Thinking Out Loud

March 13, 2018

8 Things in Christianity Which are Not Dealbreakers

…It is my argument that often – far too often – conservative Christians become identified with issues that, while important, do not make or break our faith. This creates extremely volatile situations (from a human perspective) as believers’ faith ends up having a foundation which consists of one of these non-foundational issues. When and if these issues are significantly challenged, our faith becomes unstable. I have seen too many people who walk away from the faith due to their trust in some non-essential issue coming unglued. That is why I write this post…

C. Michael Patton

Five years ago, Michael Patton presented a list of Eight Things that Do NOT Make or Break Christianity. I tried to find a link at their current site, Credo House, but was unsuccessful. I believe it’s important to review a list like this from time to time; even to have the courage to say, “I’m an agnostic on that particular issue.”

Non Deal-breakers

  1. Young Earth Creationism
  2. The authorship of the Pastoral Epistles
  3. The inerrancy of scriptures
  4. Whether the flood covered the entire earth
  5. The character witness of Christians
  6. The inspiration of Scripture
  7. The unity of Christianity
  8. The theory of evolution

Ultimately, it’s the death and resurrection of Jesus that matters. It’s a better place to begin, and if the conversation has gone down one of the above rabbit holes, it’s the best place to return.

Did anything miss the list?Remember, we’re talking about issues within the realm of the Bible or the realm of doctrine. If you think so, leave a comment or email or send a direct message on Twitter.

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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.

May 5, 2017

The Book Which Launched J. Warner Wallace

Four years ago, most of us did not know the name J. Warner Wallace. Today his two bestselling books have made him a leading voice in Christian apologetics. I’ve received a copy of Foresnic Faith the newest from him and hope to review it here in the near future.

We never repeat book reviews here. I’ll re-purpose other content, but generally the book reviews are limited to a specific time period when the book is fresh. Today an exception…

The book that started it all

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. But first one other book comparison, and you won’t see it coming. Years ago Philip Keller wrote A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23. People loved that book because there were particular insights that only one who tended sheep could offer toward interpretation of the text that begins “The Lord is my shepherd.” In many respects, Cold Case Christianity offers the same type of intimacy with the subject matter that only an insider who has worked in this vocation can contribute. So if you feel you’ve read enough apologetics titles to last a lifetime, allow me to offer you one more! 

It’s important to note that Wallace approached this originally from the perspective of an atheist. While the evidence in this case is compelling, I found the first part of the book (which is more than half of the total) most interesting. Possible recipients of this book would include men (Father’s Day is coming) and anyone who reads mysteries or watches mystery or suspense or programs related to the justice system on video or TV.

In a sense, in Cold Case Christianity you, or someone you know who is sitting on the fence in terms of belief, are the jury. So the other possible recipients of this book would be anyone who is investigating Christianity; including people who might not read other books in the apologetics genre.

The second part of the book is the evidence itself. Here, Wallace brings in much from non-Biblical sources, satisfying the oft-voice complaint that some apologists are simply using the Bible to prove the Bible.

This is a handbook I intend to keep within reach and will no doubt refer back to many times.

The sophomore release

Two years later, Wallace returned with a similarly structured book looking at a slightly different subject. Again, with Forensic Faith just coming to market, I decided to make this a two-for-one.

In God’s Crime Scene: A Cold-Case Detective Examines the Evidence for a Divinely Created Universe (David C. Cook) J. Warner Wallace applies his unique skills to the idea of God being behind what we might call creation. But we need to watch using the word creation in describing this book, since creation science is concerned with origins and answering the “How did we get here?” type of questions. Rather, this is more about intelligent design and bypassing the How? and When? questions to look more at What?; or more specifically the complexity that exists in the world pointing to a master designer; a designer who exists outside the realms we can observe or quantify.

The last distinction is important to Wallace’s argument; he compares it to cases where detectives would have to determine if the killer was in the room or came from outside the room. The analogy is very fitting, but the proof isn’t contained in one chapter or another, but in the aggregate of a case built on a foundation consisting of an amalgam of evidence and syllogistic logic.

The evidence “inside the room” points to a very specific “suspect.” He’s not a malicious intruder. Although I’ve titled this book God’s Crime Scene (in an effort to illustrate an evidential approach to the investigation of the universe), God hasn’t committed any crime here. In addition, God is not an unconcerned intruder; He isn’t dispassionate about His creation. (p. 201)

God’s Crime Scene is intended therefore to make the argument for the existence of God accessible to the average reader through the comparisons to anecdotal cold-case detective work, and the use of cartoon-like illustrations. But make no mistake, this is not light reading.

This time around, I found myself gladly absorbing the chapters that were more philosophical and epistemological in nature, but totally over my depth in the sections that relied more on biology and physics. I could only marvel that the author was able to present such a wide swath of material which was so multi-disciplinary.

Still there were elements of the argument that were not lost on me. Even a child could see the resemblance of a machine-like mechanism in the human body and a man-made machine that forms a similar function, the latter being something we know was intelligently designed. Or the logic that if we agree that the brain is distinct from the mind, then it’s not a huge leap to the idea that a soul exists.

This is a textbook-quality product that will appeal to a variety of readers with an assortment of interests in this topic and offers the additional payoff of further insights into detectives’ investigative processes. You don’t have to understand every nuance of every issue to both appreciate and learn from Wallace’s writing; and it is in the cumulative assembly of all the various subjects raised here that Wallace is able to mark the case closed…

…You can learn more about the books and ministry of this author at ColdCaseChristianity.com .

October 3, 2015

Weekend Link List

Thought we'd spend a Saturday on the links.

Thought we’d spend a Saturday on the links

blank calendarIf you’re the type that tracks blood moons and Shemitah years, in North America, the change to Standard Time this month is the same night as Halloween. I’m sure this must mean something to John Hagee and Jonathan Cahn.

Selections from the cutting room floor this week, and recent additions:

  • “‘Kids, put away the phones and iPads,’ I announced. ‘We’re going to watch a movie and all look at the same screen the way God intended.'” Skye Jethani looks at what it means to be alone together.
  • The campus newspaper of the state university in Idaho refused an advertisement from a creationist group saying, “many of their claims could be construed as overtly belligerent to our readership.” The university defended the newspaper’s actions.
  • Al Menconi reviews Joe Amaral’s The Story in the Stars DVD. “I’m convinced that Story In The Stars needs to be seen and understood by every Christian in the world and should be taught in every Bible class and science class at every Christian school in the world. This isn’t just an interesting documentary, it is a biblical way to understand what has been right in front of our eyes for thousands of years.”
  • Tensions in the SBC summarized: “We have been pulling on a loose thread for quite some time. Now, it is finally unraveling.” The author expresses five concerns, the fifth of which concerns the role of Dr. Russell Moore: “Moore speaks when I would be silent and remains silent when I would speak. Most of the time, I do not find him representing my views as a Southern Baptist in the public square. Rather, he lectures me on what he thinks my views ought to be.”
  • Zondervan releases a new book by Alan Chambers, former President of Exodus International: “After closing Exodus, the Chambers thought of starting a new organization, but realized quickly that they wanted off the public stage. ‘We wanted to be Alan and Leslie Chambers for a time,’ he said.Around the same time, the couple apologized to the LGBT community on national TV for any hurt Exodus may have caused with their assertion that reorientation of same-sex attraction is possible. “’We wanted people to know we had a sincere change of heart,’ said Chambers.” A review of My Exodus at Publisher’s Weekly.
  • “A Colorado court has issued an arrest warrant for Teen Mania Ministries founder Ron Luce for failing to appear at a hearing last month, according to court documents…in connection to Compassion International’s lawsuit against Teen Mania…Charity Navigator ranks Teen Mania as the nation’s fifth-most insolvent charity with a net worth of negative-$5.2 million.” More at World Magazine.
  • Essay of the Weekend: The new ABC-TV prime time version of The Muppets flies in the face of Jim Henson’s original vision. “…the show suffers from what, since the finale of Seinfeld, has become an overused writing gimmick: no real resolution to the characters’ problems.That’s a far cry from Henson’s original hope of leaving the world a little better than he found it.” I guess it’s not easy being green.
  • Canadian Corner: For this academic, with an federal election just a few weeks away, the problem isn’t that Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is Evangelical, it’s that he’s not Evangelical enough. “Ironically, it might be well for the Prime Minister to be a little more afraid than he seems to be about the end of the world: whether brought on by global climate change, the proliferation of war, or the pent-up fury of oppressed peoples.” The environment is a critical issue in the October 19th vote.
  • Finally, the next time you’re eating pecans think of this: Federal labor law enforces say that children from the polygamous Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, some as young as 6 or 7 were forced to work as much as 14-hour days, including kids who had peanut allergies.

August 3, 2015

J. Warner Wallace: Another Cold Case Solved

Two years ago here I reviewed the book Cold Case Detective by J. Warner Wallace, in which the principles by which this police investigator has operated in his vocation are applied to fleshing out the reliability of the Bible’s gospel narratives. At the time I wrote,

Every decade or so a great work of apologetics appears which breaks the boundaries of the discipline and reaches a wider audience.

I enjoyed the book, and in the time that has passed since I wrote that review, have enjoyed recommending it to a variety of readers, though at times, I also feel it is Christian apologetics’ best kept secret.

God's Crime SceneA few weeks ago, Wallace returned with God’s Crime Scene: A Cold-Case Detective Examines the Evidence for a Divinely Created Universe (David C. Cook) in which he applies the same skills to the idea of God being behind what we might call creation. But we need to watch using the word creation in describing this book, since creation science is concerned with origins and answering the “How did we get here?” type of questions. Rather, this is more about intelligent design and bypassing the How? and When? questions to look more at What?; or more specifically the complexity that exists in the world pointing to a master designer; a designer who exists outside the realms we can observe or quantify.

The last distinction is important to Wallace’s argument; he compares it to cases where detectives would have to determine if the killer was in the room or came from outside the room. The analogy is very fitting, but the proof isn’t contained in one chapter or another, but in the aggregate of a case built on a foundation consisting of an amalgam of evidence and syllogistic logic.

The evidence “inside the room” points to a very specific “suspect.” He’s not a malicious intruder. Although I’ve titled this book God’s Crime Scene (in an effort to illustrate an evidential approach to the investigation of the universe), God hasn’t committed any crime here. In addition, God is not an unconcerned intruder; He isn’t dispassionate about His creation. (p. 201)

God’s Crime Scene is intended therefore to make the argument for the existence of God accessible to the average reader through the comparisons to anecdotal cold-case detective work, and the use of cartoon-like illustrations. But make no mistake, this is not light reading.

This time around, I found myself gladly absorbing the chapters that were more philosophical and epistemological in nature, but totally over my depth in the sections that relied more on biology and physics. I could only marvel that the author was able to present such a wide swath of material which was so multi-disciplinary.

Still there were elements of the argument that were not lost on me. Even a child could see the resemblance of a machine-like mechanism in the human body and a man-made machine that forms a similar function, the latter being something we know was intelligently designed. Or the logic that if we agree that the brain is distinct from the mind, then it’s not a huge leap to the idea that a soul exists.

This is a textbook-quality product that will appeal to a variety of readers with an assortment of interests in this topic and offers the additional payoff of further insights into detectives’ investigative processes. You don’t have to understand every nuance of every issue to both appreciate and learn from Wallace’s writing; and it is in the cumulative assembly of all the various subjects raised here that Wallace is able to mark the case closed.

I give this a very high recommendation both for Christian readers and those who doubt God’s existence. I’d be interested in seeing links to articles where non-believers have interacted with its various chapters, as I believe Wallace has been very thorough in his documentation and his logic.


At 340 pages in an oversize paperback, this book with ‘crime’ in the title is a steal at only $17.99 U.S.

December 19, 2014

Defining Your Terms

When you say you’re a Bible & Science ministry, does that mean

  • you believe in a literal six-day creation and a young earth?
  • you believe in an old earth; that Genesis is allegorical, that evolution is probable?
  • you focus on intelligent design and try to skip the subjects above ?

When you say you have a prophetic gift, does that mean

  • you speak forth with a prophetic voice concerning issues facing the church and/or the world in general?
  • your ministry almost exclusively revolves around end-time predictions?
  • you counsel people and help them find where they are to live, what should be their vocation, who they should marry, etc. ?

When you say your church is charismatic, do you mean

  • the music is loud and lively, and people clap and rejoice during worship?
  • your church emphasizes belief in the limitless power of God and has an active desire for a manifestation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit ?

When you say you’re a ministry to Christians struggling with homosexuality, does that mean

  • you try to assist gay Christians out of that lifestyle through prayer and/or reparative therapy?
  • you try to support gays who are struggling with faith issues and/or acceptance by the church ?

When you say you’re an apostolic ministry does that mean

  • you work with church-planters and missional communities to encourage people who have the gift of apostle?
  • you are frequently addressed as “Apostle _______” as you see yourself as part of a line of apostolic succession and/or feel there is a special anointing on your ministry?

When you say you have a ministry to worship leaders, does that mean

  • you assist worship leaders in the personal spiritual development and in building the tools they need to build their teams?
  • you help worship leaders navigate areas such as song selection, instrumentation, arrangements, sound systems, etc.?
  • you exist to advance an agenda of a specific sub-genre of worship: hymns, modern hymns, ‘soaking’ music, prophetic worship, etc. ?

When you say you’re a ministry to the Jewish community do you mean

  • you stand in the Messianic tradition and want to keep as much of the Jewish ethnic and cultural flavor, while recognizing Jesus as the promised Messiah?
  • you stand in the Hebrew Christian tradition which involves assimilating Jewish believers into western evangelical culture?
  • your ministry is more concerned with both the political and prophetic ramifications of the state of Israel ?

When you say you are a ‘progressive’ Christian do you mean

  • you prefer contemporary churches which don’t make a major issue out of some of the traditions and taboos which defined Christianity in the mid-20th-century?
  • you have a more liberal position on Christian doctrine and theology and Biblical inerrancy ?

When the bottom of your church sign reads, “Everyone welcome,” do you mean

  • you regularly interact with people from the wider community and while it may be a foreign environment in some respects, they would feel relaxed attending services and sense you’re genuinely glad they came?
  • people are welcome as long as they dress like you, believe the same doctrines, read the same Bible translation, vote for the same party, and conform to the church’s position on social issues ?

???

Any other positions out there that bring confusion?

February 13, 2014

Creation Debates: What Matters Most?

Where did Cain get his wife, and why did he need to build a city? And c’mon, the thing about Eve being taken from Adam’s rib? You don’t believe that do you?

I Cor. 13:12

  • For now we see through a glass, darkly… (KJV)
  • We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist… (Message)
  • Now we see only a dim likeness of things… (NIrV)
  • Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror… (NLT)
  • Now it is like looking in a looking-glass which does not make things clear… (Weymouth)

Tuesday night we listened to two very different podcasts, both discussing the question of origins, a topic which has been on many peoples’ minds much because of the debate that took place last week between Ken Ham, a young-earth creationist and Bill Nye, an evolutionist from the scientific community. The word Genesis means beginnings and the question of “how we got here” has intrigued humans throughout history.

Genesis 3:21 So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.

23 The man said,

“This is now bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called ‘woman,’
for she was taken out of man.”

The first podcast — Bruxy Cavey, Theology After Party #7 — introduced the idea that Adam was somehow an intersex person. For some of you this may be a new word, but think of the word hermaphrodite which is less commonly used, and you’ve got the idea. Bruxy, a respected pastor teaching a course at Messiah College suggested that God basically removed the femininity from Adam and left him entirely masculine. Bet you never heard that before, right?

Genesis 4: 17 Cain made love to his wife, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Enoch. Cain was then building a city, and he named it after his son Enoch.

The second podcast — Phil Vischer episode #89 — has an idea you might have heard, namely that Adam was simply one among many and that this answers the question of how the earth became populated so quickly and how Cain would have built a city and who would live and work in that city. So far as that goes it makes sense, but it raises more theological problems than anthropological problems, the least of which is the introduction of sin and death into the world, especially in the way we understand this taught in Romans.

It can be bewildering to consider all these things, and given all the discussions that have been taking place online in the past week, it’s possible you’ve found yourself in the middle of one on topics similar to this, or been asked the kind of question in the opening paragraph, above.

Perhaps it’s better to ask, what is our Genesis? Where does the story begin for us if we’re “seeing through a glass darkly” when it comes to the big-picture origins of life?

I love how Mark opens his writing, and it’s significant because Mark is considered the earliest (first written) among the gospels:

  • The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God (NIV)
  • The good news of Jesus Christ—the Message!—begins here (Message)
  • Here begins the wonderful story of Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God. (Living Bible)

We don’t know fully — and will never know — what happened in the days, years or eras that followed God’s proclamation “Let there be light;” but can know the author of creation personally, even if he doesn’t let us in on all his secrets, or help us unravel the vast number of theories that both believers and non-believers have concocted to attempt to explain things.

Here are two verses that should be part of your answer to people ask you (I Peter 3:15) about the origins of life; here’s where our story begins:

John3:19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world…

Col. 1:16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.

December 11, 2013

Wednesday Link List

antisocial

Once again, it’s time to hit the links: You can catch this week’s list at its home at Out of Ur, a blog of Leadership Today magazine.  Click anything below:

 Story of Jesus SUV

March 23, 2013

8 Secondary Issues To Core Christian Belief

…It is my argument that often – far too often – conservative Christians become identified with issues that, while important, do not make or break our faith. This creates extremely volatile situations (from a human perspective) as believers’ faith ends up having a foundation which consists of one of these non-foundational issues. When and if these issues are significantly challenged, our faith becomes unstable. I have seen too many people who walk away from the faith due to their trust in some non-essential issue coming unglued. That is why I write this post…

C. Michael Patton

This week, Michael Patton presented a list of Eight Things that Do NOT Make or Break Christianity.

  1. Young Earth Creationism
  2. The authorship of the Pastoral Epistles
  3. The inerrancy of scriptures
  4. Whether the flood covered the entire earth
  5. The character witness of Christians
  6. The inspiration of Scripture
  7. The unity of Christianity
  8. The theory of evolution

Again you’re encouraged to read the entire article. There’s also a follow up piece that ran a few days later that captures the spirit of the discussion.

December 14, 2012

I Need To Know Where You’re Coming From

When you say you’re a Bible & Science ministry, does that mean

  • you believe in a literal six-day creation and a young earth?
  • you believe in an old earth; that Genesis is allegorical, that evolution is probable
  • you focus on intelligent design and try to skip the subjects above ?

When you say you have a prophetic gift, does that mean

  • you speak forth with a prophetic voice concerning issues facing the church and/or the world in general
  • your ministry almost exclusively revolves around end-time predictions
  • you counsel people and help them find where they are to live, what should be their vocation, who they should marry, etc. ?

When you say your church is charismatic, do you mean

  • the music is loud and lively, and people clap and rejoice during worship
  • your church emphasizes belief in the limitless power of God and has an active desire for a manifestation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit ?

When you say you’re a ministry to Christians struggling with homosexuality, does that mean

  • you try to assist gay Christians out of that lifestyle through prayer and/or reparative therapy
  • you try to support gays who are struggling with faith issues and/or acceptance by the church ?

When you say you’re an apostolic ministry does that mean

  • you work with church-planters and missional communities to encourage people who have the gift of apostle
  • you are frequently addressed as “Apostle _______” as you see yourself as part of a line of apostolic succession and/or feel there is a special anointing on your ministry ?

When you say you have a ministry to worship leaders, does that mean

  • you assist worship leaders in the personal spiritual development and in building the tools they need to build their teams
  • you help worship leaders navigate areas such as song selection, instrumentation, arrangements, sound systems, etc.
  • you exist to advance an agenda of a specific sub-genre of worship: hymns, modern hymns, ‘soaking’ music, prophetic worship, etc. ?

When you say you’re a ministry to the Jewish community do you mean

  • you stand in the Messianic tradition and want to keep as much of the Jewish ethnic and cultural flavor, while recognizing Jesus as the promised Messiah
  • you stand in the Hebrew Christian tradition which involves assimilating Jewish believers into western evangelical culture
  • your ministry is more concerned with both the political and prophetic ramifications of the state of Israel ?

When you say you are a ‘progressive’ Christian do you mean

  • you prefer contemporary churches which don’t make a major issue out of some of the traditions and taboos which defined Christianity in the mid-20th-century
  • you have a more liberal position on Christian doctrine and theology and Biblical inerrancy ?

When the bottom of your church sign reads, “Everyone welcome,” do you mean

  • you regularly interact with people from the wider community and while it may be a foreign environment in some respects, they would feel relaxed attending services and sense you’re genuinely glad they came
  • people are welcome as long as they dress like you, believe the same doctrines, read the same Bible translation, vote for the same party, and conform to the church’s position on social issues ?

???

Any other positions out there that bring confusion?

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