Thinking Out Loud

July 17, 2017

Conservative Christians in Germany

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:54 am

It was interesting to learn that if anything frustrates Evangelicals in Germany, it is the emergence of conservative Christians who have decided to march under the banner of six day creation instead of, well, perhaps the message of Jesus.

Also at issue is the sovereignty of God. Perhaps this was really dumb on my part, maybe I was tired and missing something, or maybe I’d been away from my computer and the Christian blogosphere for too may days, but I didn’t see this as framed in terms of Calvinism vs. Arminianism — which I never thought to mention — but more in terms of a very narrow view of what constitutes man’s freedom in the everyday; perhaps something more akin to the debates on open theology.

On returning home however, I connected the dots and realized that Neo Calvinism is certainly having an influence there as it is doing here. Probably just as well we didn’t go there, as we had other places to visit and things to see.

But it was the creation thing that rather irked me. I am being greatly influenced by many writers who would belong to the theistic evolutionary view on this, but it’s too early to say I’ve changed my views. If God wanted to do what he did — and the not-so-peripheral issue of intelligent design has to always be on standby in any discussion of this nature — in six twenty-four hour days, then he certainly could. He wouldn’t need a secondary agency in order to accomplish this and he could certainly give this created world an apparent age. But why would he leave us so many indicators that point to something different?

Again, I’m somewhat undecided, or perhaps even apathetic. Let me explain.

My Christianity doesn’t hinge on the first two chapters of Genesis. Not for a moment. I no longer think I can see that as the Genesis so much as our Genesis. As a science professor who was also a Christian explained to me so clearly, to believe the Bible you have to include an Adam who walked with God in the cool of the evening.” I like that Genesis 3:8, which uses that phrase, also introduces our sin story.

But now we’re into the third chapter of the Pentateuch, long past the origins narrative.

What if I had grown up in a culture where evolution is a settled fact? Upon being given a Bible, how would I deal with the conflict or contradiction of Genesis 1 and 2? Perhaps I wouldn’t see it. Hopefully, the person who gave me the Bible would direct me to Mark and John and Luke and Matthew. Hopefully I would meet Jesus first and then, as I gained a deeper understanding of what God’s bigger plans and purposes are — the book of Hebrews would provide the perfect introduction — I would understand the system that was in place prior to the incarnation of the Christ.

To decide to that young earth creationism is the hill to die on is simply to walk into the arena of religious thought looking to pick a fight. There are better ways to be Evangelical than this.


Hunting for a graphic image to associate with this article I came across this article which raises some issues not discussed here. I don’t agree with some of the more inflammatory nature of his approach, but I think he’s making some good points.

The actual image used was from this Seventh Day Adventist article.

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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.

July 20, 2013

We’re All Gay Now

In Acts chapter ten, Peter has a vision of many types of animals that the Jews considered unclean.

13 Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.”

14 “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”

15 The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”

You can read the whole chapter here.

The purpose of this story is to show that God is about to usher in something entirely new, what theologians might call ‘a new dispensation,’ or specifically ‘the Church age,’ or a time of transition from law to grace, from First Testament to Second Testament.

The 2013 edition

The 2013 edition

Adam Hamilton invokes this passage in his book When Christians Get It Wrong. The book was first issued in 2010 by Abingdon Press. Book and music publishers often talk about “throwing it against the wall and seeing if it sticks.” This book didn’t stick the first time, despite the popularity of Hamilton — who we profiled here the same year — as an author and conference speaker.  So it’s back again with a new cover.

On page 83 of the new edition, we read Hamilton’s take:

Along the way Peter had an epiphany. He suddenly understood: The rules are changing! … So even Peter, who spent three years with Jesus himself, struggled with the Bible and with a God who seemed to be saying that what was written in the Scripture and what the people had interpreted might not actually be God’s will.

That’s the takeaway. The rules are changing. He says this in a chapter devoted to the Church’s response to homosexuality as one of the things we’ve gotten wrong. Now, you’re not going to read many Evangelical Christian blogs that are as compassionate toward the gay issue as this one. Yes, this is an issue that the capital “C” Church has messed up and that some among our numbers are continuing to mess up. I agree with the core premise of Hamilton’s book, and its attempt to find some way to let a broader population know that we know we’ve dropped the ball on some issues.

I always tell people that apologetics doesn’t mean anybody is apologizing for anything, but in this case, someone is apologizing.

So Hamilton takes a view of science that is pro-Evolution theory; a view of world religions that leans toward inclusivism; a view of human tragedy and suffering that detaches God from such breaking news stories and somewhat absolves Him; and a view of homosexuality that emphasizes the need to love everyone.

To repeat, there is some wisdom in trying to meet people on level ground; to have discourse without being adversarial; to be seeker-friendly instead of seeker-hostile. I have had so many views challenged over the past few years — heaven, the rapture, women in ministry, etc. — and I’ve been so thankful that I wrote my doctrines and beliefs on these secondary issues in pencil and not indelible ink.

But where I part company with this book is where he forces the story of Peter and Cornelius in Acts 10 to speak something into situations it was never designed to address. It panders to the postmodern mindset that truth is relative and that doctrines are “subject to change without notice.” So yes, the last few years have seen accelerating change in the Church on various issues, but this is not to imply that God is ushering in a new dispensation today.

The 2010 edition

The 2010 edition

Peter’s vision is a microcosm of the “before / after” transition that begins at the cross of Calvary. A new era has begun. This is where the Jewish story that we call The Old Testament is about to open up into a new act that introduces a much larger cast. It’s not a blanket verse that allows for what was inappropriate yesterday to be acceptable today. I didn’t get that memo. Are we all gay now?

In other words, while I might agree with some elements of Adam Hamilton’s approach and be more gay-friendly to his conclusion than you might think; I don’t believe you have to twist scripture to get there. Just state your opinion and tell your stories.

But that’s not the real reason I don’t like this book. I just think that at (barely) 114 digest-sized pages, it’s a rip-off at $14.99 US. And if it didn’t perform the first time, maybe there was a reason.

January 17, 2013

Review: Tyler Blanski – When Donkeys Talk

Donkeys Say the Darndest Things

When Donkeys Talk - Tyler BlanskiNormally I choose the books publishers send here, so when an advance copy of Tyler Blanski’s When Donkeys Talk arrived from Zondervan in the mail unsolicited, even though I was aware of his blog and have linked to a couple of  his articles, I set it aside. However curiosity got the better of me and I started reading, and then I did something I have never done: When I got to the last page, I turned back to chapter one and started reading it all over again.

There is something infectious about this  book. I want to say that Tyler Blanski is the new Donald Miller, but that would raise questions about the whereabouts of the old Donald Miller. Suffice it to say there are many similarities. Technically, this is not Blanski’s first book; he has a previous title which I’ve seen and recall is mostly poetry, and one other title beyond that. But this title with a major Christian publisher establishes him as a breakout author to watch.

How do I summarize this book? It’s about exploring the world of Biblical imagery and narrative where donkeys can talk* in a world dominated by science and logic and reason that donkeys cannot speak. Blanski may claim to be a humble 29-year-old house painter from Minneapolis, but there’s no hiding his academic labors in medieval studies, and so he looks at Christianity through the lens of how people in ancient times understood science and how they understood and practiced faith.

But he does this in the context of stories of interactions with his friends and acquaintances, many of whom are on a different plane when it comes to belief and God.  As a result, each chapter of the book has a different spiritual temperature, and each varies in its allusion to Biblical chapters and verses.

The characters in Blanski’s personal stories  constitute the Miller-esque element; I feel I know these people. And how can a book which seems so casual — almost random — in its approach to faith also be such a valuable snapshot of church history? Somehow he pulls it off.

The book also contains several references to Christmas, which left me wondering why Zondervan held this back for a January 22nd release. There are some thoughts here that I hope to remember to use as a resource when December rolls around.

The full title is, When Donkeys Talk: A Quest to Rediscover the Mystery and Wonder of Christianity. I would argue that the use of ‘rediscover’ here might precludes what I could consider this book’s best application: As an introduction to Christians and Christianity for seekers, skeptics and scientists, especially those in the under-40 demographic.

*See the story of Balaam in Numbers 22.

>>>Win a copy of When Donkeys Talk! Leave an inspired comment (!) about an experience you’ve had where a donkey spoke to you, or something similar (like “Why I’d really like to win this book”) followed by (US) or (Can), and our friends at Zondervan will send out a copy to one Canadian and one American winner from comments we select on Monday!  

UPDATE 1/22/13 — Picking a Canadian winner was easy, so Kristy, we’ll be contacting you for your address!  Katrina, you’re our U.S. winner, and no, it wasn’t a “names that start with K” thing.  Both of you should receive an email from me to get your mailing address, so look for it as it filled with words evocative of spam. Like really, if I got an email that said “Congratulations you’re a winner!” I’d probably trash it.

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