone thinks you’re crazy anyway, why are you surprised? God promised you they would!”
In what is probably a more-frequently read section of her blog, the “About” page, she writes:
As Christians, we are called to “contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). This blog seeks to answer that call.
The truth is everything and God’s truth has been under attack from the beginning. Today, churches and Christian groups and organizations have readily and eagerly compromised the truth of the Gospel. They have done so in favor of gaining numbers, filling pews, and over-filling offering plates. Truth, even the truth of God’s unchanging Word, has become relative, and has become secondary to one’s personal experience or revelation. Those who see this compromise, this denigration of God’s Truth, must stand up and speak out against it. Even our proclamation of the true Gospel of Jesus may be marred if we choose to remain silent in the presence of “doctrines of demons” (1 Timothy 4:1) because our silence betrays a subtle acceptance of these lies.
As we contend and stand firmly on Scripture, we will be called divisive, mean, unloving, and perhaps worse. Yet we stand strong nonetheless. And we remember the warnings of Jesus and Paul and others in Scripture:
And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray.“ (Matthew 24:4-5)
“I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.” (Acts 20:29-30)
“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, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” (2 Timothy 4:3-4)
Remembering these warnings, and resting in the grace and strength of Jesus Christ, may every Christian have the courage to earnestly, boldly, unashamedly, contend for the saving faith and salvation in Christ that has been granted unto him.
“Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” (Jude 3-4)
Part of the problem in the body of Christ is that we don’t really know each other. So when we disagree on doctrines or practices everything becomes very quickly polarized. Like I said at the outset, there are some areas where I am coming from a doctrinal position quite opposite Erin’s but there is no denying either her sincerity or her passion, as in this January 2010 post, Why I Do What I Do:
Discernment ministries, and less formal blogs of the same nature (like this one) oftentimes receive a lot of criticism for speaking the truth in love. Be it negative, even hateful comments on an article, or mean-spirited emails, discernment ministry is not for those who fear confrontation! Since these responses are rarely constructive, but are rather composed of name-calling and weak arguments, I suppose I am blessed to be part of a generation that simply unfriends me on Facebook when they are offended by one of my articles! But so many people ask “why.” Why do I and others choose to be so “mean” or “divisive” toward our Christian brothers and sisters? To be clear, discernment and the consequential boldness to speak the truth is not done in malice, but in love. The answer to why I maintain this blog (and to why I’ll “call a spade a spade” in any conversation) lies in Ezekiel 33:6:
But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any one of them, that person is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand.
If I saw that your house was burning down, but you were in a far room and were as of yet unaware, would you like me to alert you of the impending danger? Or would you prefer that I stand back and watch the house burn with you inside of it? The same idea applies to what I am doing with this blog: I see a destructive, un-Biblical teaching in the church and instead of sitting back and watching you drown in a sea of apostasy, I am led to boldly speak up for the Truth and stand against the false teaching…
So the question of course that many would ask is, “Fine, but who are you to think that your view is correct?” Or “By what authority do you publish your blog?”
I think Erin partly answered that question this week when she noted the passing of Ken Silva:
On a personal note, having served at one time alongside Ken at Apprising’s sister site, Christian Research Network, I am thankful for the way in which the Lord used Ken in the life of Do Not Be Surprised.
So she brings some practical experience to her writing.
I should also say that as this blog’s Wednesday Link List approaches its Monday night deadline, I always check Erin’s This ‘n That column, a Saturday link list, to see what stories grabbed her attention that week.
So Erin, if you’re reading this and you decide to look around here, you might notice that I am passionate about some individuals and ministries that perhaps you disdain, and I want you to know that is probably matched by an equal amount eye-rolling when I read your blog. But when I read the posts I’ve linked to here, I can’t deny that your online work is born out a desire to see God’s word rightly divided and God’s truth setting people free.
To my readers, I would say that as you get to know the heart of someone, you can agree to disagree on things; and you can determine to celebrate the things that unite us.
September 29, 2014
James W. Sire is the author of the landmark apologetics book The Universe Next Door (1976) and the more recent A Little Primer on Humble Apologetics (2006) and has been an editor at InterVarsity Press (IVP) for several decades. In the first chapter of Apologetics Beyond Reason: Why Seeing Really is Believing he explains that it might be time to chart a different direction.
For those in our culture who put their trust in human reason, these apologetic approaches have worked well. Many Christians today read and benefit from them. Without the, thoughtful Christians would have too few resources to analyze the clever arguments and glossy lifestyles presented by our culture’s media, its pundits, its fraudulent experts and its passionate prophets of health and wealth.
But many in our postmodern world have come willy-nilly to distrust reason, and the arguments of the modern Christian rationalists now seem irrelevant, doubtful, lifeless. The approaches of C. S. Lewis and G. K Chesteron avoided this fate by clever and imaginative grasps of the paradoxes of the human condition. The value of human reason for them was to permit a conclusion to be wrested from within a framework of paradoxes. It took account of the human desire for simplicity, tied the reader in knots and then showed how Christian faith both accounted for the knots and then untangled them. Their work has attracted readers from across the intellectual spectrum from the simple to the sophisticated.
But highly sophisticated rational apologetics itself is limited to those who can understand it…
…There is another limitation in many arguments Christians use to prove the rationality of belief in God. The God who is “proved” is only a transcendent, impersonal God, maybe a Creator, but not necessarily personal. Only a God whose existence is important to human understanding or human flourishing is worth troubling about. The arguments may support deism as a worldview but be silent about the existence of a fully Biblical God. Of course, such arguments can be stepping stones to a fuller argument for the God of the Bible. And that’s no small matter…
Apologetics Beyond Reason pp. 16-17
He then continues along this line mixing the writings of classical literature and philosophy with his own story. I’m only part of the way in, but it’s a type of subjective apologetics, or intellectual testimony. My words, not his; or at least not so far.
August 6, 2014
July 2, 2014
June 25, 2014
May 4, 2014
Whenever we roll into a new month, I always look back on things published one year prior, to see if any of them deserve a re-look. This time around, I was struck by some books we were reviewing a year ago…
I don’t want to toss out cheap superlatives like, ‘Best book I ever read,’ but 24 hours after finishing Chasing Francis: A Pilgrim’s Tale by Ian Morgan Cron, I definitely feel that this is one of best written books I’ve ever read. With equal parts contemporary ecclesiology, church history, and Italy travelog, You can practically taste the Italian food. Chasing Francis is an excellent work of fiction that’s more about facts than fiction.
Some explanation is necessary. For me, this book fits in with the type of fiction that I’ve been attracted to over the past few years; what I call Socratic dialog. Think Paul Young in The Shack and Crossroads, Andy Andrews in The Noticer and other titles, David Gregory in the Perfect Stranger trilogy; books that use story as a motif for teaching.
But the publisher, Zondervan, didn’t see it that way, identifying the advance copy I received in the Christian Living category and avoiding the category thing entirely on their website….
Much as I hate to admit it, while I’ve been aware of him for many years, this week was the first time I finally got around to reading one of the more than fifty books by R. T. Kendall. The American born author and pastor is best known for being the pastor of London’s Westminster Chapel where he succeeded the likes of Glyn Owen, G. Campbell Morgan and Martyn Lloyd-Jones.
The book I asked to review is These Are The Days of Elijah: How God Uses Ordinary People to Do Extraordinary Things (2013, Chosen Books) which was compiled from a series of Sunday evening sermons given at Westminster in 2000-2001; and if those Sunday night sermons were this good, I can only imagine what his preaching was like on Sunday mornings.
The book is an exposition of the story of the prophet Elijah. That said, you would expect the book to rest firmly in a Old Testament setting, but it’s as though Dr. Kendall can’t complete a paragraph without reference to a New Testament character or narrative…
Every decade or so a great work of apologetics appears which breaks the boundaries of the discipline and reaches a wider audience. Josh McDowell did it years ago with Evidence That Demands a Verdict; Frank Morrison with Who Moved the Stone? and more recently Lee Strobel brought a large audience to the discussion with The Case for Christ series.
Enter former Los Angeles County homicide investigator J. Warner Wallace and his book Cold Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels. (2013, David C. Cook). Like Strobel, Wallace was a skeptic turned believer, and like McDowell, Wallace leaves no stone unturned in his study of the reliability of scripture, from obscure passages to those central to core doctrine.
The book is divided into two parts, the nature of cold case investigation — and this case is 2,000 + years old, and the particular evidence that the Bible offers…