Thinking Out Loud

March 28, 2012

Wednesday Link List

  • Okay, so the guy who sold you the insurance coverage that looks after your pet dog or cat after the rapture wasn’t actually planning on doing anything after you vacated the planet.  Bart Centre, who lives in New Hampshire, came clean after the state Insurance Department delivered a subpoena because he appeared to be engaged in “unauthorized business of insurance” through his Eternal Earth-Bound Pets business. Just don’t tell Fido and Fluffy.
  • Equally ridiculous is the story where a Pentecostal church staged a fake raid on its youth group — to illustrate the conditions faced by persecuted church people  in the third world — and now face felony charges.  Be sure to catch the video where the pastor states he would do it again.
  • Jamie Wright may call herself “the very worst missionary;” but when it comes to the liabilities of short term mission projects, she really gets it. The “Hugs for Jesus” people who showed up in her part of the world had no clue what to do if anyone wanted follow-up. In baseball, a connection of bat and ball without follow-through is called a ‘bunt.’ Short term missionaries are bunting where they could be hitting home runs.
  • Not a Christian website, but does it count if a Christian told me about it?  Just kidding; anyway, enjoy Ten Lessons Parents Could Learn from the Pilgrims at NetNanny.
  • Got 36 minutes to hear a great sermon? I’ve dropped by Joe Boyd’s blog before but never heard him preach; but the idea of Jesus being blind got me curious. When was Jesus ever blind; literally or figuratively? This was videoed while he guested at another church, and his style is somewhat laid back but the content is excellent.
  • Your Sunday morning service was a communion service.  And after that there was a fellowship lunch.  Which one was closer to being the real sacrament?  Before you get nervous about that question, read what Deacon Hall has to say.
  • At age 103, Rev. Grover C. Simpson, pastor of St. John Missionary Baptist Church in Marked Tree, Arkansas is thinking it might be time to consider retirement. Well, closer to 103½ actually.
  • Brandon Hatmaker on serving the poor: “I’d consider it more a success if I spent an hour with a homeless guy and he never mentioned church, what he does wrong, or what he doesn’t do right. I know, sounds weird. But, I’d rather him talk about his story, his family, what happened that landed him on the streets. That would be an indicator to me that he’s not performing for me. And that maybe, just maybe, I really cared about his story. And that just possibly, my God might care as well.” Read more.
  • The post at Rightly Dividing is really short, but the comments add a lot of value to the question: Does anyone die “prematurely?” Does anyone die “before their time?”
  • Occam’s razor is not the latest personal care product for men. Maybe this will help. Anyway, at Glenn Peoples blog, loved this line: “…that this was one of those instances where a scientist had gone crashing headlong through a philosophical issue and made a bit of a hash of it.”
  • Two of the cathedrals destroyed in New Zealand’s earthquake may not have survived structurally, but according to one writer, “Increasingly, they had morphed into tourist temples…They were increasingly irrelevant to ordinary Cantabrians as vital centres of worship.”
  • As if we didn’t exhaust this topic yesterday, there’s always the website devoted to the forthcoming movie, Jesus Don’t Let Me Die Before I’ve Had Sex. The movie which just raise $32K in its Kickstarter campaign, will be “a feature-length documentary examining the teachings of the evangelical church on sex and exploring the undercurrent of idealism that leaves many lay members feeling frustrated and confused.”
  • Speaking of edgy movies, some people have seen the Blue Like Jazz movie already and have posted reviews; a lengthy review by Mike Cosper and a shorter one by Tiffany Owens at World Magazine.
  • And speaking of sex, Joy Eggerichs is the daughter of Dr. Emmerson Eggerichs who wrote the huge marriage book, Love and Respect. She blogs at Love And Respect Now, and offers this explanation as to why a rapidly growing number of women are watching porn.
  • No specific link, but if you head over to Timmy Brister’s blog, you should be able to catch the letter “Z” as he concludes his “Gospel Alphabet” series.
  • In Tennessee, when they say “community hymn sing,” it involves Michael W. Smith, Randy Travis, Committed, Marcia Ware, a 150-voice choir and full symphony orchestra. But you get to sing along with the projected lyrics.
  • If you go to Andy Stanley’s church, North Point Community, you know the worship time resembles a rock concert; hence a warning in your church bulletin: “This service contains flashing lights which may cause problems for people with photosensitive epilepsy.”  (Warning from me: .pdf file takes awhile to load.)
  • Can’t get enough links? There’s always Brian D.’s blog.
  • Today’s closing cartoon-type-thing is from Naked Pastor. David’s blog may seem irreverent at times, but tell me this is any different from what’s going on in many of the Psalms.


March 12, 2012

Approaching Christianity Philosophically

Working in and around the Christian publishing industry, I am constantly frustrated by requests for resources that are appropriate to give as gifts to people who do not identify as Christians, but may be interested in reading something that resonates with their current worldview, or communicates in terms more familiar to other materials they are currently reading.

But then, when something arrives on the scene from outside the fold — not bearing the Seal of Approval of a publisher like Moody, or Zondervan or Baker or Tyndale — I find myself straining for clues that will verify that the title in question is sufficiently Evangelically kosher; and that the author is worthy of my unconditional recommendation.

I’m not sure you can have it both ways. If a book is going to absolutely connect with people of other faiths, there are times it’s going to seem foreign to those of us deeply embedded in modern church culture.

Ellis Potter’s book 3 Theories of Everything (2012, Destinée Media) arrived in my mail last week from Switzerland as the clear winner in my “curiosity of the month” category. At a trim 112 pages, nothing was stopping me from reading it cover to cover, but who was this author and where was he going with this?

It turned out not so important where he was going as where he was coming from.  A visit to the website of Eastern Europe Renewal provided this:

Mr Potter, a native Californian now residing in Switzerland, is a former Buddhist monk who became a Christian under the influence and ministry of the late Dr. Francis Schaeffer. Mr Potter’s dramatic conversion came about as a direct result of several intense, personal discussions with Dr. Schaeffer during the turbulent seventies.

In 3 Theories of Everything, Potter looks at the overarching structure of many popular religious worldviews, which can be classified into one of the following: Monism, Dualism and Trinitarianism.  Looking at each, he then shows the ways in they succeed or fail to succeed in explaining the world around them, with a particular emphasis on the problem of suffering.

The book would be of special interest to anyone who has experience with Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, Confucianism, Astrology, Meditation or New Age religions; as well as anyone who has done basic reading in Philosophy including cosmology or metaphysics. Here’s a fairly accessible sample

Freedom and form is another pair of opposites that we see in the world. A good illustration is gravity. Gravity is one of the basic forms, or structures, of reality but it gives us a certain freedom. If gravity were not here and I began to walk, I would float and spin and soon I would be dead. Form or structure is necessary. Let me give you an equation to express this idea:

total freedom = death

There is nothing postmodern about this equation. Postmodernism as usually understood and practiced in western culture regards freedom as the highest value and sees the purpose of freedom as fun and play. But freedom cannot really be valuable or life-giving unless it is accompanied by form. If you want to be totally free to fly you can go to the top of a building and jump. You can say, ‘I am free;’ but you won’t be free, you will be dead because you have not respected form. But if you study the various forms of reality — the laws of properties that give reality, structure and shape, such as gravity, aerodynamics, thermodynamics, metallurgy, jet propulsion, stress, torque and so on — then you will be able to build an airplane and fly across the ocean. That’s a great freedom, but the freedom is connected to form. Freedom and form are not independent of each other in reality. Again, their relationship is complementary rather than competitive.  (pp. 48-9)

Having worked through alternative worldviews, Ellis gently builds a case for the Christian worldview incorporating a fresh (but orthodox) retelling of the fall, the incarnation and the atonement.

But then, as a bonus, the author appends answers to 45 questions that have been asked in seminars he has given in different parts of the world; some clearly arising from Christians and others from skeptics. He is not unwilling to tackle things like, ‘Is it possible you might one day find a different answer and abandon Christianity?’ In answering that most candidly he defines Christian commitment, while at the same time indicating the scenario to be unlikely. In another question, he’s asked if his years as a Zen Buddhist monk informs his present occupation as a Christian pastor. His answer would make a few people I know uncomfortable, but in the answer that follows immediately after, he says he identifies theologically as close to Baptist or Brethren.

Again, this is that book that I mentioned at the beginning; a rare gem of a book for that person not ready for Paul Little or Erwin Lutzer or Josh McDowell; and for reasons of length and style and the writer’s background, I think this would also be a good book to give to a man who is looking at faith questions from a distance; or with whom you want to begin a deeper conversation. It’s also a pre-apologetic title fitting for a college or university student.

3 Theories of Everything by Ellis Potter is available for bookstores to order worldwide as a print-on-demand book through Ingram Publisher Services, the largest book distributor in the world; in paperback at $13.99 U.S. 

Read another excerpt from the book at Christianity 201.

January 5, 2012

What You Can and Can’t Do With Truth

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:24 am

She blogs at With Unveiled Face under the name Free Spirit where this appeared as Things You Can Do With Truth.

Things You Can Do With Truth

1) Deny it.
2) Ignore it.
3) Cover over it.
4) Reject it.
5) Make fun of it.
6) Mimic it.
7) Twist it.
8) Talk about it.
9) Avoid it.
10) Proclaim it.
11) Be changed by it.
12) Represent it.
13) Embrace it.
14) Love it.
15) Hate it.
16) Live it.
17) Live by it.
18) Long for it.
19) Seek it.
20) Believe it.
21) Wrestle with it.
22) Lament it.

Things You Can’t Do With Truth

1) Change it.

June 20, 2011

Master of Apologetics

After putting this together for Saturday’s Christianity 201, I decided that it was worthy of more exposure…

Ravi Zacharias is one of the leading voices in the field of Christian apologetics, and an author of many significant books on the subject. RZIM, his organization is based in Atlanta, Georgia; and he has a daily radio program heard throughout Canada and the United States. These are in somewhat random order; so take a minute to pause between them; feel free to comment if one especially strikes you.

“We experience emptiness not when we are wearied by our trials, but when we are wearied by our happiness.”

“A man rejects God neither because of intellectual demands nor because of the scarcity of evidence. A man rejects God because of a moral resistance that refuses to admit his need for God.”

“One of the most staggering truths of the Scriptures is to understand that we do not earn our way to heaven. …works have a place–but as a demonstration of having received God’s forgiveness, not as a badge of merit of having earned it.”

“I do not believe that one can earnestly seek and find the priceless treasure of God’s call without a devout prayer life. That is where God speaks. The purpose of prayer and of God’s call in your life is not to make you number one in the world’s eyes, but to make him number one in your life. We must be willing to be outshone while shining for God. We hear very little about being smaller in our own self-estimate.”

“Philosophically, you can believe anything, so long as you do not claim it to be true.
Morally you can practice anything, so long as you do not claim that it is a ‘better’ way.
Religiously, you can hold to anything, so long as you do not bring Jesus Christ in to it.”

“There is no greater discovery than seeing God as the author of your destiny.”

“These days its not just that the line between right and wrong has been made unclear, today Christians are being asked by our culture today to erase the lines and move the fences, and if that were not bad enough, we are being asked to join in the celebration cry by those who have thrown off the restraints religion had imposed upon them. It is not just that they ask we accept, but they now demand of us to celebrate it too.”

“I think the reason we sometimes have the false sense that God is so far away is because that is where we have put him. We have kept him at a distance, and then when we are in need and call on him in prayer, we wonder where he is. He is exactly where we left him.”

“You cannot really have the world and hold on to it. It is all too temporary and the more you try to hold on to it, the more it actually holds you. By contrast, the more you hold on to the true and the good, the more you are free to really live.”

“Where the eye is focused, there the imagination finds its raw material. The right focus must be won at immense cost and discipline. Train the eye to see the good, and the imagination will follow suit.”

“It is theoretically and practically impossible to build any community apart from love and justice. If only one of these two is focused upon, an inevitable extremism and perversion follow.”

“It is a mindless philosophy that assumes that one’s private beliefs have nothing to do with public office. Does it make sense to entrust those who are immoral in private with the power to determine the nation’s moral issues and, indeed, its destiny? …. The duplicitous soul of a leader can only make a nation more sophisticated in evil.”

“Anyone who claims that all religions are the same betrays not only an ignorance of all religions but also a caricatured view of even the best-known ones. Every religion at its core is exclusive.”

“God is the shaper of your heart. God does not display his work in abstract terms. He prefers the concrete, and this means that at the end of your life one of three things will happen to your heart: it will grow hard, it will be broken, or it will be tender. Nobody escapes.”

“The tragedy is that just when we need to remember the most because we have climbed some pinnacle of blessing and success- that’s when the tendency is to turn our back upon God.


Good Quotes, Quotation Collection, Christian Quotes, Liberty Tree, Christian Apologetics Forum, Just My Thoughts, Simply Quotastic

This is an awesome exercise to do. If there are any authors or speakers you’d like me to research, let me know, but I encourage you to do this sort of thing yourselves as well.

January 31, 2010

The Christian Vs. The Athiest: A Debate

Last night our town’s largest Baptist church, in association with the local Humanist Association presented a debate in which Joe Boot, a pastor and Christian apologist and former staff member with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries debated Dr. Clare Rowson, a lecturer, psychiatrist and medical columnist.      The event was well attended, the moderator kept things orderly and the mixed crowd — I’d guess something like 65% Christian and 35% atheist — was polite toward both guests.

I’m not sure if an event like this can be discussed in terms of winners and losers.    People arrive with their feet firmly planted in one camp or the other, and while I’m not saying it’s impossible, I doubt there are many people converting to the opposite opinion before nights like this are over.    There are two remarkably different perspectives, and not a lot of common ground, although quotations from writers with the opposing view flew back and forth over the evening, just to make things more interesting.

I think the winners are the audience members who get some exposure to people and viewpoints they may be somewhat isolated from.    I know many Christians who simply don’t get into philosophical or religious discussions with anyone other than members of their own tribe.   I think it’s a good thing for them to hear from an intelligent, articulate and logical atheist, and then to see a representative of their own team respond appropriately.

I am also sure that some atheists might find themselves similarly isolated, although given the topic — Does God Exist? — they didn’t exactly hear what Christians would call “The Gospel,” but rather a sort of pre-evangelistic discussion that only a handful of times mentioned the name of Jesus.   (In a Church service the next day, Joe Boot addressed this as he lectured on the topic, “Is Jesus the Only Way?”)

Boot indicated at one point that he was using a “reverse apologetic,” in other words, trying to show the futility of atheism.    Rowson indicated early on that since you can’t prove a negative hypothesis — “God Does Not Exist” — this placed the burden of proof on the Christian side.   As stated,  Boot, for whatever tactical reason, was not setting out to do this, so I am sure there were people in both camps who walked away disappointed.

The event also suffered from the use of the standard debate format.   The initial presentation from each debater was 20 minutes, followed by a four minute rebuttal and two minute rebuttal response.   The rebuttals seemed very short by comparison.

The second half was two-minute responses to questions that had been preselected from e-mails received during the week.   That was also unfortunate, since there were things said in the first half that begged clarification, and also, it meant that the two hour evening had no interactive component.    It would have been ideal to find a somewhat neutral journalist who could engage audience questions in a less formal “talk show” kind of situation.   (Yes, I’m available in future, but I’m not exactly neutral.)

Should your town or city consider an event like this?   I’m not sure.  The church that helped promote this event is very “program and event driven,” so it fit their church culture well.    But there was also a lot of energy that went into this for very little initial evidence of what the Christian side would call fruit.

It did however bring the word “apologetics” into discussion.   As Boot said this morning,  “Some people think you need an IQ of 120 or more to do apologetics and everybody with an IQ under 120 should do evangelism.  That’s not true.  Everybody should be ready and able to give a defense of their faith.”

For more information about Joe Boot’s new Church plant in Toronto, Canada, Westminster Chapel, click here.   For information on another of his projects, the Ezra Institute for Contemporary Christianity, click here.    You can also check the sidebar of this blog periodically for links beginning with the keyword, Apologetics.

Today’s Quotation:  Does This Mean Spurgeon Wasn’t Arminian?
“It always seems inexplicable to me that those who claim free will so very boldly for man should not also allow some free will to God. Why should not Jesus Christ have the right to choose his own bride?”–Spurgeon

October 29, 2009

Link Here to Another World

Link Day2It’s the internet; a place where you just have to think of it and it exists.  Here — in no particular order —  are some places I’ve been since our last linkfest ten days ago:

  • Jonathan at ReThink Mission gets his friend Aaron — a non believer — talking about how Christians could better share their faith.   Insight number one:  “Don’t come with an agenda.”   Hear more here.
  • At the blog, Solar Crash, Lon points out that, “Sponsoring a Child is Not Loving a Child.”  Good thoughts.   But then — and whatever you do, don’t miss this — he includes a video of a sponsored child who is now an adult who is speaking to the Catalyst conference on behalf of Compassion.  Then, something amazing happens!
  • Fasten your seat belts for this one.   What if the message of creation was packaged in scientific-sounding language and the message of evolution was phrased in religious-sounding words?   How might this change your appreciation of both messages?   Especially when both of them are talking at once?  Check out the 3 1/2 minute animation Duelity on Vimeo.
  • The evening news bring images of suffering and disaster into vivid focus, but increasingly, people spend more time at the small (computer) screen than the large (broadcast) screen, thereby avoiding media discomfort.  So here, courtesy of The Big Picture, are some rather striking images of Typhoon Ketsana which struck The Phillipines during the last week of September.
  • As a one-time philosophy major at university — the same year Time magazine said, “Philosophy is the prerequisite to unemployment” — I’ve been very much drawn to the rather engaging Justice series airing on the PBS Think Bright digital network.   At least 24 Harvard University lectures by Michael Sandel have been condensed into twelve 55-minute portions; the first time Harvard has posted courses online.    Grab your notebook and join the class here.
  • The blog Higher Ground reposts a series of statements by Charles Finney under the title, “How To Preach Without Converting Anyone.”   Warning:  Finney pulls no punches.  For example: “Avoid preaching doctrines that are offensive to the carnal mind, so that no one should say to you, as they did of Christ, ‘This is a hard saying, who can hear it?’”  Check it out here.
  • You’ll notice the previous link is actually lifted from something called Dead Guy Blog.  (Tag line: ” Learning from the giants of the faith that have gone before us to strengthen our faith and stir our affections toward God.”)  I wanted to include this blog as a separate link highlight and I want to encourage you to check out the entire blog, not just the permalink to one entry.
  • David Fitch’s “A Warning List for Those Who Would Join a Missional Church Gathering” at his blog, Reclaiming The Mission, has a lot more substance to be limited to just the missional conversation.   What do you look for in a church?   Maybe it’s all the wrong things!    I like number ten.  The last sentence.   Read all ten warnings here.
  • My favorite Nashville pastor, Pete Wilson, quotes John Ortberg: “It has never been easier to obtain the scriptures and never harder to absorb.”  Profound stuff, eh?   Sendin’ Pete some link love here.
  • Kathy at the blog, The Well has a gripping item from David Yonggi Cho telling the story of a pastor who prepares his family for the martyrdom they are about to experience.   That very night.   Read it here.
  • Jesus Christ preached the good news of The Kingdom.   He didn’t just offer “Get out of Hell” cards.   Sometimes that message gets lost on even seasoned churchgoers.   Christian musician Shaun Groves gets caught in the middle of such a situation at one of his recent concerts.
  • Finally, to make it an even dozen, here’s a link from this blog just a few days ago that I thought would generate more comments.   Hidden between the lines is the answer to the question, Why Evangelicals Don’t Have Crucifixes.   Or maybe not so hidden.

Thanks to Steve McCoy at Reformissionary for the link to Re Think Mission.

Here’s a link to our last link list,  and also the one before that.

If you got this far and still haven’t linked to anything, consider just the first three items on today’s list.

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