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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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Showing posts with label Christian living. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Christian living. Show all posts

Monday, June 29, 2015

How Not to Get Mad When Talking with Non-Believers

The recent decision by the United States Supreme Court to recognize same sex unions across the country has changed our nation. Corporations and government institutions that had previously provided an appearance of neutrality displayed their applause by adopting a rainbow colored version of their logos on social media and their web sites. The White House became the Rainbow House both virtually and in reality for an evening. Of course, many people followed suit and also cheered for the decision.

I believe that the Supreme Court decision will cause more discussions about the nature and definition of marriage, not less. Like many contentious issues of our day, this will cause emotions to rise, quickly devolving disagreements into exchanges that are more venomous and less Christianly. I was speaking with one online friend who told me how difficult it had been for him in such exchanges. He admitted, "I worked so hard to show [their] flawed thinking but they refused to see their error. I know I'm not ready for debate because I get too angry."

It is difficult to engage others when passions are high. It is harder when the other side has produced a rather consistent campaign of name-calling ("bigot, hater!") that slander you instead of wrestling with your arguments. But just as we are told homosexual practice is wrong, we are also commanded to love our enemies.

How do we do this? We must look at others and see them the way Jesus did. The Woman at the Well was a bit arrogant with Jesus. She was flippant in their exchange, even though she was the one who had a problem with morality and keeping a husband! Yet, Jesus didn't yell at her, he loved her but stood firm in his conviction.

Dallas Willard explains this approach:
We must see the soul and the person in its ruined condition, with its malformed and dysfunctional mind, feelings, body, and social relations, before we can understand that it must be delivered and reformed and how that can be done. One of the greatest obstacles to effective spiritual formation in Christ today is simple failure to understand and acknowledge the reality of the human situation as it affects Christians and nonChristians alike. We must start from where we really are. And here we recall that all people undergo a process of spiritual formation. Their spirit is formed, and with it their whole being. As I said earlier, spiritual formation is not something just for especially religious people. No one escapes. The most hardened criminal as well as the most devout of human beings have had a spiritual formation. They have become a certain kind of person. You have had a spiritual formation and I have had one, and it is still ongoing. It is like education: everyone gets one—a good one or a bad one. We reemphasize that those are fortunate or blessed who are able to find or are given a path of life that forms their spirit and inner world in a way that is good.1
Jesus saw the woman at the well as someone who didn't know about the things of God. In talking with her, Jesus was able to lead her to repentance. Whenever I engage others online or in person, I've found it better to see people as deceived. They're deceived by the world, by the Devil and by themselves. Like a young child, they are simply regurgitating a lie they want to believe. That's the beginning of compassion.


1. Willard, Dallas. Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ. Colorado Springs: Navpress. 2002. 45.
Image courtesy Jessica Flavin [CC BY 2.0].

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Responding to Atheist Critiques of Christian Hypocrisy

In his paper "The Plight of the New Atheism: A Critique", Dr. Gary Habermas notes that some atheist criticisms of cultural Christianity should be addressed and not dismissed. One that he points to specifically is the charge that modern-day Christians like to cherry pick the causes they support. He explains how New Atheist Sam Harris "asks why Christians expend so much energy opposing abortion, stem cell research, and extramarital sex resulting in AIDS, while ignoring much of the greater amount of suffering in the world (p. 26). Or, he asks why Christians sometimes resist a vaccina­tion program for papillomavirus (HPV) on the grounds that this disease is an impediment to premarital sex, instead of being more concerned about the 200,000 people who die of this virus every year (pp. 26-27)."1

Later, Habermas answers Harris’ questions, explaining:
Even Christians sometimes resonate with atheists when it comes to complaints about the behavior of religious persons, all the worse when it is Christian behavior, and when the result is the unjustified taking of lives down through history. Therefore, whether it is the Crusades, religious inquisition, witch trials, or other opposition such as the fighting that afflicted Ireland in recent years, I think Christians agree generally that such actions are despicable. They would certainly agree with atheists that there is no place in the world, either, for Muslim suicide bombers and other unjust attacking of Christians and Jews, as well as other Muslims. Sure, the issues are complicated, but the bottom line is roughly the same. There is no need to belabor this point.

I have also indicated above that I think Sam Harris raises particularly good questions regarding Christians who pick and choose which pro-life issues should be supported and which should be ignored. I have for many years asked my students why widespread famine throughout the world often has been largely ignored by Christians until just recently, and still by far too few believers. Incredibly, these are often the ones that claim far more lives!

I hasten to add here that, in my opinion, the proper evangelical response is not to jettison current pro-life stances, but to get radically involved with the ones that we have ignored for far too long, such as worldwide hunger. Thankfully, evangelicals do a much better job with worldwide relief efforts after natural disasters, whether it was hurricane Katrina in New Orleans or tsunamis on the other side of the world. Still, I think that, generally, Western Christians are still far too materialistic and far too unwilling to share more than a pittance with those in need. Radical teachings such as those by Jesus (such as Luke 10:25-37; 12:33-34; 14:33) and others (such as 1 Tim 6:8-10, 17-18; 1 John 3:16-18) need to be heeded and taken in all their literalness.2
I think Habermas is onto something. As Christians we cannot simply talk about things like our objection to same-sex marriage without also discussion the problems such as no-fault divorce, which has caused infinitely more damage to the sanctity of marriage than the former. We must look at our worldview as just that and get involved in every level. Then, excuses like Harris’ objection will lose all potency and the world will be a better place.


1. Habermas, Gary R. "The Plight of the New Atheism: A Critique." Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 51.4 (2008): 817. Web. 16 June 2015.
2. Habermas, 2008, 819-820.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Christianity and Super-Hero Movies (podcast)

They're smashing box office records and have become one of Hollywood's most bankable formats. But why are movies like The Avengers, Captain America, and The Dark Knight so popular? And do they hold a secret to sharing the Gospel? Listen to this exciting podcast series to find out how super heroes derive their power from the Christian tradition.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Proofs Society Is Regressing: Sympathy Trumps Science

Yesterday I began a series looking at how our society has come to value feeling over both faith and reason. The Middle Ages can be described as the Age of Faith, which transitioned to the Age of Reason during the enlightenment period. Today, though, we are definitely living in the Age of Feeling, where our values and laws are being shaped by how people are emotionally affected.

There are three ways we show that feelings are the trump card in the current culture. The first is that we relinquish our rights for the sake of not offending anyone. Last time, I discussed how we are losing our free speech rights. (Make sure you read that column here.) But it isn't only the right to speak against another's point of view that is being lost. We are also abandoning our right to live according to the values we hold dear. Today, if someone holds a conscientious objection to a certain position, they may be targeted if another person claims to feel condemned. Such a scenario has played out many times in the media, usually entangling certain service providers to weddings. Bakers, photographers, and others are being sued not for insulting or disrupting a homosexual wedding ceremony, nor for refusing homosexuals as customers, but for simply refusing to provide services for that specific event. Psychology students are expelled for wishing to refer a lesbian student to another counselor.

The most recent travesty played out in Indiana, where one of the owners of Memories Pizza was asked a hypothetical question of whether the store would cater a homosexual ceremony if asked to do so. No one had asked and no customers had ever been refused, yet the owner's answer on camera sparked enough protest to shutter the shop and have them receive death threats and threats of burning down the store. We are losing the right to conscientiously object to anything simply because it may hurt another's feelings.

We Ignore Biology Rather than Recognize Our Differences

Abandoning our rights for the sake of feelings is bad enough, but that is only one way we are regressing as a society. The second piece of evidence is that we would rather ignore biology rather than realize it is biology that restricts us in certain ways. For example, there has been a continued push to achieve numeric parity across all position in all fields, regardless of whether women possess the physical strength to accomplish the tasks necessary for that position. The New York Post reports that Rebecca Wax "is set to graduate Tuesday from the Fire Academy without passing the Functional Skills Training test, a grueling obstacle course of job-related tasks performed in full gear with a limited air supply, an insider has revealed."1 The Pentagon, under pressure from women's rights groups, released a plan in 2013 to integrate women in to high profile Special Forces role like the Navy SEALS or Army Rangers. 2 However, all nineteen women who began training for the Rangers in April have washed out within the first month. 3 None of this should be a surprise given that men have 30% more muscle mass than women and are more capable of passing the various physical tests required by these positions.

Culture is also ignoring the natural fact that it takes men and women to produce children. As I've mentioned in other posts, the very concept of marriage is rooted in natural law as the joining of a man and a woman in a committed relationship for life. Governments cannot define marriage; they may only recognize marriage and confer certain privileges or responsibilities to married couples. That's because the only institution that has ever existed for the proper creation and upbringing of children is marriage. Humanity has no other organization or institution that fits this description. Again, because biology dictates that child-bearing requires two individuals, a man and a woman, marriage reflects that biological fact. It doesn't matter that not every marriage will produce children. What matters is that every child must be the product of a man and a woman, therefore some kind of institution must exist to bind that child to his or her biological parents. Yet, we push to call homosexual relationships marriage when it is impossible for homosexual unions to ever produce offspring. We ignore science for the sake of the feelings of homosexual couples. In so doing, we lose the grounding for what is the basic building block of society itself.


1. Edelman, Susan. "Woman to Become NY Firefighter despite failing Crucial Fitness Test." New York Post. NYP Holdings, Inc., 3 May 2015. Web. 12 May 2015.
2. Carroll, Chris. "DOD Readies Service-by-service Plan for Women in Combat." Stars and Stripes. Stars and Stripes, 18 June 2013. Web. 12 May 2015.
3. Klimas, Jacqueline. "All 19 Women Have Washed out of Army Ranger School — in the First Phase." Washington Times. The Washington Times, 8 May 2015. Web. 12 May 2015.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

The True Value of Motherhood

It's no secret that our world is upside-down. Perhaps not upside-down in the physical sense, such as all the globes should be stood on their heads, but inverted as to the cultural understanding of value. We continue to use the wrong yardstick in measuring what's truly worthy to be pursued or what we deem as valuable. Thus we value the feelings of the adults and claim such are all that legitimately sanctions marriage or we value the desire to hold a child and think that such is all that is necessary to deem oneself worthy to become a parent. However, as anyone who has been married for an appreciable length of time will tell you, it requires quite a bit more sacrifice than the initial feeling can sustain. Similarly, parenthood requires sacrifice on the part of the parent for the sake of the child. This is one reason why both marriage and parenthood are inextricably bound together.

Many times I've had discussions with others about what has been labeled the disparity women face in the workplace. Women, they tell me, should be represented equally in the number of positions on every level across every field. (Of course, it seems these people don't care nearly as much about women garbage collectors or sewage technicians as they do video game developers or NASA engineers.) But I think that's completely wrong.

I agree that women are are just as valuable as men and can contribute to all fields. However, to ask for parity across all occupations is simply silly. It makes no sense to have women's worth measures in the game of career advancement, which is a game men have traditionally played throughout the ages.  Why should women measure their worth using a man's yardstick? It is like telling a British football player he must be measured by his execution of American football rules. Yes, they are both called football, but they are drastically different.

One of the reasons women are valuable is their ability to offer a different perspective and say to the men, "Perhaps your chasing after power and position and the almighty dollar isn't the thing that should drive you. Perhaps you should value your family more and value your time with them instead of spending the extra time at work and away from the home." For what is a worker other than an indentured servant that must answer to others (his deadlines, his employer, his stockholders, or his customer)?

That's why I see the mother who chooses to stay at home and rear her children as holding immense value. Here we have an individual willing to sacrifice for her family in order to shape the future leaders of society. She pours herself into helping them form their thoughts and their moral character. If people are more valuable than money, then those who grow children into moral human beings are doing more valuable work than the one who schlepps of to his nine-to-five (or seven-to-seven) job every day regardless of the position's title.

I'm not alone in my feelings. C.S. Lewis, in one of his letters, wrote something very similar, comparing how a woman who stays at home must feel with all the chores and demands place upon her.  He writes:
I think I can understand that feeling about a housewife's work being like that of Sisyphus (who was the stone rolling gentleman). But it is surely in reality the most important work in the world. What do ships, railways, miners, cars, government etc. exist for except that people may be fed, warmed, and safe in their own homes? As Dr. Johnson said, "To be happy at home is the end of all human endeavour". (1st to be happy to prepare for being happy in our own real home hereafter: 2nd in the meantime to be happy in our houses.) We wage war in order to have peace, we work in order to have leisure, we produce food in order to eat it. So your job is the one for which all others exist…1
I've seen this in my own household, with my wife putting her shoulder to the unending tasks of laundry, cooking, cleaning, shuttling children to various practices and appointments and doctors and classes. I've watched her seek to instill in each of my children a value for God and for the Good. I can think of no more honorable a position than mother and the person who devotes herself fully to such a task is worthy to be honored on a day like today. Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers out there. May you who shape human beings into virtuous men and women be blessed for your accomplishments.


1 Lewis, C. S., W. H. Lewis, and Walter Hooper. Letters of C.S. Lewis. San Diego: Harcourt Brace, 1993. Print. 447.

Friday, May 08, 2015

Why Knowing God Requires More than Feeling His Presence

Have you ever heard someone say they don't need all that book learning and theological study to follow Jesus? "Just give me Jesus and that's enough," they may exclaim. Such a sentiment is replete in the more liberal churches. J. Gresham Machen took such views to task. In his great Christianity and Liberalism, he denounces such beliefs as unsubstantial and contrary to real Christianity. He writes:
If religion consists merely in feeling the presence of God, it is devoid of any moral quality whatever. Pure feeling, if there be such a thing, is non-moral. What makes affection for a human friend, for example, such an ennobling thing is the knowledge which we possess of the character of our friend. Human affection, apparently so simple, is really just bristling with dogma. It depends upon a host of observations treasured up in the mind with regard to the character of our friends. But if human affection is thus really dependent upon knowledge, why should it be otherwise with that supreme personal relationship which is at the basis of religion? Why should we be indignant about slanders directed against a human friend, while at the same time we are patient about the basest slanders directed against our God? Certainly it does make the greatest possible difference what we think about God; the knowledge of God is the very basis of religion.

How, then, shall God be known; how shall we become so acquainted with Him that personal fellowship may become possible? Some liberal preachers would say that we become acquainted with God only through Jesus. That assertion has an appearance of loyalty to our Lord, but in reality it is highly derogatory to Him. For Jesus Himself plainly recognized the validity of other ways of knowing God, and to reject those other ways is to reject the things that lay at the very center of Jesus' life. Jesus plainly found God's hand in nature; the lilies of the field revealed to Him the weaving of God. He found God also in the moral law; the law written in the hearts of men was God's law, which revealed His righteousness. Finally Jesus plainly found God revealed in the Scriptures. How profound was our Lord's use of the words of prophets and psalmists! To say that such revelation of God was invalid, or is useless to us today, is to do despite to things that lay closest to Jesus' mind and heart.

But, as a matter of fact, when men say that we know God only as He is revealed in Jesus, they are denying all real knowledge of God whatever. For unless there be some idea of God independent of Jesus, the ascription of deity to Jesus has no meaning. To say, "Jesus is God," is meaningless unless the word "God" has an antecedent meaning attached to it. And the attaching of a meaning to the word "God" is accomplished by the means which have just been mentioned…

But, the modern preacher will say, it is incongruous to attribute to Jesus an acceptance of "rational theism"; Jesus had a practical, not a theoretical, knowledge of God. There is a sense in which these words are true. Certainly no part of Jesus' knowledge of God was merely theoretical; everything that Jesus knew about God touched His heart and determined His actions. In that sense, Jesus' knowledge of God was "practical." But unfortunately that is not the sense in which the assertion of modern liberalism is meant. What is frequently meant by a "practical" knowledge of God in modern parlance is not a theoretical knowledge of God that is also practical, but a practical knowledge which is not theoretical —in other words, a knowledge which gives no information about objective reality, a knowledge which is no knowledge at all. And nothing could possibly be more unlike the religion of Jesus than that. The relation of Jesus to His heavenly Father was not a relation to a vague and impersonal goodness, it was not a relation which merely clothed itself in symbolic, personal form. On the contrary, it was a relation to a real Person, whose existence was just as definite and just as much a subject of theoretic knowledge as the existence of the lilies of the field that God had clothed. The very basis of the religion of Jesus was a triumphant belief in the real existence of a personal God.1
Christianity and Liberalism was written in 1923, yet it has never been more relevant. Because the book is in public domain, you can grab a copy for yourself for free. Download it here.


1. Machen, J. Gresham, and Presbyterian. Christianity and Liberalism. New York: Macmillan, 1923. Kindle Edition. (Kindle Locations 707-739)

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving Binds Us to the Past and the Future

Thanksgiving is an important holiday, one that properly reflects our dependence upon God's grace and acknowledgement of his provision in our lives. But who is responsible for an entire nation recognizing their need to offer thanks to their creator?

Thanksgiving proclamations have a long history in American government. While Abraham Lincoln established an annual recognition of thanksgiving in 1863, the practice goes back much further. George Washington offered the first official proclamation as President of the United States in 1789. But even before our Constitution was written, the United States Continental Congress recognized their need to offer thanks to the Almighty.

Of course, Thanksgiving is rooted in the tough winter the Puritan settlers experienced after landing on Plymouth Rock in 1620. But, the exploits of the Puritans were not nearly as ingrained in the psyche of the young nation as they are now. It took a stirring speech by the famous Daniel Webster to do so. Webster was asked to speak at Plymouth Rock on December 2, 1820, to mark the 200 year anniversary of the landing of the Mayflower in the new land. It was Webster's speech that painted such a vivid portrayal of the sufferings and difficulties they faced, that Americans took the story as symbolic of the resolve the country itself bore. Here's how Webster began:
Let us rejoice that we behold this day. Let us be thankful that we have lived to see the bright and happy breaking of the auspicious morn, which commences the third century of the history of New England. Auspicious, indeed, — bringing a happiness beyond the common allotment of Providence to men, — full of present joy, and gilding with bright beams the prospect of futurity, is the dawn that awakens us to the commemoration of the landing of the Pilgrims. Living at an epoch which naturally marks the progress of the history of our native land, we have come hither to celebrate the great event with which that history commenced. Forever honored be this, the place of our fathers' refuge! Forever remembered the day which saw them, weary and distressed, broken in everything but spirit, poor in all but faith and courage, at last secure from the dangers of wintry seas, and impressing this shore with the first footsteps of civilized man!1
The entire speech is contained in the book The Great Speeches and Orations of Daniel Webster which is available as a free download here. Webster felt that the Pilgrims' attitude toward God was not only proper, but it cemented the citizens of the US to those stalwart pioneers. In the same speech, he said "neither is it false or vain to consider ourselves as interested and connected with our whole race, through all time; allied to our ancestors; allied to our posterity… , binding together the past, the present, and the future, and terminating at last, with the consummation of all things earthly, at the throne of God."2

I like Webster's concept that recognizing our God in a day of national Thanksgiving ties us not only to our American heritage, but to our progeny who will follow after us long after we've passed on. It is all the more reason to give thanks on this special day.


1. Webster, Daniel, and Edwin Percy Whipple. "First Settlement of New England." The Great Speeches and Orations of Daniel Webster, with an Essay on Daniel Webster as a Master of English Style. Boston: Little, Brown, 1879. 25. Print.

2. Webster, 26.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Trade Your Thanks for Desire - Doors Open at 6PM

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and it's one of the busiest holidays of the year. Traffic swells on roads and at airports as people travel to celebrate a day of thanks, prayer, and togetherness with friends and family.

At least that's the Norman Rockwell version of it. It seems every year that merchants are pushing more and more to be invited to dinner as well. Yesterday I received an e-mail from Staples trumpeting the fact that they will be open Thanksgiving Day from 6:00 PM to 10:00 PM. Staples. An office supply store! So I'm supposed to leave my family and my home on a day set aside to give thanks just to go out and grab that new fax machine I've been eyeing? Is it really so important to grab a printer or tablet that you cut short some of the few precious moments you have to be with loved ones all in the same place?

While Staples is an easy target, Target is just as guilty. But I don't place the blame primarily on the retailers. The secular world wants to make money, and they know that holiday shoppers can be attracted with "early-bird sales" and "doorbusters". In an article for Colloquy, Lisa Biank Fasig reports:
"When the Macy's Herald Square store opened last year, more than 15,000 people were waiting, said Jim Sluzewski, senior vice president of corporate communications at Macy's.

"What we learned is we didn't open early enough," Sluzewski said. "We had very large crowds just about everyplace, and what many of them told us is that (they) wished we had opened earlier."1
The article goes on to say that many of the Thanksgiving Day shoppers are young, falling into the 13 to 30 year old demographic. Do the young people of today value their stuff more than their relationships?

How is "Give it to me at a discount" Thankful?

The problem isn't simply the devaluing of Thanksgiving as a family holiday, but the fact that running out to the store to grab that "much needed" television or laptop at deep discounts is directly contradictory to the concept of the holiday itself. The day was to be reserved for giving thanks to God for his provision and blessing in our lives, not to say "what I have is OK, but I won't really be happy until I pick up that thing in the ad."

Lest I come on too strong, I do want to say that I understand money is tight and people will want to be able to save where they can. I get that. However, I also think that we need a rest—a Sabbath if you will—from those concerns every once in a while. My oldest son is married and has a daughter. To be able to gather with them for an evening is worth far more than the $100 I could save buying a TV on Thanksgiving night. Those times are too precious to waste on stuff.

There is also a concept of trust I think gets lost in all this. God commanded Israel that they should not only have a day set apart from work once each week, but he also commanded one year where they should not actively farm their fields. That took an enormous amount of faith on their part in trusting God to provide. There are so few days offered to us in modern society where we even have the opportunity to rest and reflect on the blessings in our lives; I'd hate to lose Thanksgiving to the merchants.

A Cautious Analogy

In our rush to push Black Friday into Black Thursday, I see an analogy. I want to be careful in saying I'm not calling everyone who shops on Thanksgiving Day a sinner; I'm merely using the phenomenon as a parallel to a more important point. Thanksgiving Day sales are driven because stores want to exploit any opportunity they can to make money. They know that if they offer enticements, people will come and not only buy the drastically marked-down items, but they will pick up accessories and other things where profits can be made. Therefore, as the competition gets more fierce, they continue to push their opening earlier and earlier, tempting shoppers to visit their store first.

On the other side, consumers justify their actions by saying they needed that item or they needed to save those extra dollars to make their budgets work. As they are faced with earlier openings, they feel like they might miss out, becoming more immune to the problem while reinforcing the store's actions. This is exactly how sin works in a person's life. Self-justification and small concessions lead to more dependence on the sin itself (whatever that may be), until the sin stands in direct contradiction to those values one says he has. No addict has ever purposely sought out his addiction, yet the consequences of his concessions lead to serious problems.

I don't know if the Thanksgiving Day opening trend will continue. Many fewer shoppers are expected this year as compared to last.  But, I don't doubt that we send the wrong message to our families and to the retailers when we don't take a Sabbath from commercialism and appreciate the most valuable of all resources: time giving thanks with our families.


1. Fesig, Lisa Biank. "New Research Carves Up Thanksgiving Numbers." Colloquy, 24 Nov. 2014. Web. 26 Nov. 2014.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

The Virtue of God's Hiddenness

One of the questions that I often get asks is "If God doesn't want people to go to hell, then why doesn't he make himself more known?" Previously, one way I've answered this is to point out that even if God were to do a miracle in front of someone, it doesn't guarantee that the person would place their trust in him.

However, I want to raise another possibility as to why God doesn't make Himself more obvious: God values trust. Jesus emphasized God's desire for trust in his dealings with Thomas. Remember, the disciples had seen the risen Christ on that first Easter evening, but Thomas wasn't present. John then records that Thomas wanted more proof than the testimony the others offered, stating "Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe" (John 20:25, ESV). Jesus appears to Thomas a week later and says, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed" (John 20:29, ESV).

Before we go too far, it's important to note that Jesus wasn't telling Thomas to believe with no evidence. Thomas had walked with Jesus for three years and had seen many miracles, including the raising of the Jairus' daughter and more recently Lazarus. The Gospels tell us that he also spoke plainly about his death and resurrection (Matt 16:21, Matt 17:22, Mark 9:9, John 2:18-21, John 11:25). Jesus was not asking of a blind faith, but one built upon the time and evidence he had already provided.

Similarly, instead of proving himself to us at every turn, God desires that we trust him by looking at the ways he has already revealed himself to us. I can think of at least three reasons why God would want to look for us to trust Him.

1. Trust allows us to develop an honest relationship with God

Trust is the key to faith. Imagine a man who marries an attractive woman, one who seems to be hit upon by almost every man she meets. Now imagine that right after marriage, he continually tracks her whereabouts via her cell phone's GPS, he places hidden cameras in her car and in the home, and makes her prove that she hasn't had an affair. What kind of relationship would they have?  Does such a man truly love this woman, or does he simply want to control her?

In order for love to be real, one must have some trust in the beloved. God wants to cultivate the virtue of trust in us. It would be as inappropriate for us, as children of God, to demand proof of God's actions as it would be a young child demanding proof that her parents are not torturing her because of their demand to have her eat her vegetables or to not cross the street alone. Trust must be practiced to become mature, and trusting God helps us develop that virtue.

2. Trust allows us to survive the dark times

Another benefit of developing the virtue of trust is that it can carry us through the darker times of our lives. We live in a fallen world where each of us will face difficulties. Struggles, sickness, and death are all part of the human condition. However, for the person who trusts God and his word, they can have the confidence that such difficulties are able to be overcome. A believer can more bravely face his trials knowing that God is sovereign over them and that "the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us" (Rom 8:18). Without trust, one is faced with desperation and despair. Dark times test the trust one has in God and can steel their hearts to trust him.

3. Trust allows us to be more effective in our walk with God

God also wishes us to learn to trust him because such trust allows us to be effective Christians in the world. As a hockey fan, I know that a team needs trust to succeed. The forwards must trust their defense in order to be aggressive enough to rush the net. The defense, in order to block the player coming down the center, must trust their goalie to stop the outside shots. Everyone on the team has to trust their training and coaching to execute plays properly.

Likewise, Christians who are the most effective for the kingdom are those who trust that God will help them with the tasks he has called them to do. They can take some risks, they can work through the difficult times with the hope of better days and they can see how much God has done for them to this point.

4. Trust allows us to be blessed by God's faithfulness

One final point: only those who trust God have the blessing of seeing their trust rewarded. When God answers prayer, delivers one from a trial, or provides success in ministry, the one who trusted him can look back and glorify the God who keeps his promises. The blessing of seeing God work to the good of his people is impossible for someone who would never trust that God would make good on his word.

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.

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.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Epidemic of Relativism Among Christian Youth

I'm concerned. I'm deeply concerned. There's an epidemic spreading among Christian youth today that can have dangerous and perhaps even deadly consequences. What makes this more dangerous is that most parents and pastors don't even realize their kids are infected. I'm speaking of the danger of moral relativism, and how it's become rampant even within most Christian colleges and universities. Ask Christian young adults who have been active in their church or youth group if something like abortion or homosexual unions are wrong and many may say yes. But press them on if they should declare others sinful or wrong for participating in such actions and you may get a different response, one more akin to "It's wrong for me since I'm a Christian, but they aren't so it's right for them."

This idea that the only things binding on an individual is whatever his or her personal perception of morality is has become rampant among our youth today. I have a ministry partner who for the last couple of years also teaches at a conservative Christian college in Southern California. He has told me of how consistently he faces moral relativistic beliefs held by the students each year. He offered one example that is typical: he asked his students to pick a topic and defend it as a writing assignment. A young science major chose to write a defense against the use of embryonic stem cells in research, leveraging such appropriate arguments as how life begins at conception in her paper. However, when asked what the student would do if she discovered that her lab partners were using embryos in research, she replied that she couldn't tell them what to do. Their beliefs are different from hers, so she felt that she had no right to push her morality on another. While her paper read as though she was a moral absolutist, further digging showed that she was only applying that standard to herself, not others.

The Danger of Believing Relativism

This kind of thinking is how tyranny is born. If one cannot tell another his actions are evil, then they will continue until those that would dare to oppose immorality are themselves labeled as immoral. We have seen this in the criminal prosecution of Christians who simply wish to not be a part of homosexual unions. They are fined and their businesses closed down, really only acts of vengeance for nothing more than holding to a moral standard. And now, the kids we send to college hold not the belief that they cannot stand their moral ground, but that they should not stand their moral ground, because to do so is itself an immoral act!

Christians of all people should know that sin is sin regardless of whether one believes it to be or not. If moral precepts are true, then they are binding on all of humanity. Imagine if Nazi Germany was to have won World War II and Hitler was successful in his genocide of the Jewish people. Now, imagine 2014 in such an alternate timeline where every last soul on earth believes that Hitler was the savior of humanity for carrying out such a feat. Would that make it right? Could it ever be right simply because of popular consensus? Of course not!

Where's the Church?

The problem of moral relativism isn't going to go away, especially since the secular culture thrives on it. It is the one way everyone can do what is right in his own eyes and not feel bad about him or herself. Rather, we as the Church need to be doing more to help our young people see that moral relativism isn't merely a non-Christian position. It is in fact a contradiction to the Christian worldview. I think one way to do that is to make sure you have regularly scheduled "hard questions" nights in your youth ministry where kids can ask questions that they face in school. You may want to do this once a month, with each month designated on a certain topic. One month may be about premarital sex, while the next is euthanasia, and a third talking about the legalization of mind-altering drugs.

Youth pastors shouldn't be pushovers here, either, Make sure you investigate the nature of the kids' questions and ask more questions yourself. Have the kids role play as if they were discussing this with an unbelieving student or even perhaps a hostile professor so they hear real objections and they learn how to respond in different circumstances. Have your group go through good books on apologetics and cultural issues, or pass out articles that make the case for natural marriage or why the embryo is just as valuable as any other human being. Talk about why moral relativism itself fails.

The Christian church needs to take this epidemic seriously. Kids not will simply "catch" the Christian worldview from their parent's action and example. We must talk with them about these things, and we need to start right now. To wait any longer could be deadly.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Two More Ways Learning to Defend Your Faith Benefits You

I've recently been writing to encourage people to learn how to better defend their faith against objections of others. I've already talked about how it isn't as scary as many believe, the Bible commands it in many places, and how engaging your mind is part of loving God more fully. But learning to defend your faith is more than an act of obedience; it actually benefits you directly! Yesterday, I described two ways the Christian benefits from the study of apologetics and today I wanted to give you two more.

Engaging God Intellectually Strengthens Us During Trials

A third reason to engage our minds and be prepared to defend the faith is a very practical one: it makes us stronger in times of trials. The questions one must deal with in defending the faith are truly the biggest questions of life, questions like the existence of God, why am I placed on this earth, and how I should treat my fellow man. These are tough issues that require a clear mind and considerable attention. No one wants to wrestle with such ideas during a time of emotional upheaval. They require each of us to ask ourselves penetrating questions like, "Do I really have the good evidence that God exists, or am I just kind of feeding off of a lot of the information that I've been told? Am I just believing that because it feels good or because it helps me?" Once you've explored the arguments for these issues and reached a satisfactory conclusion, you can rest assured of the fact of God's existence or the resurrection.

Then, when a crisis hits and you're praying and you're praying, and God doesn't seem to answer, you can be tempted to wonder, "Is this all a joke? Was I really fooling myself? Maybe there's no God after all." But when I've reached such a point, I've looked back and said, "Well, I know I can't doubt that God exists, because I've already worked through that problem. I know I can't doubt that Jesus rose from the dead. There must be a God. Christ must be real. Now, God may not be answering me. Don't understand it and I may not like it, but at least I know that my faith is on more sure footing." Our faith is made stronger, even in times of trials, as we become Christians who value the life of the mind. (To read my personal story of how this benefited me, see this post.)

 Engaging God Equips Us for Ministry, No Matter What It Is

Before we close this series, I want you to look at verse 21 of Proverbs 22. It reads that we are to "correctly answer him who sends you." Who is this that sends us? In Matthew chapter 28, Jesus commands his followers to Go out and make disciples of the whole world. Disciples, not converts. So who's requiring an answer from us? Ultimately it's God. Ultimately we learn and we seek to grow our minds in order to please Him.

But God does not leave us to ourselves even here! He also provides for us. Paul tells us that, "God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind." Do you see that? God gives us a sound mind by his Spirit. The Holy Spirit will be with us as we continue to seek Him. James confirms that "if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him." God will honor our efforts at loving Him with our minds and our desire to defend the faith. We may not do a perfect job at first, but that's OK. As we continue to seek out His truths, He will develop in us a spirit of power and love and a sound mind.

One final thought here. It's important to realize that you don't have to know everything to be a defender of the faith. You must realize that knowing enough to believe something doesn't mean you have 100% certainty. I can say "I believe tomorrow is going to be sunny" and I can have good reasons for that belief. I live in California where it never seems to rain, it's September, and the weatherman said that today should be sunny. But we could all be wrong. That doesn't mean I shouldn't believe it will be sunny today because I can't be 100% sure. It means I have good reasons for my belief, but they may in fact be insufficient when I find out more information. That's OK. Reasonable people draw conclusions from the evidence they have. It's just up to us to try and gather all the good evidence we can so we can draw good conclusions.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

How to Talk about Faith on Facebook

Social media offers a great opportunity for Christians to talk about their faith, but many times we are confronted with people who don't think twice about slamming the faith. How can we be both winsome and compelling in representing Jesus online? In this podcast series, Lenny provides real-world examples of how to be both winsome and effective in online conversations.

Friday, September 12, 2014

True Freedom Requires Work

I've been a musician for over thirty years. I can't tell you how many times I've spoken to people who have appreciated my playing and mentioned with some envy that they wished they could step up to an instrument and play whatever they wanted. In the course of such conversations I was surprised to find it isn't uncommon that they had taken music lessons as a child but the drudgery of practice soon overcame them. Sometimes they would tell me that they felt tied down or burdened to practice while their friends were outside playing. They wanted to be free from practicing.

This concept of freedom is a childish one. To assume that freedom means one may spend his or her minutes on whatever does not feel like work is confused. The man who spent years practicing at the piano is more free than those who chose to avoid the hours of practice. He has more choices now available to him. He can choose to play a song if he desires while they cannot. By seeking to free themselves from the responsibility the instrument requires, they actually made themselves less free.

The Childishness of Modern Demands for Freedom

That childish concept of freedom seems to dominate our modern culture. Last year, The Guardian ran an article citing three separate studies demonstrating that "the days are over when children wanted to grow up to be astronauts or policemen or firemen. Now they want to be actors, singers or YouTube personalities."1 That reverses previous findings where being accepted as part of a group or community were prized as top goals while fame was listed near the bottom.

Certainly, the always-on perspective of social media plays a part here, but I don't think it's the entire story. Modern technology has given us many benefits and as a result we assume that we can make bad choices and still get everything we want. In an article for the Wall Street Journal, author Sarah Richards brags about how she spent nearly $50,000 to freeze her eggs so that she can some day in the future have the children she so desires.2 I've written previously about how more and more people view children as an accessory to their lives instead of a sacred trust of continuing community and culture. The concept of having it all without consequence is bringing forth some real consequences indeed, not the least of which is for the children of these insta-parents.

Christians Shouldn't be Afraid of Study

Christians are not immune to this kind of thinking. Evangelicals value life and place a high value on family and passing on their beliefs. However, most Christians in the pew are more like the fleeing music pupil than the practicing mater when it comes to matters of theology and apologetics. Sure, they attend Sunday morning and perhaps even mid-week services. Some even have a daily devotion time where they will read their Bibles and seek God's leading. All of this is great, but how many Christians are putting in the time to study the details of their faith? How many can defend their beliefs against the challenges offered by the secular world? How many can even demonstrate a fundamental belief like the Trinity using only their Bibles as support?

I understand that the idea of doing "school work" in one's devotion time may seem like drudgery. In fact, my experience has been the opposite. In working through a systematic theology book or an intellectually rigorous question, I have found that my studies draw out character traits of God I would have never otherwise uncovered. I learn new things about him, his greatness, and just how boundless his love for us is. I am actually more free in my worship of God as I discover new things about him. So, don't be afraid to go deep, dear Christian. You may find the work of study much more freeing than you believe.


1.Smith, Michael. "Studies Show That Children Just Want to Be Famous." Guardian Liberty Voice. Guardian Liberty Voice, 3 Aug. 2013. Web. 12 Sept. 2014. <>.

2. Richards, Sarah E. "Why I Froze My Eggs (And You Should, Too)." The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company, 13 May 2013. Web. 12 Sept. 2014. <> .

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Want to Love God More Fully? Then Engage Your Mind!

I believe that learning to defend your faith is like a grand adventure; it truly is treasure hunting for nuggets that will make God more real to you. I demonstrated this a couple of days ago when we discovered that reason and faith are not opposites. You can take the idea of God's truth seriously and apply it to a very common objection. If someone were to offer you this same objection that faith stands opposed to reason, you could answer them with the truth that faith is built on reasons and exploring faith claims is a very reasonable thing to do. Not only does this answer their objection, but it opens the door to more discussion on the truth-claims of Christianity! Do you see how exciting such an approach is?

I do want to caution you, however, that just because you may have an answer to an objection that is sound, thoughtful, and well-articulated, it doesn't mean people will always listen to you. In fact, you may get a lot of resistance. But it does let you feel more confident that the critic wasn't shutting you down. In fact, as I mentioned, it is the critic who's now being irrational since they don't want to support their claim nor listen to a thoughtful appeal to reason together. Which brings us to another point in why we need to pursue God intellectually: because it helps us love God more fully.

Part of Loving God Means Loving Him with Our Minds

In the Proverbs passage I discussed yesterday, it states that we are to apply our minds to God's knowledge "so that your trust may be in the LORD." This coincides with what Jesus taught when he was asked by an expert in the Jewish Bible about which commandment was the greatest. He replied, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment" (Matt 22:37-38). You can see how Jesus elevates the idea of loving God intellectually by including the phrase "with all your mind." That's absolutely right. In order to fully love God, we need to love Him with all we have — including our intellect.
Just prior to Jesus' statement to the lawyer, He was confronted with a question on the validity of the resurrection by the religious liberals of His day, the Sadducees. Christian apologist J.P. Moreland notes that by intelligently defending the faith, Jesus was practicing the concept of loving God with His mind. J.P writes:
It's interesting that Jesus did something His followers should emulate; He intelligently answered the Sadducees' question! … First, Jesus reveals His intellectual skills in debate by (1) showing His familiarity with His opponents' point of view; (2) appealing to common ground (a text all disputants accepted) instead of expressing a biblical text He accepted but they rejected (Daniel 12:2); and (3) deftly using the laws of logic to dissect His opponents' argument and refute it powerfully. Second, because it forms the immediately preceding context for Matthew 22:37-39, this incident may inform at least part of what it means to love God intellectually: be prepared to stand up to truth and honor when they are challenged, and do so with careful, thought-out answers. 1


1. Moreland, J.P. Love Your God with All Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1997. 50-51

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Ten Books That Have Influenced Me in Unique Ways

I've been challenged to list ten books that have stayed with me in some way. This is a hard list to write, because there are so many books that have influenced both my thinking and my approach to the world. Of course the Bible has had the biggest impact on my life and that from second grade on. But anyone's scripture should influence their beliefs if they take them seriously.

In order to give a more well-rounded feel to my list, I've decided to list ten books that became symbolic of certain points in my life. These books did impact me but they are more than that. Like a song a couple hears on their first date, these books capture certain eras in my life and point to a change in direction in some way. There were contenders like My Antonia or reference works like Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview and Haley's Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible, but I think the ten I've chosen cover some of that kind of ground pretty well.

Other pieces of literature also evokes strong memories of the past. Short stories such as Jack London's "To Build a Fire" or J.D. Salinger's "A Perfect Day for Bannanafish." Poetry played a part in my life as well, with Robert Frost's "Birches" or "Stopping By the Woods on a Snowy Evening" or Shakespearean sonnets and the challenge of a good villanelle.

Lately I tend to mostly read non-fiction, which helps me in my profession, but may be to my detriment. Be that as it may, here are ten books that influenced me in unique ways from elementary school through today, in order of their appearance:

  1. Encyclopedia Brown: Boy Detective – Donald J. Sobol
    This was the first series I read from second to fourth grade where I absolutely had to have them all. I remember George the Shy Stegosaurus or The Borrowers which I also loved, but this series set me off to challenge my mind and solve problems.  I wanted to be Encyclopedia Brown!
  2. The Lord of the Rings – J.R.R. Tolkien
    I got to read The Hobbit in eight grade, just before a trip to the Renaissance Faire, and that was all it took. I devoured The Lord of the Rings, and came back to them several times, once even conquering all three books in six days. Tolkien's attention to detail was genius and his ability to capture true moral struggle while showing why being good for the sake of goodness is a message that is crucial for today.
  3. Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
    Ah, AP English class. We read all kinds of things, like Othello and other works, but Heart of Darkness encapsulated the peak of high school. I was simply amazed at Conrad, who was a native Polish speaker, command of English. He seems to capture the antithesis of Tolkien: an unchecked drive to conquer and lift one's self above others leads to self-cannibalism.
  4.  Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
    I could say so much about this book, but I actually have done so in a more extended post here.
  5. The Screwtape Letters – C.S. Lewis
    One cannot approach a list like this without listing C.S. Lewis in some way. While Mere Christianity, The Great Divorce, and other titles are all huge in their impact, it was really The Screwtape Letters that got me thinking about my own spiritual walk and the reality of capitulating to the enemy when I give into sin. Good self-check here.
  6. Questions That Matter: An Invitation to Philosophy – Ed L. Miller
    This is a text book (!) that is very popular across the country in college Intro to Philosophy courses and one of  my Top Ten Neglected Books for Apologists. Miller captures the main concepts across the discipline of philosophy and includes significant portions of key texts. He doesn't resolve the problem for the student, but allows the reader to explore the ideas presented. This book cemented my love of philosophy and helped me being to think more clearly about those questions that really do matter.
  7. Love Your God with all Your Mind - J.P. Moreland
    This was the book that really resonated with me as a young apologist; it said everything I wanted to say to the Christian church collectively, and so much better. Simply put, all believers need to read this book. J.P. has since become a friend and a mentor, and I still look to him today to help me with clearing the cobwebs out of my mental attic.
  8. God, Freedom, and Evil – Alvin Plantinga How could an all-good, all-powerful God exist and still allow evil in the world. Alvin Plantinga here lays out the case to why evil and God are not contradictory. It also pointed me towards a more robust idea of God's middle knowledge, which balances the tension between freedom of choice and God's predestination.
  9. Playing with Fire: How the Bible Ignites Change in Your Soul – Walt Russell
    When I first came in contact with Dr. Walt Russell, he literally changed the way I read the Bible.  This book is the culmination of his teaching. It helped me take the proper context of scripture, lose the idea that verses can be applied outside of the larger work, and help refine how I understood biblical inerrancy.
  10. How Christianity Changed the World – Alvin J. Schmidt
    Another in my Top Ten Neglected Books list (really, you should just read them all), it is still my go-to book of choice for the real-world implications of Christianity. The value of every human being, the birth of hospitals, orphanages, and educational institutions as we know them today all have their roots in the Christian worldview. Schmidt doesn't simply give you dry facts and figures. Rather, he tells of how Christianity uniquely civilized our civilization in a very readable way. It's where the rubber meets the road in comparing worldviews.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Christians Must Stop Staying Invisible (video)

Imagine Thomas Jefferson wanting to stay anonymous when the U.S. was founded. What if he chose to only talk with those who agreed with him instead of drawing attention to himself and risked his livelihood by becoming a figurehead of the revolutionary effort? What would the United States look like today without the ability to point to Jefferson and his ideas?

That is the very problem plaguing Christians in who fight in the war of worldviews. The Barna organization reports that the influence of Christianity on culture and individual lives has become largely invisible. It's not that there is no influence, it's simply that no one realizes how much Christianity matters to society. Christians are buying the lie that they should keep their faith as a private matter, and it weakens the moral and spiritual principles upon which our society runs.

In this short clip, listen in as I note the threat to our modern way of life when Christians become invisible in culture.


Image courtesy Leo Reynolds and licenced via the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic

Friday, August 29, 2014

You're Smarter than You Think You Are

I'm a big comedy fan. Nobody does silly-smart like Monty Python. Their "Philosophers' Football Match" was hilarious. It makes you appreciate good satire.

The Far Side, the single panel comic strip by Gary Larson, was another piece that had some pretty funny moments. One comic in 1986 that I distinctly remember was a panel showing two deer standing only on their hind legs facing each other. One deer has two concentric circles forming a target on his chest. The caption has the other deer saying, "Bummer of a birthmark, Hal."

As we press on into the twenty-first century, I find that more and more Christians are feeling the same way that deer felt. We can feel the frequency of attacks against Christian believers increasing faster than ever before. We see this most evidently in the recent best-selling works of the so-called "New Atheists," such as Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion, Sam Harris' Letter to a Christian Nation, and Christopher Hitchens' God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. These titles are now well-known and they've been extensively covered by popular media. However, I think that the prominence of these books is a comment on how our society has become more uncomfortable with a strong Christian faith.

It really seems as if we're entering a time where lines are being drawn more clearly. We live in a society that views belief as a deeply personal approach to life, and the most important thing to guide one's moral life. Yet most people also adopt a "salad-bar theology" in their beliefs; they think that they can pick and choose beliefs by what they like and don't like. If your plate looks different than mine, that's OK. Just so long as I can have only what I like1.

But we cannot be passive in the face of attack. In fact, the Bible commands us to engage with others in the war of ideas. We are the "always be prepared to give a defense to everyone who asks, yet with gentleness and reverence" as 1 Peter 3:15 tells us. That means we will need to be ready to have answers and face people who may seem pretty smart.

Think About It

How do you feel about what you believe? Is it only a personal choice or are there reasons why you believe what you do?

Pretty scary, huh? Well, don't be too worried. You're smarter than you think you are! You have the ability to give good, solid answers for the things you believe. You have just as much ability to stand up for your faith as anyone else—even the so-called experts. Then, why do most people get so flustered when objections or questions come their way? Well, primarily it's because they haven't ever taken the time to sit down and think through what it is they actually believe. But, as Christians, we're commanded to do just that!

Although many people want to shrink from such a command, I want to encourage you to move forward. Pick a topic, such as the existence of God. Study it. Read some of the good books, web sites and other materials that are already online. Checkout podcasts, like our weekly Come Let us Reason podcast.  It isn't as hard as you think. And it's crucial to remember just what's at stake.

You see, ideas have consequences. Believing what God says about people being made in His image caused advocates like William Wilberforce to rise up and demand the abolition of slavery. Believing that all human beings are precious powers the pro-life movement and has a direct impact on saving babies. It's not about trying to be some type of intellectual; it's about how knowledge affects the way we react to events as we see them. It means we're able to impact the world because we know things. We are fighting a spiritual war and souls hang in the balance. Let's fight smarter.


1. A Barna survey reports "74% to 23%—adults agreed that their religious faith was becoming even more important to them than it used to be as a source of objective and reliable moral guidance." The report also states "By a three to one margin (71% to 26%) adults noted that they are personally more likely to develop their own set of religious beliefs than to accept a comprehensive set of beliefs taught by a particular church." See "Christianity Is No Longer Americans' Default Faith", Barna Group Ltd. Jan 12, 2009. Online at accessed 7-23-2009

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Why Every Christian Needs to Study Theology

Many times average church-going Christians feel that reading academic books or studying topics such as theology are too esoteric and filled with too much "head knowledge" for them to worry about. "Just give me Jesus and I'll be fine" they believe. But that's not the biblical model. What we know about God matters very much. David F. Wells of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary sums it up here:
Let us not think that we really have a choice between having a theology and not having one. We all have our theologies, for we all have a way of putting things together in our own minds that, if we are Christian, has a shape that arises from our knowledge of God and his Word. We might not be conscious of the process. Indeed, we frequently are not. But at the very least we will organize our perceptions into some sort of pattern that scans to make sense to us. The question at issue, then, is not whether we will have a theology but whether it will be a good or bad one, whether we will become conscious of our thinking processes or not, and, more particularly, whether we will learn to bring all of our thoughts into obedience to Christ or not. The biblical authors had a theology in this sense, after all, and so too did Jesus. He explained himself in terms of biblical revelation, understood his life and work in relation to God, and viewed all of life from this perspective. He had a worldview that originated in the purposes and character of his Father and that informed everything he said and did. (Emphasis added.)
1. Wells, David F. No Place for Truth: or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology? (Grand Rapids: Wm. Eerdmans Pub., 1993). 3-4.
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