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Come Reason's Apologetics Notes blog will highlight various news stories or current events and seek to explore them from a thoughtful Christian perspective. Less formal and shorter than the www.comereason.org Web site articles, we hope to give readers points to reflect on concerning topics of the day.

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Three Essential Gifts for Christmas

In order to properly celebrate Christmas, there are three specific gifts that one must have. These have always been given since the very first Christmas and the wisest among men will continue to offer them, not only in this season, but all year long.


1. Gold
Gold is the first gift, a symbol and recognition of His kingship and divinity. Like the divine nature of Jesus, gold never tarnishes – it always maintains its purity. Because of this, gold is considered highly valuable. Also, gold endures where other elements would decompose when "attacked". No single acid can dissolve it. Silver can be dissolved by nitric acid, but not gold. Thus nitric acid was used as the original "acid test" for purity.

We offer our "gold"—the things we value the most in this world—for the untarnished and incorruptible gold of Jesus who is our divine mediator. He is our King and our God.

2. Frankincense
Frankincense is the second gift, a symbol of Christ's priestly work in atoning for sin. Incense was an important element of worship for Israel. Given the nature of animal sacrifice, the stench of death could be overpowering in the temple. The burning of frankincense would provide a pleasing aroma, covering the smell of sin and death. It is offered to God, symbolic of the prayers of repentance and requests of forgiveness. Frankincense only worked when it was burned – made nothing. We remember that Jesus made Himself nothing by humbling Himself to become man so that all men may live.

We offer up our sins – with their smell of death and corruption – to Him in exchange for His pleasing aroma before the Father. He is our high priest, consumed so that He may cover our sins with His blood.

3. Myrrh
Myrrh is our last gift, a symbol of Christ's death for us. The word myrrh derives from the Hebrew word for bitter. Used throughout the ancient world as an embalming fluid, myrrh was usually created by combining the resins of two different plants. Jesus had combined His divine nature with a human one for the express purpose of dying for humanity. As a fragrance, myrrh reacts differently than most resins in that "it expands and 'blooms' when burned instead of melting or liquefying."1 Jesus' death allowed His salvation to expand across the entire world. Myrrh was also used as an antiseptic medicine (re: Smyrna) to promote healing.

In recognition of His offering of His life for us, we offer our lives in return. But we can never outgive God. In offering up our lives we receive life everlasting. Jesus said "he who has lost his life for My sake will find it." (Matt 10:39)

I pray that you and yours will have a blessed Christmas this year – and that you won't forget to put the three most important gifts on your list. You see, these really aren't gifts from us. These are gifts to us, and a greater gift no man has known than the gift of Jesus.

(1) "Myrrh" Wikipedia article accessed 12/24/2009.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myrrh

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Thanksgiving Proclamation - U.S. Congress 1782

For your Thanksgiving edification, I thought I'd reproduce one of the earliest Thanksgiving proclamations issues from the Continental Congress of the United States in 1782. Given that many today claim that the Christian roots of this country are in doubt, I offer up just one piece of evidence that Christianity was not merely deemed important, but the congress encouraged all individuals to "testify to their gratitude to God for his goodness" and made the even bolder declaration that this could be done "by promoting... the practice of true and undefiled religion, which is the great foundation of public prosperity and national happiness."

This is taken from a full class I gave entitled "Thanksgiving and America's Christian Heritage." You may download this class at http://bit.ly/69hQ0P, but hurry - it won't be available for long!

IT being the indispensable duty of all Nations, not only to offer up their supplications to ALMIGHTY GOD, the giver of all good, for his gracious assistance in a time of distress, but also in a solemn and public manner to give him praise for his goodness in general, and especially for great and signal interpositions of his providence in their behalf: Therefore the United States in Congress assembled, taking into their consideration the many instances of divine goodness to these States, in the course of the important conflict in which they have been so long engaged----
Do hereby recommend to the inhabitants of these States in general, to observe, and request the several States to interpose their authority in appointing and commanding the observation of THURSDAY the twenty-eight day of NOVEMBER next, as a day of solemn THANKSGIVING to GOD for all his mercies: and they do further recommend to all ranks, to testify to their gratitude to GOD for his goodness, by a cheerful obedience of his laws, and by promoting, each in his station, and by his influence, the practice of true and undefiled religion, which is the great foundation of public prosperity and national happiness. 
Done in Congress, at Philadelphia, the eleventh day of October, AD 1782.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Why is the Church Hemorrhaging Adherents?



Fox News reported on their web site today that “Christianity is plummeting in America, while the number of non-believers is skyrocketing.” Entitled “Where Have All the Christians Gone?”, the story summarizes some finding from the American Religious Identification Survey which includes the following:
  • The number of Christians has declined 12% since 1990, and is now 76%, the lowest percentage in American history.
  • The growth of non-believers has come largely from men. Twenty percent of men express no religious affiliation; 12% of women.
  • Young people are fleeing faith. Nearly a quarter of Americans in their 20’s profess no organized religion.
But these non-believers are not particularly atheist. These individuals have a belief in God but no interest in organized religion, or they believe in a personal God but not in a formal faith tradition.

The article goes on to draw a couple of conclusions from the survey, namely that attention in churches needs to turn from older people to the youth, who are leaving in droves and America remains a spiritual country, but organized religious institutions are fading as the way to draw closer to God. These are probably valid insofar as they go, but I wanted to add a couple of thoughts myself.

1) We’re living in a society that’s become a post-Christian culture

This is becoming more and more evident. It used to be that even if one wasn’t a true believer in Jesus, you would accept things like the Bible was a source of authority and the general principles of Christian morality were applicable for all people of the society. However, that’ s no longer true today. Moral relativism is becoming more and more prevalent. Accepted cultural norms are being challenged all the time. Marriage is being redefined. These show that Christianity is no longer the de facto worldview for many people and this means that more people will no longer label themselves as Christians simply because they live in a “Christian nation”.

2) Many people no longer classify themselves as Christians simply because they were raised in a church.

In the past, many people when asked what their religious affiliation was would look back on their childhood church experiences and say “Christian” since the church of their youth was such. But our culture is changing to one that is post-Christian, and people no longer see these childhood experiences to be valid in their process of self-identification. It is as much a by-product of the modern generations’ desire to forge their own identity as anything else. We don’t want to be forced to follow the crowd, but have been taught that we can be anything we want. People are taking that view seriously.

3) Mainline Denominational Approach to Christianity is Dying

Declining attendance and membership at mainline protestant denominations is a fact that has been well-documented in recent years. Even as mainline groups become more and more liberal, those who continue to follow their teachings are becoming fewer and fewer. I personally believe that once you give up the concept of the Bible being the authoritative source of truth in spiritual matters, but try to shape Scripture to fit the moral framework of the existing culture, you’ve lost any need for church as a guide. Some people will continue with their affiliations because of the social services churches provide or the relationships the church fosters, but others can find those things in different types of institutions and therefore won’t need a church anymore.

4) The youth of today do not see value in traditional models of church

Of course, given the above, it’s no surprise that many young people today will not see value in church at all and will stop going when they are first given the chance. Their social network provides them with interactivity and relationships. Also, I think kids get it when they see someone just going through the motions as so many in mainline protestant denominations are. Kids want absolutes. They want to know what’s right and what’s wrong. If our churches aren’t providing that, then they will be viewed by the younger generation as mere facades of authority.

5) Theology is for “professionals”

A big problem I see is the general ignorance of Christians to the basics of their faith. We live in a culture where all the information we would ever want is at our fingertips, but we’ve never felt it necessary to develop a critical mind in weighing it all. Talk show pundits tell us how to think on political or cultural issues, and Wikipedia passes for research. This is no truer than in the church, where we rely on our pastor as the paid professionals to study the Bible for us and then tell us what it says. This is a sin as we are commanded to “always be prepared to make a defense for the hope that is within you” (1 Pet 3:15). We should study and understand ideas like the nature of God, what the Trinity is, and what moral framework the Bible really does present. That means we will also need to understand proper ways to study the text – hermeneutics and exposition – so we can rightly divide the word of Truth. But that means work. Are we willing to study to show ourselves approved for Jesus?

I think as we continue to move to a post-Christian culture, we need to prepare ourselves to face some of the difficulties that the early church faced. We’re going to be challenged about our beliefs more. Our moral basis is going to be questioned. Ridicule and persecution will probably increase. And we’ll face more and more moral stances that deviate from what we saw as the norm. Lack of morality is what the world does – I’m not surprised at that. But just as the pre-Constantine church had to struggle to get their ideas across to a world that saw them as foreign, so we may also have to work harder at being better followers of Jesus - even if the opposition increases.

Image courtesy Sleeper141 at en.wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], from Wikimedia Commons

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Catchphrase Christianity - A Troubling Trend

This morning, a friend and I met to catch up at Starbucks. While we were talking a lady sat down at the table next to ours and was reading The Shack by William P. Young. Having read snippets myself as well as many reviews (one of the more balanced and substantive may be found here), I was interested in understanding how she was processing the story.



The lady told me she is enjoying the book and liked how it "focused on relationship. It doesn't over-complicate our approach to God and make it all about religion. I think that people try to make things too hard, when it's all about relationship. Just like any other relationship, it depends on how you view the other person; if you spend time with them. Religion is about all those things you have to do, the stuff you have to obey."

Now, this may sound pretty traditionally Christian, but I had a couple of red flags go up in that statement. Upon asking further, I found out she attends a "pretty laid back church", more contemporary than its denominational roots. She also said that the church was taking a purpose-driven model in its approach. None of that is a concern in and of itself. I know that there can be really strong churches that are purpose driven. However, it seemed that all I was getting in my conversation with her were these 21st century Christian catchphrases. So I wanted to dig a little deeper and see if she understood any of this.

"So, how do you understand what Christianity is?" I asked.

"Well, it's like I said at the beginning. It's about having a relationship. Like in this book where the character of the Holy Spirit says 'It seems you view your life as a pyramid with God at the top. I don't want to be at the top of the pyramid, I want to be in the center. I don't want you to focus on Me one or two days out of the week, then have all your other things, I want to be in the center of everything you do.' So, it’s a relationship where God it a part of everything, not just a side thing."

I pressed again, "But WHY do you need a relationship? Why is that important?"

"Well," she answered "I... I... I'm really not good at explaining things like this."
And that was my sneaking suspicion. You see, in all the talk of closeness and relationship, there was no mention of sin or a fallen nature. She didn't have a concept of someone who has been rescued from a destiny of judgment.

I think that as Christians, we need to have sound reasons for why we believe what we believe. That includes reasons for the necessity of this relationship with Jesus. If we're going to have a relationship with someone, we'd better get to know who they are and what they did as much as we can! Unfortunately, sound theology is being supplanted by quick taglines and Christianese.

We find the subject of sin and a destiny in hell an uncomfortable idea. A lot of churches today would rather just talk about having a relationship with God but leave out the sinner part of the equation, since it makes people uncomfortable and may drive "seekers" away. My position is that true seekers are looking for answers and not just feel-good platitudes.

Our relationship with God is not the same as any other relationship – it is unique. We are sinners saved by His payment on the cross. The message of the Gospel cannot be preached without this vital point of information, but it was wholly absent in my conversation with this woman.

The reason I point this out is because many people we run into through the course of our lives may look Christian and say all the right things, but they may be missing a big piece of the puzzle. I’m still not sure if this lady had a saving relationship with Jesus. She agreed with all I brought up on how Christianity is the only faith that effectively answers the sin problem and that Jesus did pay the penalty for sin, but how much she holds of that is still a bit of a mystery.

So the next time you meet someone who you think is a Christian, don’t be afraid to engage them further. They may very well understand that becoming a follower of Jesus is just that - pledging your life to Him because of what He did for us. Or they may just know the lingo, or be simply unclear on the whole matter. Whatever the case, being clear yourself and helping others see things clearly is a good start in correcting a church that increasing is infected with easy-believism.

Image courtesy Adam Fagen and licensed by the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) License.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

How to Get Wisdom Without Drinking Vitameatavegamin

Recently I was asked what my favorite scripture is. Now, this is a hard question, because I tend to approach the Bible not as a monolith, but apply different passages to different circumstances. I like to keep the context of the passage in focus, so there really is no "one size fits all" for me.



However, if I had to point to one passage that has spoken to me most strongly in my ministry - the one that I feel is how God calls upon me to do his will - I'd have to point to Proverbs 22:17-21. Most people are surprised by this, figuring that 1 Peter 3:15 (the classic apologetics passage) would define an apologist. But I think this Proverbs passage is pretty strong. Let me just touch on it for you:
Incline your ear and hear the words of the wise,
And apply your mind to my knowledge;
For it will be pleasant if you keep them within you,
That they may be ready on your lips.
So that your trust may be in the LORD,
I have taught you today, even you.
Have I not written to you excellent things
Of counsels and knowledge,
To make you know the certainty of the words of truth
That you may correctly answer him who sent you?
Just a couple of points here:

v 17 - "Incline your ear and hear the words of the wise And apply your mind to my knowledge;" - We are first commend to apply our minds to the knowledge of God. We need to study! Learn about God's Word. Learn the arguments.

v 18a, 19a "For it will be pleasant if you keep them within you", " So that your trust may be in the LORD" - There is a blessing for us if we have looked into these issues. I know everyone goes through trials. The absolute WORST time to intellectually wrestle with the tough question about the existence of God, the problems of evil and such is when you are in an emotionally vulnerable state, Yet, trials force us to think about these issues! However, because I've spent time previously thinking through these issues in a calm, rational manner - my faith isn't overthrown. I may not understand why God doesn't answer my prayers, but I know that God exists and that He will provide a way through it all. Those are already settled in my mind, so I don't have to rehash them when I'm the most frustrated or scared.

v18b "That they may be ready on your lips." -We need to be ready. 1 Peter 3:15 shows up in Proverbs. Amazing.

vss. 19b-21a "I have taught you today, even you. Have I not written to you excellent things of counsels and knowledge" - God provides us with the Truth. - these excellent things of counsels and knowledge. Just like He provides us with strength. However, just like strength, in order to get more of it we need to determine that we're going to exercise those muscles.

v 21a " to make you know the certainty of the words of truth" - There's comfort in God's Word as certain. The Bible is without a doubt the single most scrutinized, picked-apart book in history by academics, skeptics, and doubters. And it still stands.

v21b "That you may correctly answer him who sent you" - Who is this who sends you? Is it your teachers, your pastor, your parents? In context, this passage of Proverbs is a Father instructing his son. So who is our Father who sends us? It is God the Father who sends us. But here's the kicker - the verse says we are going to have to answer "Him who sent you". So, God challenges us not to only answer those who may challenge our beliefs, but to answer the Father who supplies us with these "excellent things of counsels and knowledge.

I hope this passage will bless you and challenge you to " be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth." (2 Tim 2:15) If you'd like to hear more about this verse and practical ways to prepare, click here.

Also, comment and let me know your favorite verse! I'll look forward to reading about them.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A Wife Beheaded Barely Registers for the Press

I found an interesting article on the GetReligion blog dealing with Muzzammil Hassan. Hassan is probably not a familiar name to you – and that's precisely y the issue. Hassan is a Muslim-American who is very active in trying to dispel negative Muslim stereotypes in the media. As the blog post notes, "Muzzammil Hassan had received some fantastic national media coverage a couple of years ago - NPR, Chicago Tribune, etc. - as the founder and CEO of Bridges TV. Bridges was founded, he said, to counter negative Muslim stereotypes."



So why the interest in Hassan now? Well, a couple of weeks ago his wife filed for divorce and asked for an order of protection against her husband. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough as days later Hassan summarily beheaded his wife and then reported her dead body to the police.

It's an understatement to say that beheading your wife is a shocking crime. So, why haven't we heard more about it? The story has received some press, but not to the level one would expect for this type of action. As the GetReligion post goes on to say:
So just on the irony or hypocrisy angle alone, I figured the story would get quite a bit of media coverage. But it kind of just floated out there - getting some coverage but nothing terribly substantive. Normally I would chalk it up to the news maxim that only violence against young blond women gets coverage but even with the domestic abuse situation involving Rihanna and Chris Brown, no one seemed interested in a particularly gruesome murder….
The thing was that Hassan was a prominent Muslim who had been championed for his efforts to dispel Muslim stereotypes. So while, very sad to say, even if he were simply accused of killing his wife in a more common manner as opposed to beheading her - something that is extremely uncommon in America - this story might not have had as much news value.
The stories that were out there seemed to lack substance. They didn't explore why beheadings are more common in some cultures and what, if anything, that has to do with various religious values.
These are good questions and I hope that our culture and the "watchdogs of justice" aren't afraid to at least ask them. The blog post does highlight at least one Associated Press article that begins to explore these questions. You can read the whole Get Religion piece here.
Image courtesy E.C. and licensed by the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) License.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Don't Let Your Eyes Deceive You!


In my devotion this morning I found myself in Ezekiel 12 - a prophecy about Israel and Judah going into captivity. In this prophecy, the Lord tells Ezekiel:
"The prince who is among them will load his baggage on his shoulder in the dark and go out. They will dig a hole through the wall to bring it out. He will cover his face so that he cannot see the land with his eyes. I will also spread My net over him, and he will be caught in My snare And I will bring him to Babylon in the land of the Chaldeans; yet he will not see it, though he will die there." (vv. 12-13)
This prophecy was fulfilled during King Zedekiah’s reign. After trying to form a revolt against King Nebuchadnezzar, who had previously put him in power, the Babylonians came into Judah, besieged Jerusalem and leveled the city. Capturing Zedekiah, they slaughtered his sons before his eyes and then put his eyes out – making that the last thing he would ever see. Once blinded, they carried him in chains to Babylon.

This story got me thinking about how the Bible treats the eye symbolically.
  • In Genesis 3, Eve saw the fruit of the tree was good for food, so she took it and gave some to her husband to eat.
  • Sampson had eye trouble - he saw a daughter of the Philistines and wanted to marry her (Judges 14:1) and he saw a harlot in Gaza (Judges 16:1) which led to his fate with Delilah. The Philistines put out Samson’s eyes. Only after this did God use him again.
  • Jesus once taught "If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell." (Matt 5:39).
One of Israel and Judah's problems prior to the exile is they trusted too much in what they saw – their temple, their walls, their chariots and their alliances – instead of their relationship with the Lord. Symbolically, God is showing the entire rebellious nation that their eyes are deceiving them and leading them away from Him. So he allows them to be "put out" the king's eyes are put out, the temple is destroyed and the nation is put out of the land so they can no longer trust in their surroundings.

The interesting thing in all this is how we can be reconciled through Jesus. In John 9, Jesus healed a man born blind by making clay or mud from the ground and putting it on his eyes. I've always read that with a nod to Genesis 2 - since God created us out of the dust of the ground, could it be that this man's condition was he was born without his entire eye? Perhaps Jesus is creating that part of him that the man lacked in the same way that God made Adam.

Whatever the case, Jesus has the ability to heal us of our deepest sin issues. The eye is the source for all kinds of sin. If we voluntarily admit our sins and give them to Him, He can restore us to a proper state. If we continue in rebellion, God just may have to deal with us more strongly in order to keep us from sinning so we can again make the main thing the main thing.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

The Shell Game on Stem Cells



One of the campaign pledges Barak Obama ran on was to reverse the Bush administration's ban of federal funding for new lines of embryonic stem cell research. Given Obama's now in office, some news publications are spinning the stem cell debate pretty strongly. Time magazine's cover story on stem cell research trumpets "How the Coming Revolution in Stem Cells Could Save your Life" while the article is filled with ridiculous statements like "during the dark days of the Bush administration's stem cell restrictions", "federally backed scientists like Melton were forced to adopt a byzantine system of labeling and cataloging their cell cultures and equipment". Even the article's subheading contains more commentary than fact when it states "After eight years of political ostracism, stem-cell scientists like Harvard's Douglas Melton are coming back into the light - and making discoveries that may soon bring lifesaving breakthroughs."

My question is - aren't we getting tired of being lied to yet? The hype in the Time article is ridiculous, meant only to sway people to a political point of view. Let's separate all this rhetoric from what we actually know.
  1. There was no ban on stem cell research. Even though articles carried headlines of the "federal stem cell research ban", there was never a ban on this type of research. The Bush administration disallowed any federal funding for creating new lies of embryonic stem cells - in other words destroying more embryos just to get stem cells from them. Federal money was available to do research on existing lines of embryonic stem cells. And private investment in embryonic development was always allowable, but not as readily found for reasons we will see.
  2. Embryos don't need to be destroyed for this research to continue. Just last year, UCLA scientists announced that they were able to create pluripotent stem cells - cells with all the same potential as embryonic cells - from human skin, thus confirming earlier successes by other scientists. Katherine Plath, one of the lead scientists on the project said "Our reprogrammed human skin cells were virtually indistinguishable from human embryonic stem cells." If this is true, then why are we so up in arms over the federal restrictions? Look what it helped accomplish - scientists looked for other ways to get to the same cell types without an ethical quandary and were successful. Everybody wins.
  3. Embryonic stem cell research is not the only game in town. Over and over again, articles like the one in Time fail to differentiate the types of stem cell research that are being investigated. Embryonic stem cells, those which come from human embryos, are only one type of research being performed - and that type isn't even the most successful research happening. Adults create stem cells naturally as well and in this field of research we're seeing real advances all the time.
The latest example is how a stem cell treatment can reverse multiple sclerosis symptoms by using the patient's own stem cells. This is a major breakthrough and has no ethical problems whatsoever, yet articles like that in Time never differentiate the success and ethical issues dividing adult stem cells and Let me emphasis this point - there are no successful clinical trials of any treatment using embryonic stems cells anywhere in the world. None . According to the Susan Martinuk of the Calgary Herald, "The U.S. Food and Drug Administration just approved a clinical trial for an ESC treatment for spinal cord injuries, thereby making the U. S. the first in the world to conduct a human ESC clinical trial." She then goes on to offer a very candid assessment of the field:
But many private companies have been reluctant to fund embryo research because it involves morally controversial techniques and, so far, has shown few signs of success. Most preliminary research indicates that adult stem cells are the key to new cures and treatments, so they're jumping on that bandwagon. This is the real reason government funding is so essential to ESC research—few private investors view it as a future success.
...
In contrast, adult stem cells from bone marrow and stem cells obtained from umbilical cord blood are already curing diseases. While scientists are heralding the success of their FDA approval for the world's first clinical trial using ESCs, more than 1,000 clinical trials are underway or have been completed using ASCs. Dozens of cures have been seen in trials and the FDA has already approved ASC treatments for nine different conditions. Other ASC treatments have been approved for use in other countries, but are still in the process of gaining FDA approval.
Duke University is using umbilical cord blood to treat children with brain injuries and cerebral palsy. The Texas Heart Institute is treating patients with heart disease by injecting their own ASCs directly into the heart to stimulate healing and blood flow. Most recently, a woman's bone marrow cells were used to grow the new windpipe she so badly needed.
The first step to enlightenment isn't Barack Obama. It's acknowledging the only thing holding back embryonic stem cell research is that it might not work. In the Los Angeles Times, Susan Estrich claimed that those against destroying embryos for research purposes were playing "selfish politics mandated by those who don't give a damn". Really? Where's the track record here? Who's obfuscating the issues? Why don't private investors see the same rich potential in embryonic stem cells as adult cells? And if it's because they don't want to get caught in an ethical quandary, then why not advance the creation of pluripotent cells from human skin instead of embryos. It seems to me that Estrich and Time are the ones playing politics. If you're really worried about the kids, then follow success, not your agenda.

Image courtesy ZioDave - http://www.flickr.com/photos/ziodave/25510393. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Ravi Zacharias Speaking on the Need for God

This Friday, Ravi Zacharias will be at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa speaking on the topic "Need God? What if I don't?" The RZIM web site states that Ravi will

...explain why God is more than a psychological crutch for the weak minded and why success and independent living fade in comparison to knowing the eternal Truth found in God.

The event is free, but tickets are required to get into the main sanctuary.It looks like those are gone, but Calvary Chapel offers an overflow in their gym with a video feed.

The event is this Friday, january 16 at 7:00 PM pacific time. If you're not in the area, you can watch the web cast of the event live by clicking on this link: http://media.calvarychapel.com/player3/?panel=event-ravizacharias

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Can a Football Game Change Lives? Maybe - If You Cheer for the Other Side



I must admit that I've never been a big football fan. With a name like Esposito, maybe I was destined to like hockey instead. However, I recently read an incredible story of how fans at a high school football game were encouraged to cheer for the other side. As ESPN reporter Rick Reilly writes:
They played the oddest game in high school football history last month down in Grapevine, Texas.
It was Grapevine Faith vs. Gainesville State School and everything about it was upside down. For instance, when Gainesville came out to take the field, the Faith fans made a 40-yard spirit line for them to run through.
Did you hear that? The other team's fans?
They even made a banner for players to crash through at the end. It said, "Go Tornadoes!" Which is also weird, because Faith is the Lions.
It was rivers running uphill and cats petting dogs. More than 200 Faith fans sat on the Gainesville side and kept cheering the Gainesville players on- by name.
Why would someone go to their child's football game and cheer the other side? Well, because they wanted to be like Christ. You see, the Gainesville State School is a maximum security correctional facility and these boys have never had a home game or anyone cheer for them.

Faith's web site states that "The purpose of the athletic program at Faith Christian School is to develop and graduate authentic Christian leaders." That's what they were doing. They took Matthew 25:36 seriously where Jesus exhorts us to visit those who are in prison.

Reilly also reports, "As the Tornadoes walked back to their bus under guard, they each were handed a bag for the ride home-a burger, some fries, a soda, some candy, a Bible and an encouraging letter from a Faith player."

What impact could a selfless act like this have on tough kids? Actually, quite a lot. Reilly concludes:
After the game, both teams gathered in the middle of the field to pray and that's when (Gainesville QB) Isaiah surprised everybody by asking to lead. "We had no idea what the kid was going to say," remembers Coach Hogan. But Isaiah said this: "Lord, I don't know how this happened, so I don't know how to say thank You, but I never would've known there was so many people in the world that cared about us."
Christopher Hitchens says religion poisons everything. I think 14 football players and their coach can easily show how that statement isn't true.

If you'd like to read the entire article by Reilly, visit the link below.
http://sports.espn.go.com/espnmag/story?section=magazine&id=3789373

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Books I'm Currently Reading - January 2009

As we start the New Year, many people are looking to improve themselves in some way or another. Perhaps settling down with a good book would be one option. I generally find myself reading about four or five books simultaneously. Maybe it's ADD, but usually I pick up a title on a subject that interests me and I want to research some more, or I have proclivity toward a certain author. In any case, I thought I'd give you some lists of books that I am currently reading. In later posts, I'll probably go back and note some books I've recently read and would recommend.



As you'll soon notice, most of the books on my list are nonfiction and generally deal with philosophy, Christianity, or apologetics in some way. This is merely out of necessity, given that I teach a class every month on a different subject and I simply need to do proper research on it. But don't be undaunted, as I'll try to include some "fun" titles along the way. Of course, you can always check out many different books at the Come Reason Resources page.

The Erosion of Inerrancy by G.K. Beale (Crossway, 2008) Many times evangelicals expect liberal theologians to doubt or water down the inerrancy of Scripture, but we hardly expect to engage in debate with fellow evangelicals. However, this assumption is unfounded as G.K. Beale, professor of New Testament at Wheaton Graduate School, demonstrates. The origin of the book was an article published in JETS, the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, where Beale responded to Peter Enns' book Incarnation and Inspiration. Here, he more fully develops the different arguments that we run across by scholars, both liberal and evangelical who seek a more "progressive" view of Biblical Authority. Kind of technical reading, but interesting.

Heretics for Armchair Theologians
by Justo Gonzalez and Catherine Gunsalus Gonzalez (Westminister John Knox Press, 2008) I asked for this book for Christmas. It looked like an easy read (160 pages), and knowing that most Christian theological creeds were developed as a response to heresies creeping into the church, I thought it would be interesting the see how the Gonzalezes cover things. In fact the best way to understand just what the essential tenants of Christianity are and why we hold them is to study the controversies that the church wrestled with. I'm just into the second chapter and so far so good. This might be good starter book for those who want to jump into theology or apologetics.

Return to Rome: Confessions of an Evangelical Catholic by Francis J. Beckwith (Brazos Press, 2008) At my last trip to the ETS/EPS meeting I saw this for sale and quickly picked it up. For those of you who don't know, Dr. Beckwith is an apologist and philosopher who was the president of the Evangelical Philosophical Society until he resigned when returned to Roman Catholicism. Frank's a friend of mine (he's participated in a previous Dare to Defend conference that we put on) and careful thinker, and while I've heard him speak about some of his motivations to leave Protestantism for Roman Catholicism, so I was really interested in reading about his thoughts in more detail. So far, he's outlined much of his personal history and his understanding of what salvation is. I haven't gotten o the "juicy" parts yet, so we'll see.

Philosophia Christi (The Journal of the Evangelical Philosophical Society)Volume 10, Number2 - Responding to New Resurrection Challenges The EPS always puts out a great journal and this issue is no different. With over 200 pages of articles, reviews and scholarly debate, this will keep you up to date on the latest issues pertaining to philosophy of religion. It's targeted toward the scholar, so it's definitely not an easy read, but I found the focus topic interesting. Stephen Davis, William Lane Craig and Gary Habermas all responded to arguments brought forth by Dale Allison in his book Resurrecting Jesus. Great stuff to make you think.

Understanding Intelligent Design by William Dembski and Sean McDowell (Harvest House Publishers, 2008) This book was sent to me by the publishers and I'm glad they did so. Aimed at a high school audience it lays out the basic issues within the intelligent design debate in an easy to understand format; a great general primer. Can you read this book and argue all the nuances of ID? No - of course not. But it will give you a broad outline of the arguments and places to jump off to find out more.
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