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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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Friday, July 31, 2015

How Should Christians Engage Others Online?


I went to a wedding recently, where the DJ had all the married couples come to the dance floor. He then would ask couples to leave based on how long they had been married. Ultimately, he got down to the very last couple, a man and a woman who had been married 60 years!

After a round of applause, the DJ walked up to the man with his microphone and asked him "what is your secret to staying married for 60 years."

The man then clearly revealed his secret: He didn't say a word and signaled that his wife should answer.

A smart man knows how to avoid an argument. But you will never be able to avoid arguments in this life. I'm not talking about the shouting matches that end up in people hurting each other's feelings. Those can and should be avoided. I mean arguments like those where both sides provide reasons in a discussion to support their specific positions.

You will be faced with those who will challenge you.

Arguments are a part of life. I had posted a short video explaining the imago Dei – that all human beings are made in the image of God and share certain attributes that God holds. This distinguishes them from animals. An atheist then made this comment: "I think it is more reasonable to conclude that the gods were made in the image of man. (Gods are man-made.) Thousands, or millions, of gods have come and gone before Christianity came on the scene. Hinduism claims there are 330 million gods."

The atheist has made an argument, stating that because the history of humanity is replete with different theories on who or what God is, it is more reasonable to hold that all gods are man-made and therefore to be an atheist. Notice that the original video wasn't trying to prove that God exists, but to explain a particular point of Christian theology. Yet, here was a commenter who challenged the very notion of God's existence.

These kinds of situations come up often for Christians, especially online. You may be perfectly happy with your day so you post a Bible verse or a meme that thanks God for your blessings. All of a sudden, someone is commenting that no one should believe such fairy tales as God or that the Bible is an ancient book full of superstition. What should be our response?

Approaching Conversations Biblically

Luckily, Paul provides us with some guidance. First, he says that we shouldn't avoid all interactions with those who would oppose us. In 2 Timothy, he states that we should be ready for those opportunities, studying diligently to capitalize on them when they come because they can lead to changed hearts. Yet, he also says that one must weigh the attitude and openness of the challenger. Paul writes:
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene…

The Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will (2 Tim 2:15-17, 24-26, ESV).
Gentle correction of those who are in opposition is the appropriate plan. It doesn't mean we must answer every charge; we are not to cast our pearls before swine. But we shouldn't ignore people simply because they have beliefs different from our own. How else will unbelievers be forced to examine their own beliefs and see them as baseless or contradictory? That's why we need to be prepared to argue convincingly and intelligently. Apologetics is part of evangelism and its goal is for everyone to come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil. How are you preparing?

Image licensed via the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) License.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Should an Atheist Sit on a Jury?



Should an atheist suit on a jury? The question seems bigoted; why should anyone want to exclude atheists simply because of their denial of the belief in God? I wouldn't disqualify someone simply because he or she identified as an atheist. Atheists as much as anyone else should be able to do the things jurors are called upon to do: weigh testimony, weigh evidence, and deliberate with other jurors to seek a just and impartial decision for the case at hand.

In order to do those things a juror must be have some kind of criteria for what counts as evidence and what doesn't. But upon what standards do they rely in order to accomplish this? What is the juror's understanding of evidence and is it important? Of course it is, which is why our legal system has a practice of voir dire in selecting the jury. Voir dire is a French term for the preliminary portion of the trial when potential jurors are called to the courtroom and the attorneys for both sides ask them questions to see whether they may be biased or somehow otherwise disqualified from serving on that particular case. If a potential juror would say something like "I won't accept a verdict of guilty through eyewitness testimony; I must have physical evidence or see the crime committed myself!" you can expect that person to be eliminated from the jury.

A Strained Epistemology

I bring this up because I recently had a conversation with an atheist that led me to question his understanding of what is reasonable evidence for belief in anything. He claimed that while he was an atheist, "I can think of lots of things that would make me believe - nothing too difficult would be needed." When asked for an example, he replied that saying "hello" would do and a chat with him and his wife would be better. I then asked if God appearing only to his wife and having her relay the appearance to him would be sufficient. "No I don't think that would do. I'd want more than second-hand evidence." I pressed and asked what if his wife's claim was corroborated by multiple others. He replied, "I can't really tell, but I doubt if the claims of the other people would really make any difference. Lots of people think they know when someone is lying. But they can't. It's why evidence is essential." He defined his term , too. "I meant corroborating evidence. E.g. photos, DNA, records."

This is where I would ask the gentleman to be excused from the jury. There is nothing appropriate about holding to criteria where knowledge on big questions can only be gained from direct, first-hand experience. The criterion isn't even consistent within itself. First, how do you know the evidence wasn't faked? Must one follow the chain of custody personally to prove it was gathered, stored, and analyzed without tampering or is he going to accept the testimony of the witness presenting the evidence that this is so? Even if one grants the evidence is factual, how do we know that it actually points towards the defendant? Is my atheist friend an expert in DNA and genetics or is he taking the word of someone else? Why does he know that DNA analysis cannot provide a false positive? How does he even know which genetic markers were tested and how unique they are? All of this is trusting in the testimony of another person!

A Faulty Deliberation

Another issue arises once the trial is concluded and the jury is sent to deliberate the case. Now, you have to listen to the opinions and thoughts of eleven other jurors who are also weighing the evidence and the testimony. Will he discount their views on what makes up convincing evidence if they believe in God? Is that appropriate to do? The skeptical stance of rejecting testimony because "people can lie" is unreasonable. Worse is characterizing those who believe in God as "believ[ing]in magic," and dismissing their testimony or opinion in the jury room. This is in no way a reasonable foundation upon which to weigh truth claims.

 Now I want to be fair and note that he did later qualify his answer. He said, ""[It] depends on the claim being made. If someone says they had toast for breakfast I believe them." That's fine. By what criteria does one judge where testimony is no longer sufficient? Unfortunately, we had to end our conversations before I could ask that question. But the problem doesn't go away. My guess, given the "belief in magic" comment, is only discussions about the supernatural rise to that level of incredulity. But such a distinction is arbitrary; there's no reason to exclude the supernatural from being evidenced by testimony. It simply shows bias on the part of the atheist, and as a biased party he cannot be relied upon to provide an unbiased verdict on the question of God. The juror is excused.

Photo courtesy CALI - Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction and licensed via the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) License.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Six Errors Jesus Mythicists Repeatedly Make

The fact that Jesus lived 2,000 years ago in Palestine and a following grew out of his teachings is evident. Even Bart Ehrman, as skeptical as the come about the claims of Christianity, has stated that no one should doubt “what virtually every sane historian on the planet — Christian, Jewish, Muslim, pagan, agnostic, atheist, what have you — has come to conclude based on a range of compelling historical evidence. Whether we like it or not, Jesus certainly existed.”1


Yet, the Jesus-Myth proponents continue to make the charge that Jesus didn't exist or that perhaps someone named Jesus existed, but the Gospel accounts were created out of the whole cloth of dying-and-rising god myths popular in the ancient world. Certainly the Internet has spread their charges beyond what one would reasonably expect. It's much like the villagers in the story of the Emperor's New Clothes; they want to believe these links so badly, that they fail to see the reality that nothing is there. In that vein, I'd like to offer six different ways the fashion statement of mythicism fails.

1. One Size Fits All — Combinationism

This is one of the biggest errors of the Zeitgeist movie and charges like it. It basically takes all the different mystery sects from 1500B.C. to 500 A.D. and blends them together them together, claiming they all had a consistent belief of gods dying and rising again. They argue that this is some kind of an established, coherent overarching set of beliefs from which Christianity borrowed.

However, if anyone bothers to actually read the details of the different faiths mentioned, one will find vast differences in their foundational understanding of life, death, and existence beyond death. Even with in faiths like Mithraism, it had evolved greatly over that 2000 year time span.2 To say that Christianity stole this belief or that one from a religion like Mithraism when those beliefs weren't necessarily even regarded as part of that system any longer (or had yet to be developed) is ridiculous.

2. Calling a Kleenex a Kerchief — Equivocation

Basically, this error occurs when a critic distorts the teaching of the mystery religion by using Christian language to describe a belief - and then claiming that Christianity stole from it because the beliefs read similarly. The concept of baptism in Egyptian mythology centers around the Nile's supposed physical power to heal while baptism in Christianity focuses on the sin nature of the individual. This happens over and over, where the mystery practice is usually something completely different in intent or symbolism than what Christian understand it to mean, but it is made to sound similar for impact value.

3. If It's on Your Shoulders, It's a Jacket — Oversimplification

Many critics will find something kind of like a resurrection story and then try to demonstrate how Christianity borrowed from this type of belief. Usually, this is at the expense of many crucial details that really differentiate the myth from the historic Christian account. For example, Zeitgeist claims that Horus was “crucified, buried for 3 days, and thus, resurrected.” In the actual myth, Horus is a young child who is revived from a scorpion sting by another god that wielded the magic to do so. It's nothing like Jesus' claim to have the power to take his own life up again. Also, many of these stories aggrandize the myth more than is necessary.

4. Invisible Accessories — Misrepresenting Biblical Facts

Horus was born on December 25th? Were they using the Julian calendar system in ancient Egypt? The Gospels themselves don't tell us when Jesus was born. December 25 cam later, and was probably based on a completely different paradigm. Horus' birth was visited by Three Wise men? Where does the Bible say three? There are three gifts mentioned, but no number of wise men is cited. Plus they came up to two years after Jesus' birth. The mythicists misrepresent the Biblical accounts and then try to make the other myths similar.

5. Who's the Designer? — Direction of Influence

Simply because there is an element in an Eastern religion as well as in Christianity, it is wrong to assume the Christians must have borrowed from the Eastern tradition. This happens many times when the religion's founder lived before Jesus. However, as I said in point #1, these faiths were themselves not static. They picked up a lot of influences across the centuries, especially when they came in contact with competing belief systems. Christianity was so aggressive in its spread over the Roman Empire and Asia, many of these religions tended to adopt Christian symbols and practice in order to make their religion look more appealing to stop losing converts to Christians. Anthropologists see this by looking into the various practices of those religions and noting that a feature similar to Christianity wasn't recorded or mentioned in any writing until after the Christian era had proliferated. As Ronald Nash notes concerning Mithraism, “The timing is all wrong. The flowering of Mithraism occurred after the close of the New Testament canon, too late for it to have influenced the development of first century Christianity.”3

6. Where's the Designer Label? — Missing Citations/Support

Lastly, one should always ask for support for the claims made by the mythicists of the features of their myths. Who says that these things are true? How do you know Horus was baptized or raised after three days? Have you read the actual myth? What verification do you have that you understood the cult's beliefs accurately? This is one of the most crucial questions to ask, since reading the myths themselves will usually be enough to show that any supposed parallels to the life of Jesus are either minor or non-existent.

The primary message of Christianity is vastly different from the pagan myths that preceded it. As Nash explains:
None of these so-called savior-gods died for someone else. The notion of the Son of God dying in place of His creatures is unique to Christianity. Only Jesus died for sin. It is never claimed that any pagan deity died for sin. As Wagner observes, to none of the pagan gods “has the intention of helping men been attributed. That sort of death that they died is quite different (hunting death, self-emasculation, etc.)4

References

1. Ehrman, Bart D. "Did Jesus Exist?" The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 20 Mar. 2012. Web. 29 July 2015. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bart-d-ehrman/did-jesus-exist_b_1349544.html.
2. Esposito, Lenny. "Did Christianity Steal From Mithraism?" ComeReason.org. Come Reason Ministries, 01 Nov. 2001. Web. 29 July 2015. http://www.comereason.org/mithraism.asp.
3. Nash, Ronald H. The Gospel and the Greeks: Did the New Testament Borrow from Pagan Thought? Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Pub., 2003. Print.
4. Nash, 2003. 160.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Selfishness Dismembers the Family and Sells off Its Parts



The third in a recent series of undercover videos has just been released and it is more gruesome than imagined. While the last two videos reveal how high ranking Planned Parenthood executives are not merely complicit in the selling of aborted baby organs, but they will actually haggle about price (see here and here). Now, we get a behind-the-scenes look at one of the "Procurement Technicians" sifting through the remains of an 11 week old fetus to pick out the best parts to sell. It's horrifying.

I find it interesting these videos have come to light just now, within one month of the Obergefell v. Hodges decision where five Supreme Court justices manufactured the right forcing homosexual unions to be recognized as marriage in all fifty states. We are seeing two symptoms of a single shift in the understanding of what is the function of family in society.

Rooting Family in Biology

What is a family? The use of the word has become flexible today, but it had a common meaning for most of its existence tied to procreation. Aristotle explained "the most natural form of the village appears to be that of a colony from the family, composed of the children and grandchildren, who are said to be suckled 'with the same milk.'"1 Lewis Henry Morgan, in his foundational study of human relationships, declared that family has its roots in kinship, what he called "a community of blood."2 Morgan held we order ourselves based on two principles: common lineage and the coupling of man and woman in matrimony.3 Marriage was the event that made families possible and children were understood to be the natural result. Both were considered necessary and valuable for the survival of the community and humanity.

However, that view has been largely lost in the modern world. We have moved from understanding the family as building block of society to believing the individual is. Two legal movements of the early 1970s highlight this change: the spread of no-fault divorce and the legalization of abortion services.

The Corrupting Influence of No-Fault Divorce

Prior to California's passage of the nation's first no-faulty divorce law in 1970, a married person was required to sue for divorce and show cause why the union should be dissolved. The law assumed that a married person has an obligation to the other spouse, to their children, and to the community at large. In a divorce, the spouse in a weaker financial position is harmed.4 Also, if one were to sue for divorce, the offending spouse would be identified as the cause of the separation, be it because of adultery -abuse, or something else. As attorney Rudy Jaworski explains, "There is no need under a no-fault divorce to establish that the other party has done anything wrong, and this allows the spouses to protect their reputations."5 W. Bradford Wilcox states:
Prior to the late 1960s, Americans were more likely to look at marriage and family through the prisms of duty, obligation, and sacrifice. A successful, happy home was one in which intimacy was an important good, but by no means the only one in view…

But the psychological revolution's focus on individual fulfillment and personal growth changed all that. Increasingly, marriage was seen as a vehicle for a self-oriented ethic of romance, intimacy, and fulfillment. In this new psychological approach to married life, one's primary obligation was not to one's family but to one's self; hence, marital success was defined not by successfully meeting obligations to one's spouse and children but by a strong sense of subjective happiness in marriage.6

Babies as Accessories

The drive for individual fulfillment that Wilcox mentions also drove another paradigm shift, one that focused on children. Earlier in the decade, medical discoveries such as the birth control pill cleaved sex from procreation. One could thus seek physical fulfillment with one spouse, many spouses, or no spouse at all without having to worry about the normative result of intercourse: pregnancy. But the pill wasn't full proof; children were still being conceived especially out of wedlock. These children would certainly curb the "individual fulfillment and personal growth" of both unmarried participants. Therefore, in 1972 the Supreme Court ruled abortion a right, paving the way for the slaughter of millions of unborn children. Thus, we live in a society where killing babies for the sake of our own pleasure is legal.

The Culmination of Self-Fulfillment Above All

Today, we are seeing the fruition of the culture of self-absorption. The concept of marriage has been completely divorced from the reality of strengthening the community and providing us with well-adjusted future generations, for homosexual unions are by definition incapable of doing either. Instead, as Don Verrilli argued before the Supreme Court, "The opportunity to marry is integral to human dignity. Excluding gay and lesbian couples from marriage demeans the dignity of these couples." 7

It should be no surprise that we see the dismemberment of marriage and the dismemberment of babies come into public view at the same time. Both are the fruit of a tree that has been germinating for over forty years. The only question is whether we will want to do anything to change it.

References

1. Aristotle. "Politics" Book 1, II. The Internet Classics Archive. Trans. Benjamin Jowett. The Internet Classics Archive, 2009. Web. 28 July 2015. http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/politics.1.one.html.
2. Morgan, Lewis Henry. "Systems of Consanguinity and Affinity of the Human Family." Contributions to Knowledge. Vol. XVII. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Inst., 1871. 10. Print.
3. Morgan, 1871. 10ff.
4. Jaworski, Rudy. "Forty Years On, No-Fault Divorce Faces Scrutiny." HG.org. HG.org, n.d. Web. 28 July 2015. http://www.hg.org/article.asp?id=18784.
5. Jaworski, 2015.
6. Wilcox, W. Bradford. "The Evolution of Divorce." National Affairs. National Affairs, Inc., Fall 2009. Web. 28 July 2015. http://nationalaffairs.com/publications/detail/the-evolution-of-divorce.
7. Rosen, Jeffrey. "The Dangers of a Constitutional 'Right to Dignity'" The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 29 Apr. 2015. Web. 28 July 2015. http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/04/the-dangerous-doctrine-of-dignity/391796/.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

In Weighing Beliefs, Only Monotheism Makes Sense


Hugo Grotius was by all accounts a brilliant mind. The 17th century philosopher, legal scholar, and political theorist who helped shape international law and concepts of the natural law referenced in philosophy.1 His Truth of the Christian Religion in Six Books demonstrated his keen skill in Christian apologetics as well.

Grotius begins his apologetic by demonstrating that one must believe there is a God. He argues from the concept of God as an Uncaused Cause, most likely influenced from Aquinas. He also argues that all human civilizations have held to some kind of creator to explain the existence of all other things. Thus, Grotius minimally defines God as the source of creation. From there, he moves to the fact that God must be a single deity. He writes:
Having proved the existence of the Deity, we come next to his attributes: the first whereof is, that there can be no more Gods than one; which may be gathered from hence; because, as was before said, God exists necessarily, or is self-existent. Now that which is necessary, or self-existent, cannot be considered as of any kind or species of beings, but as actually existing, and is therefore a single being; for, if you imagine many Gods, you will see that necessary existence belongs to none of them; nor can there be any reason why two should rather be believed than three, or ten than five: beside, the abundance of particular things of the same kind proceeds from the fruitfulness of the cause, in proportion to which more or less is produced; but God has no cause, or original. Further, particular different things are endued with peculiar properties, by which they are distinguished from each other; which do not belong to God, who is a necessary being. Neither do we find any signs of many Gods; for this whole universe makes but one world, in which there is but one thing that far exceeds the rest in beauty, viz. the sun: and in every man there is but one thing that governs, that is, the mind: moreover, if there could be two or more Gods, free agents, acting according to their own wills, they might will contrary to each other; and so one be hindered by the other front effecting his design; now, a possibility of being hindered is inconsistent with the notion of God.2
Just as I explained in a previous post, the concept of multiple gods really makes no sense. In this short paragraph, Grotious demonstrates how only monotheistic faiths are logically coherent. Thus a person is seeking to weight all faiths in order to find the one true faith, eliminating all but monotheistic faiths quickly disposes of the vast majority of religions held throughout the ages.

References

1. Miller, Jon. "Hugo Grotius." Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Stanford University, 28 Jul. 2011. Web. 26 July 2015. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/grotius/. 2. Grotius, Hugo. "Truth of the Christian Religion in Six Books." Christian Classics Ethereal Library. Christian Classics Ethereal Library, 22 Aug. 2007. Web. 26 July 2015. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/grotius/truth.iii.i.iii.html.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Reaching the Young by Connecting the Past



The continuing exodus of young people from the church has grabbed a lot of church headlines. A lot of churches have tried to stem the tide by seeking more "hip" youth programs, or trying to be more relatable. That may be exactly backwards.

In his book You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church...and Rethinking Faith, David Kinnaman points out that the disconnect isn't because the church isn't being hip enough, but that it isn't teaching its history to the next generation. He explains:
Intergenerational relationships matter on earth because they are a snapshot of Zion, a small but true picture of the majesty and diversity of God's people throughout the ages, who are citizens of the new reality God inaugurated in Jesus Christ. How can we recapture that sense of historical continuity, of a living, breathing body of Christ—of a divine assembly of the saints alive today and throughout the ages? ...

If younger generations are to avoid the mistakes of the past, young leaders desperately need a sense of what has gone before—and you can only get that sense from soul-shaping friendships with older Christians. Often I am surprised at how teenagers and young adults believe they are the first to think of an idea, a cause, or a way of doing something. (I know because I have thought this very thing.) Eventually most find that their idea was not so revolutionary after all; it just seemed hip and new. Meaningful relationships with older adults who are following Christ will help to ensure that your fresh ideas build on the incredible work of previous generations and that your passion to follow Jesus in this cultural moment is supported and upheld by this whole, living generation of believers.

If you are a Boomer or an Elder, I encourage you to come to grips with the revolutionary nature of the Mosaics' cultural moment. Young Christians are living through a period of unprecedented social and technological change, compressed in an astounding manner, and the longer we take to acknowledge and respond to these changes, the more we allow the disconnection between generations to progress. Ask yourself how available you have been to younger Christians. The generation gap is growing, fueled in part by technology, so it takes extra effort to be on the same page. Frankly, deep relationship happens only by spending time, and big chunks of it, in shared experiences. I encourage you to be ready for a fresh move of God, buoyed by young adults. Are you open to "reverse" mentoring, wherein you allow younger leaders to challenge your faith and renew the church? 1

References

1.Kinnaman, David. You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church...and Rethinking Faith. Grand Rapids: Baker Book Group, 2011. Kindle Edition. (Kindle Locations 3441-3453).

Friday, July 24, 2015

Book Review: Relational Apologetics

Michael C. Sherrard's new book Relational Apologetics: Defending the Christian Faith with Holiness, Respect, and Truth is an important work that will help any believer seeking to share his or her faith with kindness as well as conviction. It provides wonderful instruction stressing how to communicate and build relationships with those we want to see come to faith, making it an excellent launching pad to teach Christians how to winsomely witness to their family, friends, and co-workers.



Apologetics is a Christian discipline that has come into its own over the last 30 years or so with an abundance of books already published outlining the major arguments for topics like God's existence and the historicity of the Resurrection. But in Relational Apologetics, Sherrard takes a different approach. Relational Apologetics is more focused on the method of communicating apologetics as opposed to being a compilation of arguments. (Disclaimer: I was sent the book to review but with total freedom as to the review's positive or negative tone.)

Sherrard opens the book by explaining the important role apologetics plays today. Most people are so unfamiliar with the basic concepts of truth that Christian evangelism strikes them as a foreign language. Thus, apologetics is as crucial in our evangelism efforts as being able to speak a foreign language is to overseas missionaries. It's this concern for how the Christian message is received that makes the book shine.

The book is broken into four main sections. The first, Who You Are, coaches the reader on his own character and attitude, counseling "when your lifestyle is holy, evangelism is much less awkward. It starts happening naturally" (p.30). The second section, What You Do, targets the actual interaction with others, emphasizing listening and asking questions as ways to deescalate confrontational engagements ad foster true discussion.

What You Know, the third section provides a brief outline of some of the topo objections;/questions believers will face from non-believers. While this is the most apologetic portion of the book, it isn't in-depth but uses the questions more as examples to show how to carry a conversation. The last section, Where You Go, encourages the Christian to step out of his or her comfort zone and engage others wherever they may be found. Helpfully, Sherrard includes two areas, the home and the church, that are not normally mentioned but are traditionally weak in apologetic instruction.

The reservations I have with the book are few. First, because of its introductory goal, the chapters are kept short. This limits Sherrard to give perhaps only one example of the point he's trying to develop instead of two or three different examples that the reader may face in real life. Similarly, the third section's outline of the arguments is pretty simple and the reader will need to supplement this book with some others. Sherrard did include a decent list of standard works in the back, but a list of web sites of popular apologetics organizations would have strengthened it more, too.

We are in what several apologists have referred to as the "golden age of apologetics."1 While great new  apologetics arguments are being published all the time, there is a new type of book that has started to proliferate that focuses not on the argumentation, but on the communication and delivery. These books include Os Guinness' Fools Talk, Donald Johnson's How to Talk to a Skeptic, and Sean McDowell's upcoming A New Kind of Apologist. Relational Apologetics fits nicely in this group, showing the importance of not only what it is you say but how you say it in order for the message to get through. I recommend it, especially for youth groups and those who would like to know how to begin faith conversations without being flummoxed.

Reference

1. See Lee Strobel's comment here or Os Guinness' comment here, both of which refer to this time as a golden age of apologetics.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

How Can We Know God Exists from Creation? (video)



Christians hold that God exists , but is it only a claim based on nothing more than pure faith? The answer is no. By looking at creation and seeing its design we have evidence of God's existence.

In this short video, Lenny reviews some of the primary arguments for God's existence and shows why believing in God is the most reasonable position one can hold.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Eliminating Competing Concepts of God


Yesterday, I wrote about how Christians must understand the essential beliefs defining Christianity. Having a strong knowledge of what delineates a Christian versus an impostor is crucial. I pointed to the Nicene Creed as a good summary of the essential beliefs Christians must hold to guard against various heresies proffered by groups who claim to be Christians, such as The Way International, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Mormons.1

Today, I'd like to begin unpacking just what some of those beliefs entail. The first sentence of the Creed reads:
I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.2
While the sentence is short, it packs within it an amazing amount of theology. It teaches that God must be singular, God must be creator, and God must be eternal and separate from his creation. These attributes of God are not only logically coherent, but they do a lot of work at eliminating may other faith systems.

God is One

The first foundational belief Christians hold is there is one God and only one God. I've explored this concept here, explaining that “for God to be Almighty God, He has to be a single being.”3 The fact that God cannot have an equal rules out Eastern faiths such as certain forms of Hinduism, Mithraism, and more modern faiths like Mormonism.

Not only must God be a single being, he is recognized as the creator of everything else. God cannot be God is he is merely a part of something bigger because just like polytheism above, it robs him of his supremacy. God can never be a part of a larger whole. Given this, we know God is therefore self-existent. He needs nothing or no one else.

God is Creator

Only God has this attribute. All other things are contingent. They rely on someone or something to create them or to empower them. The universe is running out of time and energy, therefore it must have been wound up a particular point in the past. The universe cannot exist for eternity because its energy would have been depleted an eternity ago. Further, the universe is inside time itself, and the existence of time needs explaining as much as the existence of matter.

God is Eternal

We describe the created universe as matter, energy, space, and time. We've said that those things that have a beginning, like our universe, need a creator to explain their existence. However, for God to be God, he cannot rely upon any kind of creator. Therefore, God must have never begun to exist. God is by definition uncreated and eternal. He has no beginning and no end.

God is Transcendent

Given each of the points above, we can know that God is transcendent. In other words, God is separate from his creation. He did not need to create the universe and could have existed just fine for eternity without creating it. The doctrine of God's transcendence is an important one and rules out most other Eastern faiths. Beliefs that hold to a concept that where God is either inside his creation (panentheistic faiths such as Buddhism, other forms of Hinduism, animistic faiths like those African tribes or Native Americans held) or faiths that believe all is God (pantheistic faiths such as Taoism and Vedanta Hinduism) fail here.

In understanding what God must be, one can effectively eliminate all belief systems that are not monotheistic as being logically inconsistent. The Nicene Creed gets the concept of God right in its very first sentence and screens out not only those belief systems mentioned above but other faiths like Mormonism with its unending generations of exalted beings or Christian Science which is ultimately pantheistic.4 If God is to be God, he must be almighty, maker of heaven and earth, eternal, and transcendent. Spaghetti monsters or flying teapots won't cut it. Anything less is not God.

References

1. Esposito, Lenny. "How to Spot Impostor Christianity." Come Reason's Apologetics Notes. Come Reason Ministries, 21 July 2015. Web. 22 July 2015. http://apologetics-notes.comereason.org/2015/07/how-to-spot-impostor-christianity.html.
2. "Nicene Creed." Christian Classics Ethereal Library. Christian Classics Ethereal Library, n.d. Web. 22 July 2015. https://www.ccel.org/creeds/nicene.creed.html.
3. Esposito, Lenny. " A Christian Must Believe There is One God." Come Reason's Apologetics Notes. Come Reason Ministries, 15 May 2014. Web. 22 July 2015. http://apologetics-notes.comereason.org/2014/05/a-christian-must-believe-there-is-one.html
4. Mary Baker Eddy taught "There is no life, truth, intelligence, nor substance in matter. All is infinite Mind and its infinite manifestation, for God is All-in-all. Spirit is immortal Truth; matter is mortal error. Spirit is the real and eternal; matter is the unreal and temporal. Spirit is God, and man is his image and likeness. Therefore man is not material; he is spiritual," (Eddy, Mary Baker. Miscellaneous Writings. 1883-1896. Boston: Trustees under with Will of Mary Baker, G. Eddy, 1924. Print. 21.)

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

How to Spot Impostor Christianity



One of the key things kids learning elementary science is the basic groups of backboned animals. You may remember how to differentiate fish, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals.
  • Birds have feathers, lay eggs, and have bills.
  • Reptiles are cold blooded, have scales, lay eggs, and some, like snakes, can inject venom.
  • Amphibians are cold-blooded, lay eggs, breathe air but live on the land and in the water.
  • Mammals are warm-blooded, have hair, give live births, and produce milk for their young
So when English naturalists had quite a quandary on their hands when in 1798 they received drawings and the hide of a platypus from the newly colonized Australia. Many believed the animal was too outrageous to be real; it had to be a hoax. Here was an animal that had a bill, webbed feet, and laid eggs like a bird. It lived in and out of the water. Its legs are not below it but come from the side of the body, its eggs are soft-shelled, and males could inject venom like a reptile. Yet, they are warm-blooded, are covered in hair and they nurse their young. One of the necessary characteristics of all mammal is the females have mammary glands that produce milk for their young. Because this was true of the platypus, it could confidently be classified as a mammal.

What Does It Mean to Be a Christian?

Understanding the various religious systems offered today can sometimes be as confusing to navigate as those naturalists who sought to classify the platypus, especially when it comes to what makes someone a Christian. It seems everybody wants to claim that they are following Jesus's teachings in some way. The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, the parent organization for Jehovah's Witnesses, claims to be Christian.1 Former Mormon president Gordon B. Hinckley, when asked whether Mormons were Christians, answered "We are Christians in a very real sense."2 Other organizations such as The Way International, the Restored Church of God, and various Oneness denominations all claim to be representing true Christianity.  Yet, they all have radically different beliefs.

How can you tell what is Christian and what isn't? Most people I speak with don't have a clear idea of just what classifies someone as a real Christian. They think as long as they claim Jesus and point in some way to his teachings, it is enough. But that's like calling a platypus a bird or a reptile. There's some resemblance, but it is still different and will lead you to a different belief, one that leads to judgment instead of salvation.

Just as with classifying animals, there are certain essential beliefs that define what a Christian is and while the various denominations within Christendom differ on many things, they all hold these specific beliefs as non-negotiable. These beliefs are reflected in the early church creeds from Nicaea and Chalcedon, which summarized the bare minimum of what being a Christian means, found in the outline below:

The Essential Beliefs of Christianity

Who God is
  • There is one God
  • God is eternal—without beginning or end.
  • God is transcendent—He is separate from his creation.
  • God is recognized as the Creator—God made all things.
  • God is Triune—a single being comprised of the three persons of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Who Jesus Is
  • Jesus is wholly (with all the attributes of) God.
  • Jesus is wholly (with all the attributes of) a human being.
  • Jesus is indivisible—one cannot separate his divinity and his humanity.
What Jesus Did
  • He Sacrifice Himself for Our Sins.
  • He rose bodily from the grave.
  • He fulfilled the promised of God in the Old Testament.
What Jesus Will Do
  • Jesus will return bodily to this earth.
  • Jesus will raise all people.
  • Jesus will judge all people.
The Unity of Believers
  • All believing Christians are part of Jesus's one true church.
  • All believing Christians will be raised by Jesus to eternal glory.
  • All believing Christians will dwell in fellowship with God in the world that is to come.

Why It Matters

I've written about some of these distinctions before and I will explore them in more detail in upcoming articles. My intent in this article is to show that there is a very specific set of beliefs to which all Christians must hold. While a lot of people or organizations claim to be Christian, they are really impostors offering a counterfeit Christianity. The JWs say they are Christians, they deny the deity of Jesus, making him a created being instead of eternal God. Gordon Hinckley and the LDS deny the triune nature of God, the transcendence of God, and the fact that there is only one God in all of existence.

Jesus warned the church to "beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves" (Matt 7:15). The Apostle Paul cautioned "there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ" (Gal. 1:7). The Apostle John warned the church of "those who are trying to deceive you" (1 John 2:26). We must be able to distinguish who is a sheep and who is a wolf. To not do so would be to betray Jesus, something no true Christian would ever desire.

References

1. "Are Jehovah's Witnesses Christians?" JW.ORG. Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania., n.d. Web. 21 July 2015. http://www.jw.org/en/jehovahs-witnesses/faq/are-jehovahs-witnesses-christians/.
2. "Are Mormons Christians?" Mormon.org. Intellectual Reserve, Inc., n.d. Web. 21 July 2015. http://www.mormon.org/faq/mormon-christian.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Putting Christianity to the Life Test

Car dealers love to get you to test drive one of their vehicles. It's one of the things they aim for when they interact with a new customer. They know test drives increase the likelihood of purchase. You experience all those new sensations: that new car smell, no stains on the seats, and all the latest gadgets. It makes the car that much more enticing.



However, I have found a test drive to be of only limited benefit. I like to rent a car for a week or so and test it that way. We use our vehicles differently in real life than we do driving around the block with a sales man sitting in the passenger seat. We see if the trunk can contain our stuff, how the car reacts in a more diverse range of traffic conditions, and whether it fits the way we live and drive. This kind of gives me a much better sense of whether the vehicle will work in the day to day needs of the real world. To invest in a car that fails to, say handle steep grades if you live in the mountains or (as in my particular case) one that can't haul a lot of kids with large bags of hockey gear would be costly.

Even more costly, though, would be to invest one's life in a worldview that fails the real world test. We live in a culture that currently sees no problem with holding to beliefs that don't square with our real world experiences. For example, recent news events have brought the question of religious liberty and people's right to have their actions be governed by their consciousness into the spotlight. I've seen many letters to the editor like this one from Chris Jacobovitz who states categorically, "Any legislator who lets his or her 'deep personal beliefs' get in the way of making legislative decisions should resign immediately."1 I would like to ask Mr. Jacobovitz if deep personal beliefs of people like William Wilberforce, who lobbied the English Parliament for twenty years to abolish slavery are OK. Or those of Henry B. Whipple. Of course, Mr. Jacobovitz's view is itself a deeply held personal belief, and thus it should not get in the way of anyone else making legislative decisions.

Your Worldview Must Match Reality

It is common to run into people who think that any kind of personal belief must somehow be distanced from one's public interaction, but this only breeds the self-refuting nonsense like that found in the letter above. It's a small test drive that sounds good at first, but hides its shortcomings. Beliefs must be examined in light of how they make sense of the outside world; they should be lived with and measured. If the worldview is true, it will accurately reflect the real world. And there's no better example of that than Christianity itself.

In the book of Romans, the Apostle Paul tells the church at Rome they need to change their worldview. He encourages them to not be conformed to the thoughts and ways prevalent in the world of his day, but to "be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect" (Rom 12;2, ESV). The verse is a familiar one, but I like the way the ESV renders it. Instead of the King James "to prove", the ESV uses the more modern "by testing." That is, we can test what is good and acceptable and perfect by living out the Christian worldview and see how it fits. Paul is so confident that living your life sacrificially with your mind transformed will demonstrate the reality and benefit of the Christian faith. He tells the Thessalonian much the same thing, charging them to "test everything; hold fast what is good" (1 Thess. 5:21).

I've said before that Christianity knows nothing of blind faith. It is an eminently practical belief system that has a 1700 year track record of bettering lives and bettering nations. There is no other worldview that more closely matches reality than Christianity. Christianity is responsible for the concept of human equality, provides grounding for morality, explains life, consciousness, and provides real meaning for our existence. In other words, Christianity teaches us the truth about ourselves and the world around us. Certainly that's worth investing in.

References

1. Jacobovitz, Chris. Letter. Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, 10 July 2015. Web. 20 July 2015. http://www.latimes.com/opinion/readersreact/la-le-0711-right-to-die-keep-beliefs-and-votes-separate-20150710-story.html.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Importance of the Soul

The immortality of the soul is a matter of such importance to us; it affects us so deeply that we must have lost our wits completely not to care what it is all about. All our actions and our thoughts must follow such different courses depending on whether there are eternal rewards to hope for or not, that it is impossible to take a single step with sense and judgment unless it is determined by our conception of our final end.1
~ Blaise Pascal

"I think it not only important to know that man has a soul, but that it is important that he should know that he has a soul."2
- John Gresham Machen

References

1.Pascal, Blaise. Pascal's Pensées. Translated by Martin Turnell. London: Harvill Press, 1962. 103.
2.J. Gresham Machen, The Christian View of Man. New York:  Macmillan, 1937. 159.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

How Christian Faith is Based on Fact (video)



Faith for the Christian is anything but blind. In this short clip, Lenny answers a question from a student, explaining how Christianity has always been a belief system based on evidence and reason and why the modern mischaracterization of faith as something opposed to reason is completely wrong.


Friday, July 17, 2015

The Scary World of Truth



The world can be a scary place. Just yesterday police helicopters were circling the park behind my home searching for a suspect who jumped out of the car and was fleeing through back yards in an adjoining neighborhood. Certainly people should be vigilant when walking in unsafe neighborhoods or unknown city streets.

What's surprising, though, is the fear that so many people have of being exposed to the truth. Philosopher J. Budziszewski in his book How to Stay Christian in College gives one example:
Truth is hot, scary stuff. Truth about God is the hottest of all. It scares some people so badly that they don't even want to search for it. One day in a "great books" course, my students were discussing the great medieval thinker Thomas Aquinas. St. Thomas was a Christian, and some of the students were interested in what he believed about God. As they explored his views, one young man became more and more agitated. Finally he said, "This isn't helping me," and asked whether he could just pick up the assignment and leave. Of course, I said he could.

Later he visited my office, and I found out what his problem was. He told me that he wasn't interested in truth—that the only thing he cared about was what had immediate practical value for him. Searching for truth about God, it seemed, was especially impractical because if he found it, his whole world might turn upside down.

Or could it be that it would turn right side up?[1]
This young man was uncomfortable with dealing with facts that didn't fit into his current belief system. That seems to be the default position more and more these days. I've talked before about how college students have descended into an infantile position of trigger-warnings and campus speech codes. But it isn't only individuals who seem to shrink at facing uncomfortable facts. Yesterday, I wrote about how the media is purposely censoring stories like Planned Parenthood's harvesting and selling of baby organs. They censor the facts that put their favored position in a bad light.

Why are people today so scared of the truth? Because the truth can mean work. It takes work to reexamine how you understand an issue. Questioning one belief may cause other beliefs to be questioned as well. Sometimes one's entire worldview becomes fragile. Sometimes it will take a lot of time and research to figure out how to put your beliefs together in a way that corresponds with the truth and still makes sense. However, it's worth it. If you aren't holding to true beliefs, sooner or later you are going to crash into reality and the consequences can be much worse.

The truth shouldn't scare us. Christians more than anyone else should embrace the truth, even if it means changing some of their positions. I can say that assuredly because I know all truth is God's truth. Jesus declared himself as the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). That's why I have taken my sons to listen to atheists. I talk with them about other views. I myself read newspapers and opinion pieces by folks with whom I disagree. Sometimes their views will cause me to reexamine why I believe a certain thing or if my understanding of a particular position is shallow. However, I've never found the truth to undermine the Christian faith.
References
1. J. Budziszewski. How to Stay Christian in College. Colorado Springs: TH1NK, 2004. (Kindle Locations 650-655). Kindle Edition.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Censorship is Alive and Well in the Newsroom

This morning, the Los Angeles Times carried a front-page story about a controversial political battle that was fueled by an undercover video. But it wasn't the undercover video of a Planned Parenthood senior official discussing how Planned Parenthood is involved in harvesting and selling baby organs. Instead, the editors at the Times gave 1,028 words and premium front page status to the coverage of some middle-aged men chasing other away from their favorite surfing spot.1 Even after two full days of triggering an avalanche social media outrage which prompted both federal and state officials to begin investigating the abortion organization, coverage of Planned Parenthood's hideous practices is nowhere to be found in the Times.



Of course the LAT is not the only media outlet that purports itself to be a news organization but is censoring this story. Mollie Hemingway over at the Federalist has been monitoring media outlets for years on their selective bias against stories that bring the horror of abortion to light. Today, she wrote about the paltry media coverage of the Planned Parenthood scandal from most of the major media organizations. In her article, she shows just how slow these outlets were to cover the story, how few of them gave any mention to it at all, and how most who did, did so in order to help the PR push of Planned Parenthood, even to the point of copying their talking points verbatim!2

Watchdog of Justice, Who Keeps Their Eye on You?

None of this was unexpected. Two years ago, the Kermit Gosnell case checked off absolutely every requirement a news outlet would look for to warrant full coverage and smashing ratings, yet is was conspicuously absent from nearly all of them. Now, the harvesting of baby organs story is again being censored. Why? Because the idea of dispassionately reporting the news isn't the overriding value for those who claim to run news organizations anymore. It isn't even ratings, although ratings matter. It's simply ideology. Ideology is king and one cannot put forth a story that may break a scandal against something like abortion.

To underscore the pint, just as the fetal organ story was breaking, my friend Sean McDowell released a short YouTube clip where he tells of his almost interview on CNN. The organization called Sean because they were looking for an opposing voice on the topic of transgenderism. He recounts the producer asking him for his specific position on transgenderism.3 Sean replied, "My position is this is a complicated issue. We need to have compassion, we need to follow the science, and we need to settle this issue carefully." The producer them paused a moment, looked a Sean and said "You know, you're much too compassionate. My director will get upset if I have you call into this show!" upon finding out that CNN contacted the Southern Baptists to try and find a person who would state on-air that transgenderism "is wrong, sinful, and you're going to Hell!" McDowell refused to do so and so CNN turned to someone from ChurchMilitant.com to be the radical voice the so-called objective news show could carve apart like a sacrificial cow to make themselves look balanced an sane. No one can call this objective reporting and still be considered sane.

It's been obvious for years that "reality" television is nothing of the kind. They are formulated, staged, scripted, and edited to get the biggest reaction out of the audience possible. The newsroom is the next reality television. They are simply no longer trustworthy. It's no surprise that Pew Research just reported more people are getting their news from Facebook and Twitter than watching it on television or reading a newspaper or magazine. 4

Mainstream television and print journalism has died. Edmund Burke's Fourth Estate no longer exists; we only see the estate sale with ideologues pawing through its previously grand hallways and closets, selling both its duty and its good name for ten cents on the dollar.

References

1. Therolf, Garrett. "'Gang Mentality' of Middle-age Surfers Keeps Outsiders off Palos Verdes Estates Waves." The Los Angeles Times. 16 July 2015, morning ed., A1. Print.
2. Hemingway, Mollie Zeiger. "The Bad, Worse, & Ugly: Media Coverage of Planned Parenthood's Organ Harvesting Scandal." The Federalist. The Federalist, 16 July 2015. Web. 16 July 2015. http://thefederalist.com/2015/07/16/the-bad-worse-ugly-media-coverage-of-planned-parenthoods-organ-harvesting-scandal/.
3. McDowell, Sean. "Lessons from a CNN Interview." YouTube. YouTube, 14 July 2015. Web. 16 July 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s1Rs2bu6f8E.
4. Barthel, Michael, Elisa Shearer, Jeffrey Gottfried, and Amy Mitchell. "The Evolving Role of News on Twitter and Facebook." Pew Research Centers Journalism Project. Pew Research Centers, 14 July 2015. Web. 16 July 2015. http://www.journalism.org/2015/07/14/the-evolving-role-of-news-on-twitter-and-facebook/.
Image courtesy Publik15 and licensed via the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) license.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Archaeology and the Bible (podcast)


The Bible is unique among sacred texts in that it is set against a historical backdrop. Do recent archaeological discoveries validate or discredit the Biblical accounts? Listen to this complete series as Lenny explores the relationship between the Bible and archaeology and shows why the Bible can be considered reliable historically.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Planned Parenthood is Selling Body Parts. Here's What You Can Do.

The plot of Michael Crichton's 1978 film Coma turns on a surgical resident who uncovers a private medical facility that induces comas in healthy, young patients in order to sell their organs on the black market. After the film's release, one reviewer cautioned "See it and worry" but Dennis Schwartz dismissed the film as "more entertaining than credible."



Yet, today the story is breaking that Planned Parenthood has been selling the organs of aborted babies on the black market for some time and they've even captured top Planned Parenthood staff negotiating a deal and explaining how they do it. Live Action News just released the hidden camera footage (embedded at the bottom of this post) along with the story of Planned Parenthood Federation Senior Director of Medical Services, Dr. Deborah Nucatola talking with two undercover reporters about how to order children's hearts, livers, legs, or other parts they desire.1

The video is gruesome. It shows the actual web-based order form that allows customers to select gestational age, the type of tissue you would like, the quantity, and shipping options, like these are automobile parts and not organs of a human being who must be killed for them to be harvested.

The undercover meeting with Nutacola is no easier to watch. There, she explains how they will alter their method of aborting the child in order to preserve whatever parts are requested by their customers. One undercover reporter asked, "How much of a difference can that actually make, if you know kind of what's expected or what we need?" Nutacola cooly responds:
It makes a huge difference. I'd say a lot of people want liver. And for that reason, most providers will do this case under ultrasound guidance, so they'll know where they're putting their forceps...

We've been very good at getting heart, lung, liver, because we know that, so I'm not gonna crush that part, I'm gonna basically crush below, I'm gonna crush above, and I'm gonna see if I can get it all intact. And with the calvarium, in general, some people will actually try to change the presentation so that it's not vertex.
You may have missed the meaning of Nucatola's last statement about changing the presentation. She is stating that she will turn the baby in utero from a head-down position to a breech position of feet first in order to make the mother dilate more as the abortion progresses and the baby's head won't need to be crushed. That's the textbook definition of partial-birth abortion which is illegal under federal law. Of course so is the buying and selling of human fetal tissue. 2

What You Can Do About It

This is all horrifying and many will be shocked. Others will say, "What did you expect? The abortion industry has many gruesome stories." However, I think this particular case, given the high-level involvement and the clearly illegal nature of the acts affords us a unique opportunity.

1. Ask Your Elected officials to Revoke all Planned Parenthoood Government Funding
The level of corruption within Planned Parenthood is s patently obvious from the video. There, even PPFA President and CEO Cecile Richards is caught praising Nucatola after the reporter told here "We do fetal collection and she's been very helpful with figuring out who to talk to." It would take a fool to believe that Richards doesn't know what's going on especially when Planned Parenthood's lawyers are providing council on how to handle this from an organization's legal liability perspective.

Listen, Planned Parenthood, according to their own reports, received $524 million last year from various government grants.3 Given the horrific nature of these crimes, every person needs to call their elected official and demand the suspension of all grants to Planned Parenthood programs, no matter what their purpose, until this case can be properly investigated. The money stops now.

If you think this is a long shot, think again. It took only 24 days of public outcry over the Confederate battle flag to force the state of South Carolina to remove it from their capitol. Twenty four days for a change to happen that had no direct factor in the killing of those nine church members. Certainly something this terrible warrants investigation and given both houses of congress are currently controlled by Republicans who are less sympathetic to Planned Parenthood, now is the time to act.

2. Spread the Word.
I anticipate the major media outlets will ignore this story like they ignored the Gosnell trial. But if enough people make enough noise, they won't be able to turn away. If the House of Representatives debates pulling all funding for PPFA, the media will cover it. Therefore, we need to spread the word. Tweet about this. Share this story and share the video with everyone you know. Keep up the pressure. Challenge people to watch it. Don't let up. Make it news too big to ignore. If you are more outraged by a Confederate flag than this, you're a monster.

3. Pray
Lastly, let's pray that God will use this discovery to dismantle Planned Parenthood. PPFQA is the #1 abortion provider in the United States. They are based on the racist beliefs of Margaret Sanger and were formed as an avenue to practice eugenics. 4 Pray that God will open people's eyes and we can put an end to this bloody chapter in America's history.

In his review of the movie Coma, Schwartz believed that the film's premise wasn't creditable. Perhaps he may be right; the patients in the film simply weren't young enough. As the video shows, reborn babies are much easier to harvest and dismember for parts. See it and worry.


References

1."BREAKING: Planned Parenthood director caught on tape selling aborted ‘baby parts'" Live Action News. Live Action, Inc. 14 July 2015. Web http://liveactionnews.org/breaking-planned-parenthood-director-caught-on-tape-selling-aborted-baby-parts/
2. Prohibitions Regarding Human Fetal Tissue, §§ 6A-289g-2-289g-2 (2003). Web. https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/42/289g-2
3. 2013-2014 Annual Report. Planned Paerenthood Federation of America. 2014. Page 21. Web. http://issuu.com/actionfund/docs/annual_report_final_proof_12.16.14_/0
4. Grossu, Arina. "Margaret Sanger, Racist Eugenicist Extraordinaire." Washington Times. The Washington Times, 5 May 2014. Web. 14 July 2015. http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/may/5/grossu-margaret-sanger-eugenicist/.
Image courtesy drsuparna [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, July 13, 2015

Want to Draw Closer to God? Use a Map!

In book four of Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis tells of having a conversation with an old air force officer who believed in God, but felt that the theologies we teach somehow diminish his reality. The officer proclaims, "I know there's a God. I've felt Him: out alone in the desert at night: the tremendous mystery. And that's just why I don't believe all your neat little dogmas and formulas about Him."1



This "all I need is Jesus" concept has only grown since Lewis' writing that story, and I can understand why. For those that have been delivered from a life of misery or the effects of addition, the real changing presence of the Gospel is powerful and moving. Theology seems to be about somehow deconstructing God, making him more distant than He is experientially. Lewis agreed with that assessment, yet he cautioned against abandoning learning theology simply because it is less experientially powerful than the direct witness of the Spirit. He used the analogy of an Englishman learning about the Atlantic Ocean by walking along the beach. Surely this experience, too, has a feel that informs the man in a far more powerful way than seeing the ocean drawn upon a map. Yet, the map is important. Lewis explains:
The map is admittedly only coloured paper, but there are two things you have to remember about it. In the first place, it is based on what hundreds and thousands of people have found out by sailing the real Atlantic. In that way it has behind it masses of experience just as real as the one you could have from the beach; only, while yours would be a single isolated glimpse, the map fits all those different experiences together.

In the second place, if you want to go anywhere, the map is absolutely necessary. As long as you are content with walks on the beach, your own glimpses are far more fun than looking at a map. But the map is going to be more use than walks on the beach if you want to get to America.

Now, Theology is like the map. Merely learning and thinking about the Christian doctrines, if you stop there, is less real and less exciting than the sort of thing my friend got in the desert. Doctrines are not God: they are only a kind of map. But that map is based on the experience of hundreds of people who really were in touch with God—experiences compared with which any thrills or pious feelings you and I are likely to get on our own are very elementary and very confused. And secondly, if you want to get any further, you must use the map.2

A Map to God's Character

I like Lewis' analogy. The study of theology is perhaps drier than the experiential aspects of the Christian life, but it informs us about God as he is, not simply the small sliver we experience. Further, when difficulties come into our lives, we can refer back to our learning of who God is and how he works and have confidence in his character. We grow in our devotion to him as we grow in our understanding of him.

The writer to the Hebrews rebuked those Christians for not moving beyond the pure milk of the word. He expected them to mature in their relationship with God as Christians. He wanted them to deal with more complex theological ideas than "repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment" (Heb. 6:1-2, ESV). Those are all important foundations of the gospel, but there is so much more to learn.

If we wish to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, we need to learn more about his essential nature and his character. We need a map to guide us on our journey in understanding him better. We will need to be shown those hidden treasures that can build us up as believers. After all, what lover doesn't want to know everything he can about his beloved?

References

1. Lewis, C. S. "Mere Christianity." The Complete C.S. Lewis Signature Classics. San Francisco, CA: HarperSanFrancisco, 2002. 127-128 Print.
2. Lewis, 128.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

How to Reach Students with Apologetics (radio interview)



Recently, Lenny was a featured guest on the Urban Theologian radio show, which broadcasts in the greater Phoenix area. Urban Theologian has been bringing stellar interviews by noted apologists; previous shows recently featured Dr. J.P. Moreland, Dr. Paul Meier, and Dr. Paul Nelson among others.

In this interview, Lenny comments on the need for apologetics in student ministry, how Christians can effectively reach out on college campuses, and how to shift the conversation on ideas like teaching about sex. You can listen to the entire interview below or visit the show's web site at http://urbantheologianradio.com/ 


Saturday, July 11, 2015

Learning about Sexual Purity from A Christmas Story



Everyone loves the holiday movie A Christmas Story. It's become a family favorite in my house. It can also be useful as an illustration when talking about difficult issues such as sexual purity with your children. Check out this short video that helps kids understand a little of what they may lose by becoming sexually promiscuous.

Friday, July 10, 2015

A Culture Demanding We Carry Their Donkey



Our society is changing more rapidly than anyone imagined. One of the primary drivers of this change is the ongoing demand that no one be offended. Christians who hold to certain religious principles are being fined and silenced because their refusal to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. Apple banned historically accurate Civil War games from their app store because it featured the Confederate battle flag. Even in college campuses, the supposed haven for the free exchange of ideas, is rotted with demands for only inoffensive speech, equality of experience,  and relative morality.

The whole thing reminds me of a story I was told as a child. Aesop and his fables are not as well-known today, but he made certain truths more accessible to young minds. This story of the Miller, his son, and the donkey seems particularly fitting in our modern "offend no one" climate:
A Miller and his son were driving their Ass to a neighboring fair to sell him. They had not gone far when they met with a troop of women collected round a well, talking and laughing. "Look there," cried one of them, "did you ever see such fellows, to be trudging along the road on foot when they might ride?"

The old man hearing this, quickly made his son mount the Ass, and continued to walk along merrily by his side. Presently they came up to a group of old men in earnest debate. "There," said one of them, "it proves what I was a-saying. What respect is shown to old age in these days? Do you see that idle lad riding while his old father has to walk? Get down, you young scapegrace, and let the old man rest his weary limbs."

Upon this the old man made his son dismount, and got up himself. In this manner they had not proceeded far when they met a company of women and children: "Why, you lazy old fellow," cried several tongues at once, "how can you ride upon the beast, while that poor little lad there can hardly keep pace by the side of you?"

The good-natured Miller immediately took up his son behind him. They had now almost reached the town. "Pray, honest friend," said a citizen, "is that Ass your own?'

"Yes," replied the old man.

"O, one would not have thought so," said the other, "by the way you load him. Why, you two fellows are better able to carry the poor beast than he you."

"Anything to please you," said the old man; "we can but try." So, alighting with his son, they tied the legs of the Ass together and with the help of a pole endeavored to carry him on their shoulders over a bridge near the entrance to the town. This entertaining sight brought the people in crowds to laugh at it, till the Ass, not liking the noise nor the strange handling that he was subject to, broke the cords that bound him and, tumbling off the pole, fell into the river.

Upon this, the old man, vexed and ashamed, made the best of his way home again, convinced that by endeavoring to please everybody he had pleased nobody, and lost his Ass in the bargain.1
Right now, we’re a society that, in straining to never offend, is carrying the donkey on our shoulders. It has already cost us the natural understanding of marriage. What will it cost us next?

References

1. "The Miller, His Sone, and Their Ass." Aesop's Fables. 16 April 2012.Web. https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Miller,_His_Son,_and_Their_Ass

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Living in a Post-Pagan Culture

We in the West are living in a post-Christian culture. Europe has been overtly secular for many years, but given the high percentage of the population in the U.S. who believe in God, identify with a specific Christian faith and state religion is very important to them. Yet, the recent Pew survey showed that mainstream Christianity has been losing adherents, especially with the Millennial generation.1



Even prior to the Pew survey, the influence of Christian beliefs had been clearly waning as we saw less and less evidence of the Christian worldview impacting the important moral questions of our day. Instead of the God of the Bible and his moral standard, most Americans hold to God as someone you pray to in order to escape trouble but doesn't require anything from you. It's akin to what researchers Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton labeled Moral Therapeutic Deism.2 The recent battles that Christians have had to fight in not servicing homosexual unions to maintain their religious integrity offers a clear sign that the country had left its Christian underpinnings. There should be no doubt that American—the last hold-out in the West—has become post-Christian.

What are we trading Christianity for?

Of course, believers have lamented how a society built upon and existing because of a Christian worldview would now jettison its foundational principles for something that is not clearly defined. Most of the culture is moving to a feelings-based system of judgment.

Take a recent letter to the Los Angeles Times. Reader E.J. Parker was opining on whether the Los Angeles should change the name of Robert E. Lee school and wrote, "For me, the deciding point is this: Were I an African American, how would I feel as a parent, sending my child to a school named for the great hero for the Confederacy?" That's the deciding point? Feelings? Yet, in all those lawsuits against Christian bakers, photographers, and wedding coordinators who wouldn't service a homosexual ceremony (and even a complaint against Christians who would), feelings are the impetus and the deciding factor.

So, what is in store for Western society now? Are we to slide back into paganism? No, that won't happen. A feelings-based society is further removed from Paganism than it is from a Christian society. C.S. Lewis explains:
For [those in a post-Christian society] neglect not only the law of Christ but even the Law of Nature as known by the Pagans. For now they do not blush at adultery, treachery, perjury, theft and the other crimes which I will not say Christian Doctors, but the pagans and the barbarous have themselves denounced.

They err who say "the world is turning pagan again." Would that it were! The truth is that we are falling into a much worse state.

"Post Christian man" is not the same as "pre-Christian man." He is as far removed as virgin is from widow: there is nothing in common except the want of a spouse: but there is a great difference between a spouse-to-come and a spouse lost.3
Lewis is exactly right here. Christianity provided the grounding for the equality of all men; it is unintelligible in paganism. The New Secularists who place all their emphasis on the feelings of others have taken that Christian idea and warped it to mean all people should be equally unoffended. The new concept only vaguely resembles Christian morality, but it is completely foreign to pagan Rome of Greece, where the conqueror is lauded as the supreme example of humanity.

The West has divorced itself from Christianity. Our society is now is selling off all those things that remind us of the relationship. But if Christianity built the house, bought the furniture, and created the traditions, what will our lives look like once all those things are gone? We cannot look to the pagan past as we have buried that husband long ago. This brave new world is unknown, and perhaps those who advocate for it should show a bit more caution before every bit of shelter is lost.

References

1. "America's Changing Religious Landscape: Christians Decline Sharply as Share of Population; Unaffiliated and Other Faiths Continue to Grow." Rep. Pew Research Center, Washington D.C., 15 May 2015. Web. http://www.pewforum.org/2015/05/12/americas-changing-religious-landscape/.
2. Smith, Christian. "On "Moralistic Therapeutic Deism" as U.S. Teenagers' Actual, Tacit, De Facto Religious Faith." Religion and Youth. Ed. Sylvia Collins-Mayo and Pink Dandelion. Farnham, Surrey, England: Ashgate, 2010. 46-57. Print.
3. Lewis, C. S., Wayne Martindale, and Jerry Root. The Quotable Lewis. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1989. 482. Print.
Image courtesy Zoomar and licensed via the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) license.
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