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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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Showing posts with label education. Show all posts
Showing posts with label education. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Romancing the Mind - Why Apologetics is Crucial for Women (podcast)



Women are crucial in service to the body of Christ. Women tend to pray more than men, tend to volunteer more, and attend service more, too. Most churches offer different ministries aimed at women, from Bible studies to cooking and craft workshops. Yet, there are very few women's classes aimed at teaching them how to develop their minds and thoughtfully engage the culture with the reasons for their faith. This is a glaring omission for both Christian women and the churches that serve them. Listen in as Lenny presents to a women's group and explains why women need to develop not only a strong spiritual relationship with God, but also a strong intellectual one as well.
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Sunday, January 01, 2017

Jesus: The Smartest Man Who Ever Lived (podcast)



If you were asked to choose the most intelligent person in history, who would it be? Einstein? Newton? Socrates? What about Jesus? We often think of Jesus as many things, but rarely do we think of him as an intellectual, using reason and logic skillfully. Yet, he did so frequently. In this four-part podcast, you'll hear Lenny explain just how Jesus out-thought his detractors and you'll learn about a underappreciated aspect of his ministry: how he wants us to engage our minds as much as much as our hearts.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Overcoming the Conspiracy Against Christianity


Ideas matter. They matter because they shape how we understand the world in which we live. They matter because they motivate us to want to change or why we desire to keep things the same.

Dallas Willard made his living in a world of ideas. As a Christian philosopher he would routinely think through different ideas and how they could impact the larger society. His book, The Divine Conspiracy, is a masterful work provoking Christians to live their lives consistently with Christian ideals.

In one section, Willard underscores how powerful ideas are b quoting economic John Maynard-Keyes. Keyes states:
"…the ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back."

Willard then goes on to opine:
One could wish this were true only of economics and politics. But it is true of life in general. It is true of religion and education, of art and media. For life as a whole, Keynes's words apply: "I am sure that the power of vested interests is vastly exaggerated compared with the gradual encroachment of ideas." Not immediately, as he acknowledges, but after a certain period of time. The ideas of people in current leadership positions are always those they took in during their youth. "But, soon or late, it is ideas, not vested interests, which are dangerous for good or evil."1

The power of mere ideas is a matter about which intellectuals commonly deceive themselves and, intentionally or not, also mislead the public. They constantly take in hand the most powerful factors in human life, ideas, and most importantly, ideas about what is good and right. And how they handle and live them thoroughly pervades our world in its every aspect.2
People love to believe in conspiracies. Whether it's the grassy knoll, a faked moon landing, or the CIA blowing up the World Trade Center, it's easy to think that evil acts can only be brought on by some powerful group hiding in a secret back room.

The truth of the matter is that the "conspirators" are those who teach in classrooms or make subtle claims in otherwise benign entertainment. They want to remake society into their particular view. That shouldn't surprise anyone. If a person believes their views are true, of course they would seek to persuade others to hold it as well. But it does mean that Christians should also be prepared to argue how those views are not true and have good reasons demonstrating the truth of Christianity.

If Christianity tells us the truth about good and evil, man and morality, and the nature of the world, then we must inject our ideas into the public sphere. It's the best way to thwart a culture of evil.

References

1. Willard, Dallas. The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1998. 5. Kindle Edition.
2. Willard, 1998. 5-6.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Throwing Out the Riches of Christian History


After the discovery of gold in California in 1849, the American west was bristling with gold fever. Prospectors were traveling to both California and Nevada seeking to strike it rich. By 1859, much of the surface gold had been retrieved from the area around the Carson River, but two prospectors, Patrick McLaughlin and Peter O'Riley, sought to mine deeper into the hillsides. 1

They used rockers to extract some gold from shallow deposits, but continued to be vexed by a bluish-black clay that kept clogging their mining equipment. This "annoying blue stuff" had been plaguing miners for over a year, as the equipment had to be continually cleaned of the heavy, sticky stuff so it could be discarded.2 What they didn't realize is they had been throwing away a fortune. When the clay was sent to an assay office in Grass Valley, CA. it was found that each ton of the material would yield $876 in gold, but it held nearly $3,000 in silver! 3 Because the miners only knew about gold, they had been throwing away a fortune.

I think Christians can sometimes suffer from the same problem. It is no doubt that all believers revere the Bible as God's word and it is the most valuable thing we have to know and learn from God. Yet, many Christians only focus on the Bible and they don't learn about the rich heritage of Christian history. Christians of past ages have studies, learned, and argued for their faith even as we do today. They have already worked through manty of the difficulties that we believe are modern in nature and they offer a wisdom and insight into the scriptures that shouldn't be overlooked.

 In fact, many of the supposed "new" arguments against God have been addressed centuries ago. For example, take the Richard Dawkins quote from his 2002 TED Talk: "We are all atheists in most of the gods humanity has ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further."4 This is merely rhetoric, and it isn't new.

 In the second century AD, the Christian Athenagoras wrote to the Emperor of Rome complaining about how Christians are being unfairly persecuted. One charge leveled against them was that Christians were atheists, because they didn't believe in the pantheon of Gods. Here's Athenagoras' reply:
As regards, first of all, the allegation that we are atheists—for I will meet the charges one by one, that we may not be ridiculed for having no answer to give to those who make them—with reason did the Athenians adjudge Diagoras guilty of atheism… [for he] openly declared that there was no God at all. But to us, who distinguish God from matter, and teach that matter is one thing and God another, and that they are separated by a wide interval (for that the Deity is uncreated and eternal, to be beheld by the understanding and reason alone, while matter is created and perishable), is it not absurd to apply the name of atheism? …since our doctrine acknowledges one God, the Maker of this universe, who is Himself uncreated (for that which is does not come to be, but that which is not) but has made all things by the Logos which is from Him, we are treated unreasonably in both respects, in that we are both defamed and persecuted.5
In his letter to the Emperor, Athenagoras rightly refutes the charge of atheism with respect to the Roman gods as absurd. The Christians do believe in an uncreated being who is the source of all other things. Therefore, Athenagoras demonstrates the ridiculousness of the argument that not believing in Roman gods would make one an atheist "among other gods." That isn't what atheism means. It means one believes in no god of any kind whatsoever. To claim that I am an atheist concerning "most of the gods" is as much an error as claiming Dawkins is a creationist because he believes most of our modern technology has been intelligently designed. Athenagoras refuted Dawkins' point before 190AD!

This is simply one example of the riches that await the Christian who seeks to study the history of Christian thought. While the Bible is spiritual gold, we ignore far too much silver simply because we don't take the time to dig in and see how valuable such studies can be. Don't make that mistake.

References

1. James, Ronald. "Comstock Mining District." Online Nevada Encyclopedia. Online Nevada Encyclopedia, 20 Apr. 2009. Web. 09 Dec. 2015. http://www.onlinenevada.org/articles/comstock-mining-district.
2. Speed, James. "Discovering the World's Greatest Silver Properties." The Magazine of Wall Street. Vol. 21. 13 Oct, 1917. 212. Web.
3. James, 2009.
4. Dawkins, Richard. "Militant Atheism." TEDTalks. TED Conferences, LLC, Feb. 2002. Web. 9 Dec. 2015. http://www.ted.com/talks/richard_dawkins_on_militant_atheism?language=en#t-801650.
5. Athenagoras of Athens. "A Plea for the Christians." New Advent. Kevin Knight, 2009. Web. 09 Dec. 2015.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Defending Your Faith in the Classroom



Last week, I told you about someone who asked for help when his Sociology professor broached the subject of religion, but basically dismissed it as a fabrication. The student wrote:
Some notable points he brought up, which are straight from the Sociology textbook, is that all religion is "socially constructed" and that faith is "belief without scientific evidence." ...

He stated that religion is constantly evolving and falsely asserted that Christianity was the first to develop monotheism. His final statement was made near the end of the lecture that "we all need to exercise some level of spirituality in order to survive" since religion provides comfort in the case of tragedy.

How does one, especially as a student, respond to such claims? It's apparent the professor has already chosen where he stands concerning religion. When another spoke up during the lecture, it was clear all he wants to do is debate. As Christians, should we speak up or not cast our pearls before swine?
For the answer to the main charges, you can read my last article here. As to the question of engagement, let me say that I've received more and more of these kinds of questions in recent years. Sometimes, they even come in the form of a plea, where the Christian really wants to defend his or her faith but doesn't know how. There's a real conflict here. On one hand, we want to share the truth of the Gospel message with others and not let mischaracterizations about our faith remain unanswered. On the other, the student recognizes the professor holds the position of power, not only in terms of stature and who gets to speak in class, but ultimately because the prof assigns the final grade for the course.

First, Pick Your Battles

My first piece of advice to this student is to be thoughtful. Exchanges with those in authority need to be judicious and part of that is weighing what the reaction to an objection may be. Jesus told us, "Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves" (Matt 10:16, ESV) and that applies here. The professor is the "man with the microphone," which means he controls the conversation. That also means you probably won't be able to have a sustained argument in class, which is appropriate since that's really not what the class is for anyway.

We have a couple of good examples of how Christians faced such conditions in the New Testament. Peter and John faced the Jewish rulers. Paul was also brought before the Jewish High Council and later before Felix. In each of these cases, the Christians never tried to steamroll the questioning authority. Instead, they first waited until it was the appropriate time for them to speak. Notice that Peter and John don't respond until questioned by the elders (Acts 4:6). Paul waits five days until he is summoned and even then only speaks when the Roman governor Felix "nodded to him to speak" (Acts 24:1,10). So, it is important to have a good "feel" for both the prof and the teaching style of the class before trying to engage at all.

Clarify Through Questions

Next, in each instance they pointed to their own good conduct (Acts 4:8, 23:1, 24:12) and asked questions about exactly what the main issue was. This is so important that I want to emphasize it again. Questions are the primary way to open a conversation in a respectful and open manner. They can be hugely effective when engaging someone who is antagonistic to your point of view, as demonstrated here.

In the classroom especially, questions are expected. They allow you to not make assertions but ask for clarification which can serve to show a contradiction in the teacher's positions. For example, compare the two opening charges listed above. The prof claimed 1) religion is "socially constructed" and 2) faith is "belief without scientific evidence." The prof clearly mis-defined faith, as has been argued multiple times in the past. Leaving that aside, I would ask for clarification of his point. When the prof talks about religion, does he mean the various expressions people may produce in trying to reach out to the divine? I don't think it's controversial to recognize that the worship music of 21st century America will be colored by our current culture and be very different from the practices of a second century church in Antioch.

The question isn't how culture affects our stretch toward the divine, the question rally is whether God really exists and what is the most appropriate way to know how he has revealed himself. Feuerbach and Freud would say God isn't real, and I think this is also the professor's claim. If that is so, the next question should be "If scientific evidence is the standard for believing a claim, then what scientific evidence can be offered for holding that God does not exist, but is simply a socially constructed belief?"

The prof has alluded to the standard of science to determine truth value it seems to me. But there are a lot of things I believe that science has no bearing on. I believe I'm not in the Matrix, for example. I believe my memories for the most part accurately represent what happened to me previously. I believe that when I see the color green I have the same experience as you do.

A Little is a Lot

Lastly, know when to be done. One or two key questions are usually enough to break the fa├žade of assurance originally presented by the prof but not so much that the exchange begins to feel like a confrontation. Paul would wait for Felix to call him and they would then have conversations. But Paul didn't try to "eat the entire elephant" at once. Be patient and trust that God will provide the proper opportunities and the proper words for such times. Those are the marks of wisdom and gentleness, as Jesus commanded.

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Implosion of Secular Colleges: When Ideas Come Home to Roost



The state of higher education is changing rapidly. One cannot turn on the news or read social media without seeing all the protests and demands by students at schools like the University of Missouri, Yale, Oberlin, Ithica, and more. Some complain about being offended by epithets or Halloween costumes; others complain about a guest speaker who doesn't mirror their political or social outlook. The so-called "Million Student March" demonstrators are asking for free college education.

What's going on here?  At its base, the secular university is being eaten alive by a monster of its own making. Modern schools of higher education have been a bastion of liberal thought for about a century now. As progressives veered more and more to the left, they used the university to both teach and advance their ideas to a generation of students. Dallas Willard, in his book Renovation of the Heart, defines what I mean when I talk about these kinds of ideas and how they shaped the perceptions of individuals:
Ideas are very general models of or assumptions about reality. They are patterns of interpretation, historically developed and socially shared. They sometimes are involved with beliefs, but are much more than belief and do not depend upon it. They are ways of thinking about and interpreting things. They are so pervasive and essential to how we think about and how we approach life that we often do not even know they are there or understand when and how they are at work. Our idea system is a cultural artifact, growing up with us from earliest childhood out of the teachings, expectations, and observable behaviors of family and community.



Examples of ideas are freedom, education, happiness, "the American Dream," science, progress, death, home, the feminine or masculine, the religious, "Christian," "Muslim," church, democratic (form of government), fair, just, family, evolution, God, the secular, and so on. If you wish to see ideas in action, look closely at artistic endeavors in their various forms (especially today, movies and music, secular, and so on.

If you wish to see ideas in action, look closely at artistic endeavors in their various forms (especially today, movies and music, which encapsulate most of what is called "pop culture"), and at efforts to persuade (especially today, politics and commercials). Look, for example, at the place freedom, a major idea now, plays in automobile ads and rock lyrics. And look at our now largely paralyzed public education system to see what ideas are dominant in students and teachers.

Now, for all their importance to human life, ideas are never capable of definition or precise specification; and yet people never stop trying to define them, in their vain efforts to control them. They are broadly inclusive, historically developing ways of interpreting things and events, which, for all their power, often do not emerge into the consciousness of the individual. Therefore, it is extremely difficult for most people to recognize which ideas are governing their life and how those ideas are governing their life.

This is partly because one commonly identifies his or her own governing ideas with reality, pure and simple. Ironically, it is often people who think of themselves as "practical" or as "men of action"— both, of course, major ideas— who are most in the grip of ideas: so far in that grip that they can't be bothered to think. They simply don't know what moves them. But ideas govern them and have their consequences anyway. Another illustration of "idea grip" would be how most people think of success in life in terms of promotions and possessions. One's culture is seen most clearly in what one thinks of as "natural" and as requiring no explanation or even thought.1
The secular universities have been so effective in transferring their concepts to their students. What they never anticipated is the students would take those ideas out of the abstract and seek to apply them back to the universities and their faculty. Now you have students successfully lobbying to have university administration and faculty lose their jobs, such as has happened to the Dean at Claremont McKenna, the Chancellor and system president  at the University of Missouri,  and similar calls for faculty heads are happening at other campuses as well. Meanwhile, students want all of the benefits of higher education, including the economic advantages a degree provides, but they don't want to pay for it. Just see how confused this student is about just who is supposed to pay for her education.

In short, in the university today liberalism is taken seriously. The result is it's cannibalizing itself. This kind of attitude cannot be sustained over the course of time. If it keeps growing at its present pace, the secular university will be a shell of its former self within a decade. It has already jumped the shark in regard to its message on morality and sex.  Add to that the increasingly warped views on free speech and economic realities and a disaster of their own making is about to boil over.

For Christian schools, this is an ideal time to reclaim the legacy of higher education which has its roots in the Christian world view.  The university was our idea.  Let's take it back.

References

1. Willard, Dallas. Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2002. Kindle Edition. 96-97.
Image courtesy Roger Gordon and licened via the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) License.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

One Quote for Naturalist Professors



Most naturalists prefer a more subtle approach. Instead of openly insulting Christianity, they patronize it, paying it the kind of compliments one pays to children and the simple-minded. Or they use "as-we-now-know" statements: "As we now know, there is no life after death." These are often introduced by "it-was-once-thought" statements: "It was once thought that moral laws were given to us by a God or gods, but as we now know, mankind gives moral laws to himself." Whenever a teacher makes an "as-we-now-know" statement, ask "Who do you mean by 'we,' and how do we 'know'?" If you aren't yet ready for public debate, ask the questions inwardly. If you do ask them aloud, be respectful. Your goal isn't to show that your teacher is wrong but merely that he isn't taking seriously the legitimate arguments on the other side.

To get this point across, ask your teacher to read the following words of Harvard paleontologist Richard Lewontin. Like every naturalist, Lewontin believes that the material world of nature is all there is, but he also confesses to something many of his fellow naturalists would rather deny. The confession is that they all believe in naturalism in spite of the evidence, not because of it. For example, even though the evidence strongly suggests that living things are the result of intelligent design, naturalists are desperate to prove they can't be.' Most of us would call the urge to ignore evidence "prejudice." Strangely, Lewontin calls it "taking the side of science"! See for yourself:
We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, ... in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counterintuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.
This amazing confession is important because it shows that what naturalists call "science" isn't really science—at least not if science means following the evidence! Naturalists like to think of themselves as brave defenders of clear reasoning itself is the superstition. It isn't supported by reasoning but by blind hostility to the evidence of God. Pray that your professors will finally get tired of their games. As Blaise Pascal wrote long ago, "it is good to be tired and wearied by the vain search after the true good, that we may stretch out our arms to the Redeemer."
— J. Budziszewski
 J. Budziszewski. How to Stay Christian in College (Kindle Locations 417-419). Kindle Edition.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

What Archaeology Can and Can't Do (video)



Archaeology has helped the biblical scholar put together a lot of pieces from the stories of the Bible. It has shown many places and events to be true. Yet, archaeology cannot be the silver bullet that proves God's existence or that the Bible is his inspired word.

In this short clip, Lenny outlines just how archaeology can illuminate the biblical accounts and why it isn't the last word on faith.


Friday, August 14, 2015

Bluffing is for Poker, Not Apologetics


A few days ago I wrote a blog post arguing one mustn't be a biologist to comment on the evolution debate. The post was well received, but also gathered a few comments, such as a gentleman who responded, "I agree that people shouldn't be prohibited from opining on [evolution] just because they aren't biologists but they should familiarize themselves with the subject matter. Both sides often do not do so which leads to so many angry, pointless arguments." I saw more than one response that commented similarly.

It's interesting that this particular issue generated the responses it did, all basically stating while one needn't be a biologist, they should have taken some time to understand the arguments of evolution before criticizing it. One person even noted that uninformed Christians can make silly arguments, such as "If we evolved from apes, why are there still apes?" I've heard such cringe-inducing objections, and they are more damaging than helpful.

Though the article made the argument that non-experts have a chair at the table, I never meant it to mean that one doesn't have to study the subject matter. One should know something about evolutionary theory and the state of the debate before commenting. In fact, I would say the caution offered by my commenters don't go far enough.

It isn't simply evolution where Christians need to dig in and make sure they have a proper understanding of the issues at hand. It's any issue where one wishes to engage in a thoughtful defense of the Christian worldview. If you are going to discuss the origin of the universe, the existence of the soul, the historical nature of the resurrection, or any other topic where you are seeking to change minds, you should not try and convince others by faking an answer that you do not know. Bluffing may be a good strategy for poker, but not for apologetics. Apologetics is all about clearing away objections and showing others the truth of Christianity. Pretending you know something about a topic you really don't is contradictory to searching out the truth. So, it means Christians must study these topics to some degree to talk about them intelligently.

Degrees of Knowledge is OK

Realize I'm not saying that one must put in years of study before one can have an opinion on an issue or voice that opinion in public.  That isn't what I'm saying at all. Knowledge is not a binary thing where one is either an expert or an ignoramus. There are degrees of knowledge and understanding.  For example, I'm not a biologist, so I didn't argue with that biologist objector using his area of study. I argued in my original post and also answered him using a philosophical argument, an area in which I have much more experience. That allows me to make statements more confidently and know that I won't fall into a "gotcha" moment because I do know what I'm talking about. It also demonstrates that topics like evolution are not "siloed" into a biology-only or paleontology-only discussion. There are other ways to approach the question.

The Critique Cuts Both Ways

While this article is directed towards Christians, there is one more thing you should realize; this critique cuts both ways. In fact I've found all too frequently that those with whom I've engaged have a very shallow or distorted idea of theology and philosophy. They dismiss a position that looks nothing like what I actually believe. They criticize me for not being an expert, yet they haven't taken the time themselves to familiarize themselves with even the essential Christian beliefs that have been consistently held for centuries.  The New Atheists are famous for their knocking down theological straw men. Such actions have caused thoughtful atheists like Michael Ruse to write articles entitled "Why I Think the New Atheists are a Bloody Disaster."

In all, don't be afraid to speak your mind on a subject. However, if a person brings up a specific fact or point with which you're unfamiliar, don't be afraid to ask for more of an explanation. Find out how just what their objection is. Ask them for some materials where you can read more about that topic. If they are not bluffing themselves, they should be able to help you understand their claim and point you in a direction where you can study it in more detail to see whether it's a valid objection and if there's an answer to the charge. When you study in this way, you will grow in both your knowledge and your faith. But you will know the material; you will have the truth to pull from and the confidence it brings with it.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Blow-Hard Bias of Inherit the Wind



"I'm frustrated!"

The plea came in from a girl who was taking a required undergrad English course where the professor assigned an analysis of the 1955 play Inherit the Wind, which presents a fictionalized account of the famous Scopes "Monkey" Trial held in Tennessee thirty years earlier. For those of you that don't know, substitute teacher John Scopes was put on trial for violating Tennessee's Butler Act, a law prohibiting any state-funded school from teaching that "man has descended from a lower order of animals."1

Inherit the Wind – Not History

The play (and the subsequent 1960 movie with Spencer Tracy) proved immensely popular at the time. However, there are some real problems with the events in the way the play presents them. While the broad points are the same, the play changes so many details that the authors acknowledged their play isn't history. In the play's preface they wrote:
Inherit the Wind is not history. The events which took place in Dayton, Tennessee, during the scorching July of 1925 are clearly the genesis of this play. It has, however, an exodus entirely its own.

Only a handful of phrases have been taken from the actual transcript of the famous Scopes Trial. Some of the characters of the play are related to the colorful figures in that battle of giants; but they have life and language of their own - and, therefore, names of their own.2
While this disclaimer may help, I don't think it makes things clear enough. Most people don't realize just how slanted and biased the caricatures are in the play when one compares it to the real-life events. Therefore, I would like to take a bit of time to explore some of the misconceptions that usually occur when the play or movie is viewed.

Inherit the Wind – How the Bias Shows

In both the play and the film, Christianity and its proponents are nothing more than straw men that authors Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee knock down with ease. Lawrence and Lee state, "Inherit the Wind does not pretend to be journalism. It is theatre. It is not 1925. The stage directions set the time as 'Not long ago.' It might have been yesterday. It could be tomorrow."3 Lawrence in an interview stated the motivation for writing the play wasn't religion versus evolution, but the intellectual stifling he saw in the anti-Communist movements of the 1940s and 1950s, ""We used the teaching of evolution as a parable, a metaphor for any kind of mind control. It's not about science versus religion. It's about the right to think."4 Yet, it's more than clear that Lawrence and Lee place those who hold to something other than an evolutionary account of human origins into the "mind control" camp. For example, take two characters Lawrence and Lee create who didn't exist in the actual trial, Reverend Brown and his daughter Rachel, who is engaged to the Scopes character, named Cates in the play. During the play, Rachel, explains "You see, I haven't really thought very much. I was always afraid of what I might think, so it seemed safer not to think at all" but then sees that she must change and begin to see things Cates's way.

In her very comprehensive article that takes down many of the foibles in the play, Carol Iannone observes "While Inherit the Wind remains faithful to the broad outlines of the historical events it portrays, it flagrantly distorts the details, and neither the fictionalized names nor the cover of artistic license can excuse what amounts to an ideologically motivated hoax."5

Inherit the Wind – More Factual Errors

Other factual errors abound, and all of them are strategically created to make those who want the Butler Act upheld to look bad. Dr. Richard M. Cornelius, who is one of the foremost experts on the Scopes trial wrote the book William Jennings Bryan, The Scopes Trial, and Inherit the Wind. Below, he provides a quick overview of some of the pore egregious errors perpetrated by the play:
Here are some of the instances where Inherit the Wind differs from the historical facts of the trial record and the events surrounding it. (For convenience, the names of the historical characters which the play supposedly involves are used.)6
  1.  The trial originated not in Dayton but in the New York offices of the American Civil Liberties Union, for it was this organization that ran an announcement in Tennessee newspapers, offering to pay the expenses of any teacher willing to test the new Tennessee anti-evolution law.
  2. When a group of Dayton leaders decided to take advantage of this offer, their main reason was not so much defense of religion as it was economics, for they saw the trial as a great means of publicity that would attract business and industry to Dayton.
  3. Others responsible for the trial were the media, who worked hard to persuade Bryan and Darrow to participate in the trial.
  4. John T. Scopes was not a martyr for academic freedom. Primarily a coach of three sports, he also taught mathematics, physics, chemistry, and general science. He agreed to help test the law even though he could not remember ever teaching evolution, having only briefly substituted in biology. He was never jailed, nor did he ever take the witness stand in the trial. The people of Dayton liked him, and he cooperated with them in making a test case of the trial.
  5. William Jennings Bryan was not out to get Scopes. Bryan thought the Tennessee law a poor one because it involved fining an educator, and he offered to pay Scopes' fine if he needed the money.
  6. Bryan was familiar with Darwin's works, and he was not against teaching evolution—if it were presented as a theory, and if other major options, such as creationism, were taught.
  7. The trial record discloses that Bryan handled himself well, and when put on the stand unexpectedly by Darrow, defined terms carefully, stuck to the facts, made distinctions between literal and figurative language when interpreting the Bible, and questioned the reliability of scientific evidence when it contradicted the Bible. Some scientific experts at the trial referred to such "evidence" of evolution as the Piltdown man (now dismissed as a hoax).
  8. The defense's scientific experts did not testify at the trial because their testimony was irrelevant to the central question of whether a law had been broken, because Darrow refused to let Bryan cross-examine the experts, and because Darrow did not call on them to testify. But 12 scientists and theologians were allowed to make statements as part of the record presented by the defense.
  9. The topic of sex and sin did not come up in the trial. Neither did Bryan believe that the world was created in 4004 B.C. at 9 a.m.
  10. Instead of Bryan being mothered by his wife, he took care of her, for she was an invalid.
  11. Scopes was found guilty partly by the request of Darrow, his defense lawyer, in the hope that the case could be appealed to a higher court.
Tomorrow, I will explore the background behind the original trial and show why it isn't the draconian groupthink it's portrayed to be.

References

1. "House Bill No. 185 – Butler" Public Acts of the State Of Tennessee Passed by the Sixty-Fourth General Assembly, 1925. 1925-3-21. http://www.tennessee.gov/tsla/exhibits/scopes/images/Butler%20Act.pdf
2. Lawrence, Jerome, Robert Edwin Lee, and Alan Woods. The Selected Plays of Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee. Columbus: Ohio State UP, 1995. Print. 9.
3. Lawrence, Lee, and Woods. 1995.
4. "Garfield Center Announces Open Auditions for Inherit the Wind." The Garfield Center for the Arts at the Prince Theatre. Garfield Center for the Arts at the Prince Theatre, n.d. Web. 24 Mar. 2015. http://www.garfieldcenter.org/garfield-center-announces-open-auditions-for-inherit-the-wind/.
5. Iannone, Carol. "The Truth About Inherit the Wind." First Things. First Things, Feb. 1997. Web. 20 Mar. 2015. http://www.firstthings.com/article/1997/02/002-the-truth-about-inherit-the-wind--36.
6. "Inherit the Wind" (2002). Theatre Productions. Book 25. http://digitalcommons.cedarville.edu/theatre_productions/25

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Taking Advice from an Atheist

I recently ran across an article entitled "How to Persuade a Christian to Become Atheist "on the WikiHow website, offering fifteen steps atheists should follow if they wish to "deconvert" their friends or simply put up a proper argument for their atheism. The article is interesting and a bit controversial given some of the comments in its discussion section. I think some of the points are forced, some are wrong, and some show a bit of bias. Yet there are some pieces of advice here that I actually agree with and would encourage people to follow.


Become an Educated Objector

One of the first pieces of advice the article offers is that atheists seeking to defend their view is to:
Educate yourself. The key to reasoning with someone is to understand their position as well as your own. Read everything you can about atheism, Christian apologetics and religious history. A number of Christians, for example, don't know the origins of their religion outside of a biblical context so having an understanding of the history can be beneficial.1
I think this is actually a good piece of advice. I have too many times run across people who object to my beliefs but hold to a caricature of both Christianity’s history and what the Christian faith teaches. Historic claims such as religion is the cause of most wars, Christianity expanded through violence, Christians in the Middle Ages believed the earth was flat, and the supposed pagan origins of Christmas and Easter can all be dismissed if one were to dig into the historical sources.

Asking people to read about not just atheism but also Christian apologetics and religious history is proper and important. I would add, though, that in order for this task to be effective one shouldn’t limit themselves to atheist authors and what they have said regarding those subjects. Read about Christian apologetics by reading the articles of Christian apologists. Find religious history articles by religious historians. Go to the sources. I have read popular atheists like Carrier, Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, and Peter Boghossian, but I’ve also read sophisticated works by David Hume, Michael Ruse, and others.

Reading from the "horse’s mouth" if you will can cut down on misunderstandings. One can see the argument in its larger context. By educating yourself on the arguments of views contrary to your own, you are in a better position to argue for or against that point. Both Christians and atheists should follow this rule. It’s interesting that in the very next step the article advises, "Learn common arguments leveled by theists and the best rebuttals" yet links to only Wikipedia articles and Internet Infidels responses. Such reading may reinforce one’s view, but you won’t really learn much about the beliefs of others.

Guard Against Bias

In offering steps #4 and #5, I think the author tips his hand a bit. Step #4 reads "Examine your own myths, urban legends, and superstitions and learn why people believe stories backed by anecdotal evidence. Understanding something about belief as it pertains to psychology will better prepare you for the challenges ahead."2 Notice that he or she is attempting to bias the reader into grouping beliefs with "myths, urban legends, and superstitions." But belief isn’t as simple as a psychological response. People will believe things based on facts, too. In fact, most beliefs are not psychological responses but rationally based. Christianity is a belief system that roots itself in history, not psychology.

A better suggestion would be to "Examine your own biases." Since everyone has biases, perhaps recognizing what those are would give you a clearer picture of others’ beliefs and why they can reasonably hold to a certain view. It would also help clear up problems that may arise from step #5: "Read and understand their holy book cover to cover. The Bible contains not only contradictions, but also stories that have historical people, places and events that are still up for debate as to their authenticity. For example, the story of Tyre and how the city was destroyed."3

I’m not certain what kind of debate there is over Tyre being destroyed (it was), but reading the Bible would be a good start. Cover to cover may be ambitious initially. How about reading the New Testament to get a better understanding of Christian theology? The claims of Jesus, the love chapter in 1 Corinthians 13, the command to pray for those who persecute you all can help the non-believer understand the heart of Christianity and who Jesus really is. But one shouldn’t read with the sole intent of seeking out contradictions. That mindset will lead you to many misunderstandings, not only within the biblical text, but in most historical or literary works.

There are ten mores steps listed in the article; some are short-sighted and others I disagree with. I'm still not sure why #13 advises atheistrs to "stay away from love." Why is love so scary? But those that focus on building relationship and understanding are appropriate if they are taken in an honest spirit. Both Christians and atheists need to see one another as real people and not simply adversaries or opportunities to show off your argument skills. By sincerely seeking to understand the other's position, both sides will go a long way to better interaction, better comprehension, and being better people.

References

1. "How to Persuade a Christian to Become Atheist." WikiHow. WikiHow, n.d. Web. 03 Feb. 2015. http://www.wikihow.com/Persuade-a-Christian-to-Become-Atheist.
2. WikiHow, 2015.
3. WikiHow, 2015.
Image courtesy Flicker.com/emdot and licensed by the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) License.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Get Smarter by Practicing Doing Nothing

Soon, we will begin a new year and all the weight loss ads will appear. Some will ask you to join a gym while others will promise amazing results with little or no effort on your part. Since inactivity is part of the cause of weight gain, I would hope that people would approach such claims with great skepticism. However, there is a way you can improve yourself that takes little to no physical exertion whatsoever. In fact, to improve you will have to limit your activity quite stringently. You need to practice doing nothing.



As many have noted, we live in an age of distraction. Our world is a noisy one, with video screens and always-connected capabilities robbing us of any time alone with our thoughts. We have become more and more dependent on such distractions, as one study found "Ninety five percent of American adults reported that they did at least one leisure activity in the past 24 hours, such as watching television, socializing, or reading for pleasure, but 83% reported they spent no time whatsoever 'relaxing or thinking.'" 1 So it's no wonder that the researchers found that most people found sitting in a chair and thinking for ten to fifteen minutes was not an enjoyable experience and a significant number chose to administer small, painful electric shocks to themselves rather than simply think about something. 2,3

Deep Thinking Versus Distracted Thinking

You may jump to the conclusion that it's the younger generations that are more incapable of uninterrupted thinking, but in "Just think: The challenges of the disengaged mind", Timothy Wilson and his co-authors found that the age of the participant (ranging from 18 to 77) or whether they performed the test at home or in a lab setting made no difference. The only real difference in helping people "gain better control of their thoughts with meditation and other techniques, with clear benefits."4

I agree that deeply thinking about a particular problem or issue is a lost skill and one that every believer should seek to cultivate. The Psalms are replete with commands for us to meditate on the Scriptures and the works of God5 to help us better understand Him and our place in the world. Therefore, I want to offer some tips on ways you can practice thinking about an issue more deeply. These are just ways I try to approach certain problems I mull over as I work through them.

1. Ensure You're Exposed to Rich Ideas

The first step in thinking well requires you to get in the habit of taking in ideas that you may not have previously been exposed to. The best way to do this is to develop a habit of reading. You don't have to read for huge chunks of time, but simply read regularly. Plan in getting ready for bed and spend the last 30 minutes every evening reading. This will help you wind down from the day and it will also improve your sleep. You should read actively, with a pencil in hand and marking up your books. If you disagree with the author, write it in the margin. If you think a point is confusing, note that too. You don't have to look up a word or reference at this point, just read. Choose some classic works of fiction and choose some non-fiction. Mix it up. You'll find that there are many different ways people approach certain issues. All of this helps you to think about ideas in different contexts.

2. Mull over the ideas to which you've been exposed.

Next, pick a particularly intriguing or difficult idea and start thinking through it. You should do this at a different time than your reading. Morning is always good. In my devotional time, I try to meditate on a different aspect of God's character each morning. I've taken a list of the different names of God and use it to contemplate that aspect of his character. I really try to think about what it means for God to be the Lord Our Banner. What aspects of God does such a title reflect? How do those aspect impact me in my walk? This is my very first action in my morning prayer time.

With other ideas, I usually try to find a time where I will have limited distractions to think over an issue. The key is to focus on one thing. How does that idea fit in with your understanding of the world? Does it have implications for other beliefs that you hold? What are three reasons to reject such an idea? Would such a concept be true under any circumstance? Can you outline an argument in your head for or against that view? Who else would be considered an expert in that topic and have you looked at what they would say? All of these questions will help you explore that topic much more deeply than simply taking the author's word for a particular point of view.

3. See how your previous ideas work with your new thoughts.

Lastly, as you take in new ideas, you'll want to see how well those mesh with previous ideas you have. Are there any points of connection? Sometimes, new insight will be gained by taking two ideas that seem disparate and trying to connect them in some way. For example, I was once reading an opinion piece lamenting the fact that the candidates for the various offices in the city of Los Angeles were almost exclusively male. The pundits were decrying this as a travesty, making the point that women add a voice and an influence that men cannot replicate. I was also working on some questions about same-sex marriage and it really struck me how if each sex offers unique views that are necessary to the well-being of governance, then it should be more true that two parents of different sexes offer unique views that are necessary to the well-being of any children that are raised, which prompted this post.  However, that's just one example of how new ideas can form when you think about an issue more deeply and carefully.

References

1. Wilson, Timothy D., et. al.  "Just Think: The Challenges of the Disengaged Mind." Science 4 July 2014: 75-77. Print.
2. Wilson, 2014, 76.
3. Pomeroy, Ross. "Some People Prefer Electric Shocks to Thinking Quietly by Themselves" RealClearScience. RealClearScience, 13 July 2014. Web. 29 Dec. 2014. http://www.realclearscience.com/blog/2014/07/some_people_prefer_electric_shocks_to_thinking_quietly_by_themselves.html.
4. Wilson, 2014. 77.
5. For examples, see Joshua 1:8, Psalm, 1:2, Psa. 4:4, Psalm 77:6, Psalm. 119:23-27, Psalm. 145:5.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Defending the Trinity Against World Religions (video)

The Trinity and the Atonement are the doctrines that most differentiate Christianity from all other faiths. It's no surprise then that it's also one of the most attacked doctrines from those of other faiths. What makes the Trinity so unique and why is it such a crucial concept? How should Christians understand the doctrine of the Trinity and how should we best defend it against skeptics and objectors?




In this video class, Lenny helps believers defend critical challenges against the Trinity such as the claim that it is logically contradictory, the word Trinity is not found in the Bible, and the Trinity is too mysterious and unintelligible for us to understand. Plus we look at common objections to the Trinity from Islam, Mormonism, Jehovah's Witnesses and others.


Monday, November 24, 2014

Christianity is a Thinking-Man's Faith

There are many ways that Christianity distinguishes itself from all other religious systems. Chief among these is the central doctrine that God became man to pay the penalty we could never pay and thus reconcile sinful man back to God. But there are many other points where Christian teachings are unique. One of these is just how much Christianity centers on thoughtful examination of belief.



When we look through the teachings of scripture, it turns out that Christianity is very much a thinking-man's faith. In fact, in order to be a mature Christian, you are commanded to not just seek God emotionally, but intellectually as well. When asked by an expert in the Jewish law as to what commandment ranks above all others, Jesus quoted from Deuteronomy 6, which is the passage that Jews use to distinguish themselves from their pagan neighbors. Yet, Jesus added something to it. While verse five in the original reads "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might," Jesus added the phrase "and with all your mind" in Matthew 22:37. Jesus cared about the life of the mind.

1. Christianity is Discriminating

From His model, Christians took the life of the mind seriously. They weren't simply believe simply any tale told as part of their faith, but they were to test the claims coming to them. Paul challenges the Thessalonians to "test everything; hold fast what is good" (1 Thess. 5:21). In Revelation 2:2, Jesus commended the church at Ephesus because they "have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false."

2. Christianity is Literate

Christianity became a very literate faith, relying on the teachings of the Apostles passed on through scripture. Paul exhorted Timothy to "do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth" (2 Tim 2:15-16). It's interesting that Paul tells Timothy he is going to have to work at discerning the meaning of the texts. In fact, Paul goes further in the next verse, warning against speculations when he cautions, "But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness."

Because the written word played such a key part in the development of the Christian life, it truly became the basis for the modern university. Alvin J. Schmidt writes:
Formally educating both sexes was also largely a Christian innovation. W.M. Ramsay states that Christianity's aim was "universal education, not education confined to the rich, as among the Greeks and Romans…and it [made no distinction of sex." This matter produced results, for by the fifth century, St. Augustine said that Christian women were often better informed on divine matters than the pagan male philosophers.1

3. Christianity is Fact-based

Beyond just seeking to be true to its own teachings, Christianity is a faith rooted in the facts of history. he concept of eyewitnesses plays a huge part in the Christian message. Like tells us that when he began to compile his account of Jesus' life he sought out "those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses" and that he himself "investigated everything carefully from the beginning" to provide "the exact truth." Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15, offers the testimony of not only himself, but over five hundred witnesses and says that if any of the people doubt his account, they could ask some of them, since most were still alive at that time. Peter tells the church "we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty."

Peter was even bolder than this when he preached before the Jews in Acts chapter 2. Here he stood in front of a hostile audience and he appealed to their own knowledge of the facts in order to convert them! He declares Jesus' story of ministry, death and resurrection and offers the phrase "as you yourselves know" as proof that he wasn't making up myths. Surely a hostile audience would not have stood for mistakes in his presentation of the facts.

Christianity values intellectual excellence. Christians are command to study, to examine the claims brought before them, to not accept just any attempt by a person to pass along what they say is Christian doctrine, but to rightly divide the word of truth. As Alastair Begg recently said "We need to do what the Bible has always instructed us to do: to think." It's time to reclaim the life of the mind for Christ.

References

1. Schmidt, Alvin J. How Christianity Changed the World: Formerly Titled Under the Influence. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004. Print. 172.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Building Faith Muscles in Your Kids

Last week, I got to have a nice conversation with my eighteen year old son about some different things that's been on his mind. He told me that he's been mulling over concepts of predestination and free will, and reading up on the subject.  We discussed the Calvinist and Arminian models as well as Molinism. We also talked about the nature and purpose of salvation and touched on creation models.



Some of you may think that because I'm an apologist, our family has "theology hour" or some such thing.  That would work about as well in my home full of teenage boys as it would in yours. However, there are a few things you can do to nurture the faith of your children.

1. Realize that It's Their Faith You Want to Develop

I think it's natural that people want the best for their children. In affluent cultures such as ours, that desire sometimes gets mistranslated, though. As parents we can mistake providing a safe, loving home for our kids into providing a care-free area for them to grow up where every difficulty is eliminated or marginalized as much as possible.

Probably the most important principle I can offer is this first one: your desire is not to give your kids your faith, but to have them develop a strong faith of their own. This is key. Teenagers are naturally inclined to seek out meaningful lives. They actually want to understand their world and do things that are important. But our kids don't yet have the experience to know how to go about understanding the world. They're like a young hockey player who has some raw talent, but who doesn't know what it takes to make it in professional athletics.

Your job as parent is to train them. You can't simply tell them what to believe, you have to ask them what they think in a certain situation. You have to let them understand the basics of Christianity then ask them how they would express it. This means drawing their attention to big topics.

One way you can do that is to use movies to point out different worldviews.  For example, my family may go watch the latest superhero action movie. The movie is a lot of fun, but I also try to draw attention to the values the film is promoting. Listen to their ideas of why this hero is so cool and ask why would they want to be like him or her. Ask a lot of questions! The more you explore their point of view, the more they will see where their beliefs may be inadequate. Just as a young athlete must get acquainted with the rules of the game and know the mechanics of moving  on ice skates, so the young Christian must learn to stand upon those things he or she believes. We are to train our children in the way they should go; we shouldn't try to carry them there.

2. Faith Requires Exercise to Grow Stronger

Next, don't shun tough questions that they have or difficult situations in which they're placed. We have a tendency as parents to want to "helicopter" our kids out of uncomfortable or difficult situations. But doing so actually impedes their growth. Faith is like a muscle; in order to make is stronger, one must use it.

This is again just like developing an athlete. You would never take a person who only played in a neighborhood league and force them to face the professionals. Athletes grow by joining leagues where the level of play is higher than they're used to, but where they can be coached and receive additional instruction on how to improve. As they grow, they're own style and skill come to the fore.

One way I help youth ministries do this is by leading different apologetics missions trips to places like Salt Lake City, Utah or Berkeley, CA. We take kids out of their comfortable environment and train them how to interact with students on a college campus who do not share their Christian beliefs. They get to dialogue with atheists or others and they then can see how those views compare to their own. All the while, we are training the students and talking with them after every encounter.

The problem is if we don't let our kids struggle just a bit with tough questions or with objections to their faith, they will never learn that what they believe is actually able to withstand the pressure. I've talked with many people who in college lost their faith. It wasn't because they thought the objections to Christianity were too difficult to overcome. Instead, they concluded that, since their parents and pastors told them to just ignore those "troublemakers" with tough questions that Christianity didn't really care about the truth at all. Since they had never faced someone antagonistic to their beliefs before, they never knew that Christianity could handle to toughest shots thrown at it.

Our kids can do amazing things. They are truly interested in forming their beliefs, but that formation requires them to have some experience with those beliefs. Help them grow into mature Christians by allowing them to explore their faith and be challenged every once in a while. The conversations that result may surprise you!

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Heresies and Scripture - Podcast

What are heresies and why are they so important to avoid? During the first 400 years of the Christianity's existence, the church fathers wanted to ensure that the doctrine passed down from Christ and his apostles would remain uncorrupted. Thus, heresies were a significant concern.

In my most recent podcast series, I reviewed a few of the significant heresies that the early church answered and why a proper understanding of who Jesus is can make all the difference. All four podcasts are available for download by following the links below.



If you would like to subscribe to the Come Reason podcast, just grab the RSS feed here.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Why Christians Need to Grow Intellectually (video)



I was recently asked which apologists influenced me the most in my study.  Here in this short clip I provide some of my primary influences and also talk about the importance of Christians stretching themselves just a bit intellectually in order to become more mature in the faith and to love God more fully.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Book Review: Questioning the Bible

Jonathan Morrow may not be a name most people recognize, but the author of Think Christianity has shown that he is adept at taking front-line issues in defending the faith and making them accessible to a broad audience. He does this again in his latest work, Questioning the Bible: 11 Major Challenges to the Bible's Authority. Here, Morrow delves into eleven common objections to the trustworthiness of not only the Biblical texts, but the general cultural understanding of the Bible as well, all written in a light, easy to understand style.



The book opens with a wonderful introduction addresses specifically to the Christian in the pew. Morrow sets the stage well as he notes that traditionally, pastors' sermons usually begin with the presupposition that the Bible is both accurate and authoritative. However, those concepts should not be so easily assumed, as the culture has become more and more secular, and therefore skeptical of those claims. In chapter one, Morrow next creates a broader foundation for his arguments by showing that faith may be built upon evidence, that the heroes of the Bible built their faith in just that way, and that we as modern Christians are also commanded to provide reasons for our own faith.

Once the foundation is established, Morrow moves into the question of the historicity of Jesus and the historical nature of the Gospels themselves. The former topic is key as the "Jesus as myth" movement many atheists propose seems to be gaining ground today, particularly via spurious Internet sources. Chapters 4 through 6 focus on the collection of texts that make up our New Testament, first showing that the Gospel accounts were chosen neither frivolously nor, as books like The Da Vinci Code would assert, to advance a certain political agenda. Morrow discusses the problem of forgeries that were identified and then shows why the biblical gospels cannot be considered forgeries themselves. H ends this section by showing why the modern New Testament text itself is a reliable copy of what the original authors wrote.

Once the biblical texts are confirmed accurate, the next question would be do they match with reality? While we may have the original texts, that doesn't mean they tell the truth or are giving us real knowledge. Morrow now answers these objections in the next three chapters, which deal with claims of Biblical contradictions, the claim that the Bible is unscientific, and the charge that the Bible is prejudiced or backwards compared to our modern morality. The last two chapters are reserved for issues focused on Christian application of the scriptures.

Overall, the book offers some really great tools to help the reader not only understand but implement the content. Chapters are short and the content is broken up by subheadings every page or two, creating bite-sized ideas that are easy to take in. There are not a lot of illustrations, however every chapter is summarized at its end with its "three big ideas", tips for how you can explain the main points of the chapter within a conversation, as well as a couple of resources that allows the student to dig deeper into that chapter's topic.

One key point is that there are three appendixes at the back of the books, which could really be three additional chapters. While not really fitting into the main scheme of questions that challenge the Bible's authority, they still touch on key issues that help establish the Bible as the authoritative word of God. While the writing style is conversational and friendly, each chapter is properly sourced, with the footnotes found at the back of the book.

As Morrow notes in his last appendix, today's youth are not taking the Bible as seriously as previous generations. Because of the growing secularization of the culture, the anti-institutional attitudes that pervade the younger generation, and the increasing onslaught of skeptics and atheists, Christian kids today have more confusion about the authority of Scripture than ever before. Questioning the Bible: 11 Major Challenges to the Bible's Authority goes a long way in quelling those doubts and reestablishing why trust in the Bible is a rational position to take. Morrow has given the church a gift in this book. I recommend it highly for youth groups, personal study, or simply general edification. You may be surprised—it could even answer questions you didn't know you had.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Why We Need to Grow Beyond Mac and Cheese Christianity

There's an engaging video just making the rounds on the internet today. The New York Time Magazine invited six second grade children to one of the city's most posh French restaurants where they were treated to a $220-a-plate, seven course sampler meal prepared by world famous chef Daniel Boulud. During dessert, Chef Boulud asks, "What was your favorite course?" Of course the children replied "This one!" Boulud's tries to prod the children further with a suggestion of "And the pasta! The pasta was delicious!" It was met with a chorus of "meh…" So, Boulud quickly recovers and says "OK, next time we'll try mac and cheese!" which of course brought on universal approval.

It shouldn't be too much of a surprise that the kids' prefer simple mac and cheese to the more sophisticated and complex tastes of exquisite French food. I've seen the same thing with my own kids, who used to tell me that McDonald's is the best food on the planet. Now they prefer calamari to cheeseburgers.



Children have untrained palettes. Therefore, simple foods appeal to them more. However, if one is to put a little bit of adventure and a little bit of effort into learning new tastes and new experiences, you find something quickly happens. The simple foods can still be OK; I mean who doesn't like a pizza now and then? But the pleasure of dining on a delicately prepared meal becomes so much higher. When we learn about good food really is, the good becomes so much better and the bad becomes worse by comparison.

I've found this kind of development to be true in many areas of life, such as music for example. Most people may never develop their ear more than a "childish" desire to listen to top 40 hits. But classical and jazz aficionados can tell you that once you understand the nuances and skill developed by the musicians in these genres, it makes pop feel more like something that came out of a blue box marked Kraft.

The Complex Palette of Christianity

I offer the examples above because there's another area where the contemporary Christian church has remained in a childish state. Simply put, most Christians today prefer the Happy Meal of simplistic Christianity to the more complex understanding of God and Christianity that come with the hard work of reading more sophisticated theology or apologetics works. People are uncomfortable when someone tells them they can love God more is they study a bit. Study is distasteful to them; it's not like the comfort foods of "God is Love" and "Jesus died for you." These things are very true and we shouldn't ignore them but they are the starting line, not the finish.

The very first church had the same problem. The writer to the Hebrews rebukes the Christians there, writing:
For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil (Heb. 5:11-14, ESV).
He then goes on to list what he considers milk:
Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment. And this we will do, if God permits (Heb. 6:1-3, ESV).
So, repentance from dead works, faith towards God, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment are labeled "elementary" and should be mastered by the mature believer, yet I dare say that those make up a majority of sermons and popular inspirational literature in the church today. People have gotten so used to pastors always "putting the cookies on the bottom shelf" where they're easily reached, that they don't expect any gristle on their plate. But a diet of just cookies is not only immature and wouldn't satisfy someone with a more sophisticated palette, it's unhealthy and dangerous.

As Christians we need to do more than just consume the easy doctrines of Christianity or those that make us feel better. In order to wholly love God, we need to love him with our hearts, minds, souls, and strength. Strength implies effort and it will take some effort, and a bit of adventure to buy a book that's a little bit above you and read it, trying to grab onto new concepts about God and our relationship to him. I recommend starting with J.P. Moreland's Love Your God with All Your Mind. Then, look to the back of that book for more suggestions. Also, get involved in an apologetics study or enroll in a theology class where you will interact with new concepts. Don't start too high, but put forth an effort to grow in this area of your walk with Christ. One you see the delicate nuances that make Christianity not merely plausible but amazingly coherent, it will open up whole new ways of experiencing God's love. You will have a much richer understanding of Christ and all he is.

Christian, it's time to develop a sophisticated relationship with God. Make the move from mac and cheese to maturity and you will be on your way to developing a four-star faith.

Image of haute cuisine courtesy Arnaud 25 and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Explosion in Apologetics Education (video)



Christians find their faith questioned more than ever before. That's one reason we are seeing an explosion in ways believers can learn to defend their faith with reason and precision. Here, Lenny sits down with Dr. Craig Hazen, who is the Founder and Director of M.A. Program in Christian Apologetics at Biola University to talk about the incredible growth of apologetics and the increasingly diverse programs available to those who wish to study apologetics at home or for a degree.

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An invaluable addition to the realm of Christian apologetics

Mary Jo Sharp:

"Lenny Esposito's work at Come Reason Ministries is an invaluable addition to the realm of Christian apologetics. He is as knowledgeable as he is gracious. I highly recommend booking Lenny as a speaker for your next conference or workshop!"
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