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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 Web site articles, we hope to give readers points to reflect on concerning topics of the day.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Ten Faith-Defending Ministries Worthy of Your Support

Recently, I saw an article by Jason Hiner entitled "Take my holiday challenge: Contribute $25 to 3 of these 10 worthy charities".  I thought this was a great idea, and while Hiner lists ten charities that are doing great work and are worthy of support, he's writing for a secular audience and doesn't include any overtly faith-based organizations.  Therefore, I decided to compile a list of ten ministries that are not well-known but are making a real difference in defending the Christian faith. Some of their leaders you may have heard of, but most of these are operating on shoestring budgets.  A gift at this time of year would be a huge help as they obey the command to "contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints."
So look at the list below, choose three (or more if you desire) and meet the challenge of donating $25 to each. You will truly be a blessing to them and make a difference in the Kingdom.
  1. Reasonable Faith Reasonable Faith is the nonprofit ministry of philosopher and theologian Dr. William Lane Craig, who is simply one of the most active defenders of the faith today. Craig's many debates against the most stalwart of atheists have become legendary, so much so that after debating the recently deceased Christopher Hitchens, an atheist web site remarked "Craig spanked Hitchens like a foolish child."  Not content to rest only in the US, Bill's traveled the world over, recently getting back from a very successful tour of the UK where in the space of ten days he presented five debates and at least eight more lectures and interviews to a largely secular public.  His clear thinking and scholastic ability are unmatched.
    Support Reasonable Faith here
  2. JP Moreland/Eidos Christian Center Another well-known figure in philosophy and Christian apologetics is Dr. J.P. Moreland, who authored the phenomenal Philosophical Foundations of a Christian Worldview (with Craig), Scaling the Secular City,  and many other popular books. However, most people don't know that Moreland, as an in-demand speaker, also has his own nonprofit ministry, Eidos Christian Center.  The main goal of the organization is to help support selected speakers and authors who are doing great work in promoting the Christian worldview. There are many churches and groups who may not be able to afford a speaker the caliber of Moreland, but Eidos seeks to stand in that gap, providing the funds necessary to get solid Christian thought into the minds of the larger culture. JP's been a huge influence on me in my growth as an apologist and his organization needs to be more recognized.
    Support JP Moreland/Eidos Christian Center here.
  3. Stand to Reason's Brett Kunkle & Alan Shlemon Stand to Reason is one of the flagship apologetics ministries in the country.  Led by Greg Koukl, the team there is always providing top-notch teaching and material, whether on the radio,  on the web, or in person.  While STR is pretty well known, less so is its powerful student impact leader, Brett Kunkle and speaker Alan Shlemon.  Kunkle has been doing a remarkable job with junior high and high school students, preparing them for the absolute war of worldviews they will face when heading off to college.  He is the originator of the Apologetics Missions Trip concept; taking kids "in the field" to talk with atheists, Mormons, and others hostile to Christianity. Shlemon has been cutting his own path in focusing on cultural issues such as abortion, homosexual marriage, and Islam. Both gentlemen do not get paid by STR, but must raise their own support - so your gifts can mean quite a lot!
    Support Brett Kunkle   Support Alan Shlemon
  4. Mike Licona/Risen JesusMike Licona has gained a rather elevated profile lately.  In his monumental work, The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach, Licona delivers over 700 pages of support for the contention that the resurrection of Christ is as strong a fact of ancient history as there ever can be. However, because he also honestly included a few paragraphs that explain his struggle with the best way to approach Matthew 27:52, he's been let go from his previous ministry position and is now creating his own apologetics nonprofit. Licona's scholarship is outstanding, with many talking about his book replacing N.T. Wright's The Resurrection of the Son of God as the new standard work on the topic. As a new organization, Licona really needs your support.
    Support Mike Licona/Risen Jesus
  5. Evangelical Philosophical Society If all your favorite apologists could be considered superheroes in battling worldviews, the Evangelical Philosophical Society would be the Hall of Justice where they all congregate.  The EPS has done a stellar job putting out one of the top-ranked scholarly journals on the philosophy of religion (Philosophia Christi) as well as the annual EPS Meeting where scholars can meet and discuss the latest issues in the field of apologetics. Beyond the academic arena, they host the annual EPS Apologetics Conference, where each of the over 30 speakers present for free in order to keep the costs down for the general public.  The EPS basically covers their costs with memberships and subscriptions, so any donations provide a bit of a cushion to the great work they do.
    Support the EPS
  6. Illustra Media We live in a visual age and if you want to get your message across, you will need to do so visually. Concepts such as the irreducible complexity of the bacterial flagellum or the origin of life are especially difficult to discuss without a model.  Luckily, apologists have Illustra Media to handle the tough task of making compelling DVDs on such intricate topics - and they do so with beauty and finesse. Using computer animation along with interviews from high-visibility personalities such as Lee Strobel and Dr. Stephen Meyer, Illustra makes a compelling case for the Creator that is as faith affirming as it is awe inspiring. All this even though the two founders operate basically out of their house!
    Support Illustra Media here
  7. International Society for Women  in Apologetics I know a lot of people think that the geeky ideas of textual criticism or the biological challenges to life's origin are not going to resonate with women, but there is a definite need for female apologists, and the ISWA is seeking to make that happen.  When you think about it, who is the first person to hear questions from kids about what their teachers just taught them in school?  It's going to be Mom, so Christian women better be trained in how to understand and effectively answer these issues. Sarah Ankenman has put together an organization seeking to speak the language of 52% of the population (that's ladies, friends) and provide insights that men simply don't have.  We need more of these!
    Support ISWA here
  8. Mary Jo Sharp/Confident Christianity Speaking of women in apologetics, Mary Jo Sharp has not only embraced her calling, but she's running with full gusto. From conference speaker to author to a couple of very stimulating debates against Islamic scholars, Mary Jo and Confident Christianity are showing what an apologetics ministry with focus and purpose can accomplish - even with a miniscule budget. Her clear style resonates well with both students and women's groups. A donation here could help Confident Christianity cover travel expenses so she can reach even more people with a smart and winsome Christian faith.
    Support Confident Christianity here
  9. Ratio Christi Ratio Christi is a unique organization reaching out to college students. Rather than creating a whole new ministry, they leverage existing Christian clubs and study groups on college campuses and universities across the country, and pair them up with a trained apologist who can help answer the tough questions that students or their professors will invariably raise. The idea of meeting people where they are is practical and I love the idea of empowering apologists to come out of the study (or away from the computer screen) and meet real students with real needs.
    Support Ratio Christi here.
  10. Apologetics 315 Ever since Brian Auten got the itch to blog his apologetics homework back around 2007, Apologetics 315 has been one of the top resource sites for gathering and disseminating apologetics information.  The weekly apologist interviews along with the Top 16 Apologetics podcasts and the growing list of apologetics ministries and materials put Brian at the forefront of internet resources for both apologists and lay people. The site doesn't yet have a donation function as it isn't a fully qualified nonprofit, but you may want to contribute anyway.
    Support  Apologetics 315 here
There we are. These are ten different apologetics organizations that could really use your support. For $75 you can be a huge blessing to these organizations and also truly help advance the Christian worldview. Of course, if you'd like to make your donation amount come to an even $100, you may also consider supporting the work we do here at Come Reason Ministries. On only a couple thousand dollars we were able to touch over 200 countries online, share the gospel at four different colleges, and provide instruction to some 300 people through our classes and speaking engagements. This year we hope to do more.

Blessings to you this Christmas season and during the New Year.  May we continue to take every thought captive for Christ.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Nature of Giving Thanks

"He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God." -Romans 14:6a

Thanksgiving is here again and many in the United States will give thanks for their abundant blessings before sharing a family meal with loved ones. Television shows will air episodes where the main characters will inevitably state how they are thankful for good friends, family and their contentment. Others around the world may also be prompted to reflect on the provisions and protection that has been afforded them. If you are reading this post, you have been blessed with modern conveniences such as a computer and the ability to tap into the largest collection of knowledge in history.

I'm glad to see a momentary repose where individuals recognize that we live in a time unlike an other in human history. Most in the western world don't worry about whether they will eat today; they are more concerned with more the opaque concerns of perhaps how they can afford the extravagances of Christmas. But I recognize that in the very concept of thanksgiving, there's a tacit recognition of giver and receiver. In other words, if you are thankful for your present advantages, you must be thankful to someone. It makes no sense to say that you are thankful, but that thanks is attributed to the laws of nature. Imagine being thankful to gravity for holding you to the earth.  Similarly, it makes no sense to be thankful to luck, for luck is simply a word we use to talk about an arbitrary outcome.  There's no motivation behind luck; it is by definition purposeless and blind. To be thankful for purposelessness is silly.

Giving thanks is in fact expressing the opposite of purposelessness—you are humbled by your advantages and acknowledge that someone provided the circumstances that allowed you to have such advantages. You are thankful that you were not merely  left to the hard laws of nature and the fickle fate of purposelessness. That means that you must be thankful to a someone who has control over those aspects of your situation. You can be thankful to your employer for hiring you, since he or she controls who gets hired.  But to be thankful for family, friends, and the blessings of the 21st century, that requires thanking a Someone who controls the very aspects of existence itself. By being thankful for such things, one must be thankful to God, for thanking anyone or anything else makes as much sense as thanking gravity or luck.

So, be thankful today. And if you're thankful, remember that it is in itself evidence for the existence of God, for only He can provide the reason for which we do give thanks.

Monday, October 31, 2011

A (Not Too) Serious Christian History Quiz

October 31 is both Reformation Day and All Soul's Eve, a very historic time for Christendom.  The modern church, though, seems to have historical amnesia as to its rich history.  Americans especially, who would never forget the Fourth of July or the Civil War, sit in blissful ignorance of the heritage of their faith.

Therefore I thought today fitting to have a little fun and teach a little history at the same time.  Check out the questions below and see how many people, places and events you recognize. Look up some that you don't. You'll be the better for it!

1. When Christians have a discussion about Origen, they are:
  1. At Comic-Con debating the spelling for the name of the next Christian superhero.
  2. Fighting over how long ago the earth was created.
  3. Trying to discover who invented the first anti-pain dental gel.
  4. Discussing one of the early church fathers and martyrs, who fought against Gnosticism and had controversial views on the nature of Jesus' subordination and the pre-existence of souls.
2. Milvian Bridge is:
  1. A card game Christians used to play to pass time in the catacombs.
  2. The scene of a battle where Constantine converted to Christianity and became sole emperor of Rome, thus allowing Christians to worship openly.
  3. A promising new dental apparatus.
  4. The route one would take to grandmother Milva's house.
3. Arianism is:
  1. The heretical belief that Jesus is the first created being of God the Father.
  2. A love of all things Little Mermaid.
  3. The name given to the Joseph Smith doctrine that only white people can attain the highest heaven.
  4. The heretical belief that the Windows-based font is somehow preferred over Helvetica.
4. The Council of Nicea is:
  1. The first Council which Christians were instructed to "be-a Nicea" to each other (said with an Italian accent.)
  2. A council held just so that The Da Vinci Code could later point to it and say "That's where people decided to choose which books would be included in the Bible" even though the canon was never discussed there.
  3. The meeting where the Fellowship of the Nine decided to travel to Mordor.
  4. The first ecumenical Council, held in 325 AD, to affirm the divinity of Christ and established the official creed of Christendom.
5. The early church father Augustine of Hippo was known for:
  1. His extreme weight, which earned him his surname.
  2. His strange penchant to only write in the eighth month of the year.
  3. Being one of the pivotal fathers of the early church who shaped not only the church, but all of Western thought after him. Among other things, he defined evil as a privation of good.
  4. His love of the Jungle Cruise at Disneyland, especially that scary part when ears are wiggling and bubbles are blowing.
6. The Hypostatic Union refers to:
  1. How the divine and human natures of Christ are combined into one person.
  2. Emergency Room nurses championing a cause of organized labor.
  3. A new coalition of nations led by Greece and Italy leveraging their financial troubles to make sure the European economy never grows again.
  4. A club of statisticians who record the number of ADHD children across the country.
7. St. Thomas' Five Ways are:
  1. Part of the map showing "all roads lead to Rome." An intersection was later reconstructed in Sydney, Australia based on this model.
  2. A very popular hamburger chain during the Middle Ages.
  3. The instructions on proceeding through a four-way stop in downtown Los Angeles.
  4. Five arguments that serve as proof to the existence of God given the contingency of the observable world. 
8. The Diet of Worms is:
  1. Another name for fish food.
  2. The newest trend from Beverly Hills the Kardashians are selling.
  3. The assembly of the Holy Roman Empire where Martin Luther made his famous stand.
  4. A problem to be wary of when eating in third world restaurants.
9. Pascal's famous wager is:
  1. "Paperboy in the Fifth" – a tip he later passed on to Bugs Bunny.
  2. Betting he can successfully complete his 12-step Gambler's Anonymous program before you.
  3. Believing pale colors would be more popular if they were applied in crayon form.
  4. All men must choose between belief in the Christian God or non-belief. If reason cannot with certainty prove the existence of God, one would be more reasonable to hold to Christianity since if true, one stands to gain infinite joy and there is no downside if false. However, non-belief holds no joy in its affirmation and the danger of infinite suffering if false.
10.   The "Burned-Over" district refers to:
  1. An area of upper and western New York in the early 1800's that had been the location of so many tent revivals it made Charles Finney remark there were was no "fuel" (unconverted people) left to "burn" (be saved).  This area later became the starting point for many American heretical movements.
  2. Another name for the Roman province of Pompeii.
  3. A town of zealots that considers anyone sporting a comb-over an act worthy of the stake.
  4. A very popular dining area that houses both authentic Mexican and Indian restaurants.
11.   The "Great Disappointment" in the U.S. is known as such because:
  1. The Cardinals beat the Rangers in game seven of the World Series, thus allowing Catholics to gloat over Texas Protestants.
  2. Fringe did not air on Fox because there was a game seven of the World Series.
  3. The 1970's camp Christian film "A Thief in the Night" has not been released on HD DVD.
  4. The shattered expectations and falling away from the faith that many believing the teachings of William Miller felt when Jesus did not come back in 1845 as he had predicted.  Miller's teachings later begat both the Seventh-Day Adventists and the Jehovah's Witnesses.
12.   In 1906 the Azusa Street Revival began. It is famous because:
  1. It birthed the modern Pentecostal movement and its denominations.
  2. It started the retro-renewal craze where old town main streets are renovated into shopping malls and condos are sold for overinflated prices.
  3. It kicked off the seeker sensitive concept of churches offering "everything you would want from A to Z in the U.S.A!"
  4. It was the first service to use foghorns to wake up sleeping parishioners during the sermon.
Answers:  1:D,   2:B,  3:A,  4:D,  5:C,  6:A,  7:D,  8:C,  9:D,  10:A,  11:D  12:A.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Teaching What is Unnatural - California and Homosexual Instruction

I hate trying to do a job with the wrong tools. There have been times when, for lack of a screwdriver, I've resorted to a butter knife to try and tighten a screw. If the screw fits tightly, then I usually damage the tip of the butter knife. Using a butter knife as a screwdriver can be done in a pinch, but it certainly isn't recommended and no one would say that screwdrivers make good butter knives. Each was designed for completely different functions.

Distinguishing the functions of butter knives and screwdrivers is a pretty basic task; one we use in making decisions daily. Should someone to run a hair dryer in the shower? Of course not! You can simply look at how these items are built to see their functions.  Electric hair dryers will not function properly in water, it's simple and we consider it common sense.

Now, let's use this same grid when looking at homosexual unions. When it comes to intimacy, we can look and see that homosexual unions cannot function correctly. The parts simply are not there so that intimacy can be achieved and still have the couple's bodies fit as they were designed to fit. It's simply obvious that two male or two female bodies won't couple in the same way. Therefore, homosexuals are forced to find other ways to be intimate. Do heterosexuals practice some of these "techniques"? Yes, they do, but that's not my argument. Just like sometimes using a butter knife as a screwdriver, both heterosexual and homosexual couples can use alternative means to seek sexual fulfillment. However, homosexuals have one aspect of intimacy not available to them that is available to heterosexual couples. That's the natural coupling of bodies to fit in a way that they were designed to fit. This is a huge exception! To not have this aspect of intimacy available to any couple shows that no matter what way homosexuals seek physical intimacy, it won't be the way that nature intended their bodies to be used.

Because homosexuals cannot couple in a way nature intended, it follows that homosexual unions are not natural. Homosexual unions are like construction workers who only have butter knives in their tool belts. Without the tools to function properly, no one would hire such workers to work on his or her home. You would deem them incompetent. Worse, if your son or daughter's shop class instructed the students that butter knives were an acceptable substitute for screwdrivers, you would rightly complain to the principle that unsafe practices are passing as education, and probably pull your child out of shop until the situation changes.

Starting January 1st, though, California mandates that the state's elementary schools teach children, even first graders, that homosexuality is a legitimate way for couples to function.  As this recent L.A. Times article shows, even liberal school who have upheld homosexuality as acceptable are having a hard time figuring out how to work such indoctrination into the classroom. This is simply outrageous. The danger inherent in promoting this line of thinking is far more dangerous than teaching wrong concepts in shop class. This puts the very fabric of our culture in the cross-hairs, and would affect all.

The Times article ends with one of the school staff commenting on just how they will implement the new teaching mandates. "'We're looking for places of natural fit. We're not going to shoehorn in something gratuitous just to make a point.'" And that's my point exactly. The bodies of homosexuals don't fit, the instruction won't fit and entire law doesn't fit. it is a gratuitous law that is shoehorned into teaching standards just to appease  certain segment of the majority party's supporters. We are supposed to teach our kids that doing construction with butter knives is just another acceptable choice, no matter how many fingers you may lose. We should be outraged.

Monday, October 03, 2011

The Origin of Life Matters in the Debate on Evolution

There's an old joke which is a favorite of mine. During World War II, the German U-boats were devastating the English efforts by targeting troop ships and disrupting the British supply chain. Supposedly, Churchill was apprised of the situation and asked what could be done to combat these unseen and therefore uncatchable threats. "Simple," Churchill replied. "Boil the seas and the boats will have to surface. Then our fighters can manage them easily." The officers replied incredulously, "How are we supposed to do that?!" Churchill replied, "Look, I supplied the idea; the rest is an engineering detail!"

In my last post, I discussed how many who hold to a neo-Darwinian view will quickly dismiss questions about the origin of life when discussing the viability of that evolutionary model. As I showed there, it seems that the origin of life does really come into play even in the literature of those wishing to promote an evolutionary paradigm, such as the National Academy of Sciences. However, this doesn't really answer the objection offered that the origin of life cannot be used as evidence against evolution since the former is focused on the beginning of life and the latter assumes life already exists and simply seeks to address the diversity of life in the world. Fair enough, let's then address this objection directly.

One of the primary goals for folks like Richard Dawkins and those who support his Blind Watchmaker hypothesis is to show that the incredible diversity of living beings throughout history has been the result of random mutations coupled with specific environmental factors that would cause some of these mutations to remain, since they provide an advantage to the organism. In other words, we are looking at random mutations and natural selection. But, natural selection assumes that there's something to act upon. If there are no mutations, or if the mutations are not wide enough to cause sufficient variation so that natural selection can make a selection, we don't get any change. So, the next question would be, in looking at the diversity of changes and the time allotted, could natural selection do all that work, considering it must first wait upon a random mutation that is also beneficial? This then prompts more questions.

As we start to think through all the questions that this model provokes, one can see that the model must get increasingly complicated. But, a fundamental issue hasn't been addressed—where did the stuff come from to modify in the first place? Not only can natural selection not act when there are no changes, it cannot act if there is no life. That's simple. If I were to go to an auto show and see a new experimental car made out of some unique alloy and ask where did that come from, telling me whether it was put together by robots or by hand doesn't answer my question. My question is who thought it up and how did they develop the new material. The origin of the vehicle is as much a focus of the question as the assembly.

Similarly, when we ask about the origin of life on the planet, taking us back to just a single cell and then looping through a vastly complex set of parameters obfuscates the question of what is necessary for such a theory to begin to function. If random mutations can't start, then they can't help us anymore than the motivations for surfacing in a sub when the seas are boiling. The complexities of forming life from non-life are so much bigger than the changes needed to get from one life to another that if you answer the first, the second would follow in line. It's not much of a stretch to say that if God could create life, then He could create it with diversity. But if we only limit ourselves to genetic mutations and natural selection, we've really not provided an answer. You can draw up battle plans for targeting U-boats once they surface all you want, but until you can boil the seas, they won't provide you with any advantage.

Image "Spirogyra cell". Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
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