Posts

3 Startling Truths about the Early Church from the Pre-New Testament Texts

By Brian Chilton

Throughout the New Testament, one will find early creeds, formulations, and hymns that predate the New Testament itself. These texts are often called “proto-New Testament texts.” Proto-New Testament texts date back to the earliest church from those who were eyewitnesses of Jesus himself. 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 is perhaps the most popular of the proto-New Testament texts as it bears heavily on the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus. Concerning 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, Roy Ciampa and Brian Rosner write,

Early church in Turkey attributed to St. Peter.

Paul had used the language of “receiving” and “passing on” traditions in 11:23 with respect to the Lord’s Supper. The information about the gospel had been passed on as being of first importance. While the expression could mean “at first” (and Paul undoubtedly shared this with the Corinthians very early on in his ministry among them), the nearly unanimous preference of English translations (first in importance) is probably correct.

The fact that he had received this information about Christ does not contradict his point in Galatians 1:12 that he received his gospel “by revelation from Jesus Christ.” While the basic gospel message was received by revelation from the Lord, the formulation he used in preaching the gospel included elements that had been passed on to him by those who were Christians before him, perhaps including the fact that Christ died for our sins and that it was according to the Scriptures, that his resurrection took place on the third day and that that was also according to the Scriptures, and the information about the witnesses to Christ’s resurrection.[1]

So, what can we learn about the earliest church from the proto-New Testament texts? In the next two sections, I will provide a listing of the more popular—and generally accepted—proto-New Testament creeds and hymns. In the conclusion, I will examine the implications of these texts as it pertains to the beliefs of the earliest church.

Early Church Pre-New Testament

Creeds

  1. Romans 1:3-4 “concerning his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who was a descendant of David according to the flesh and was appointed to be the powerful Son of God according to the Spirit of holiness by the resurrection of the dead.”[2]
  2. Romans 10:9 “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
  3. 1 Corinthians 11:23-29 “For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: On the night when he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, broke it, and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, and said, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”
  4. 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 “For I passed on to you as most important what I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve. Then he appeared to over five hundred brothers and sisters at one time; most of them are still alive, but some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one born at the wrong time, he also appeared to me.”
  5. 2 Corinthians 4:5 “For we are not proclaiming ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’s sake.”
  6. 1 Timothy 3:16 “And most certainly, the mystery of godliness is great: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.”
  7. 2 Timothy 2:8 “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead and descended from David, according to my gospel.”
  8. 2 Timothy 2:11-13 “This saying is trustworthy: For if we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he will also deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself.”
  9. 1 John 4:2-3 “This is how you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus is Lord has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming; even now it is already in the world.”

Hymns

  1. Philippians 2:5-11 “Adopt the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be exploited. Instead, he emptied himself by assuming the form of a servant, taking on the likeness of humanity. And when he had come as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death—even to death on a cross. For this reason God highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow—in heaven and on earth—and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
  2. Colossians 1:15-20 “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For everything was created by him, in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and by him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile everything to himself, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”

    (c) Telegraph. Archaeologists at possibly one of the oldest Christian churches in Jordan, possibly dating just past the time of Christ.

     

  3. Hebrews 1:1-3 “Long ago God spoke to the fathers by the prophets at different times and in different ways. In these last days, he has spoken to us by his Son. God has appointed him heir of all things and made the universe through him. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact expression of his nature, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.”
  4. 1 Peter 2:21-25 “For you were called to this, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. He did not commit sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth; when he was insulted, he did not insult in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten but entrusted himself to the one who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree; so that, having died to sins, we might live for righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but you have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”

Conclusion

What can one gather from the aforementioned proto-New Testament texts? In stark contrast to what many liberal theologians purport—that is, that the divinity and miracles of Jesus were late inventions, the following three observations are made. Frankly, it is startling how much emphasis the church placed on these three truths.

  1. From the earliest times of the church, Jesus was believed to have physically risen from the dead. The resurrection of Jesus comprised one of the more important aspects of the early church. There was no doubt in the earliest church that Jesus had in fact risen physically from the dead. The acceptance of Jesus’ resurrection was made as an essential aspect of a disciple’s faith in Jesus. Thus, the resurrection was not a late invention. Rather, it was an accepted and established fact by the earliest Christians.
  2. From the earliest times of the church, Jesus was believed to be the divine Son of God. Just as the resurrection was not a late invention, neither was the accepted divine nature of Jesus as the Son of God. I was quite startled at the force behind the statements found in the hymns of Colossians 1:15-20 and Hebrews 1:1-3. Even the statement “Jesus is Lord” points to the divine nature of Jesus. The Septuagint translated the personal name of God (“YHWH”) as the Greek equivalent to “adonai,” which was “kurios.” To proclaim “Iesous es kurion” (“Jesus is Lord”) was to equivocate Jesus’ identity with that of the Father. Jesus’ divine nature was not a late invention. It was one of the earliest accepted tenants of the church.
  3. From the earliest times of the church, Jesus was believed to be the exclusive way to salvation. The earliest church did not promote universalism—the idea that everyone would eventually be in heaven. Neither was the earliest church inclusivists—the idea that there are multiple ways to heaven. Rather, the earliest church accepted the fact that since Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of the Living God; then, he was the exclusive way to the Father.

Historians, apologists, theologians, and laity alike can learn a great deal from the proto-New Testament texts. This article has provided only a sample of the early texts found in the New Testament. The article has not even considered the great wealth of proto-New Testament texts found in the four canonical Gospels. Our New Testament is a trustworthy source for information about Jesus of Nazareth as its basis is found in the earliest church, whom had been given their message from Jesus himself.

Original Blog Source: http://bit.ly/2mN1KRy


Unholy Benefits of Atheism

By

Examining atheism from the vantage point of Christianity motivates a Christian to ask two questions. First, “what would I gain if I convert to atheism?” Second, “is there any value to the benefits stockpiled from atheism?”

Unholy Benefits Atheims

What would I gain if I convert to atheism?

Thankfully, the “Creed” penned by the English poet and music journalist Steve Turner reflects the panoramic voice of an atheist whose godless worldview mandates an embrace of relativism:

We believe in Marxfreudanddarwin

We believe everything is OK

as long as you don’t hurt anyone

to the best of your definition of hurt,

and to the best of your knowledge.

We believe in sex before, during, and after marriage.

We believe in the therapy of sin.

We believe that adultery is fun.

We believe that sodomy’s OK.

We believe that taboos are taboo.

We believe that everything’s getting better

despite evidence to the contrary.

The evidence must be investigated

And you can prove anything with evidence.

We believe there’s something in horoscopes UFO’s and bent spoons.

Jesus was a good man just like Buddha, Mohammed, and ourselves.

He was a good moral teacher though we think

His good morals were bad.

We believe that all religions are basically the same –

at least the one that we read was.

They all believe in love and goodness.

They only differ on matters of creation,

sin, heaven, hell, God, and salvation.

We believe that after death comes the Nothing

Because when you ask the dead what happens

they say nothing.

If death is not the end, if the dead have lied, then it’s compulsory heaven for all

excepting perhaps

Hitler, Stalin, and Genghis Kahn

We believe in Masters and Johnson

What’s selected is average.

What’s average is normal.

What’s normal is good.

We believe in total disarmament.

We believe there are direct links between warfare and bloodshed.

Americans should beat their guns into tractors

and the Russians would be sure to follow.

We believe that man is essentially good.

It’s only his behavior that lets him down.

This is the fault of society.

Society is the fault of conditions.

Conditions are the fault of society.

We believe that each man must find the truth that

is right for him.

Reality will adapt accordingly.

The universe will readjust.

History will alter.

We believe that there is no absolute truth

excepting the truth

that there is no absolute truth.

We believe in the rejection of creeds,

And the flowering of individual thought.

Postscript:

If chance be

the Father of all flesh,

disaster is his rainbow in the sky

and when you hear:

State of Emergency!

Sniper Kills Ten!

Troops on Rampage!

Whites go Looting!

It is but the sound of man

worshipping his maker.

The benefit an atheist accrues is predicated on an assumption that atheism sets him free.

If I’m an atheist, I’d be liberated from religious demands. I no longer need to love and worship God.

If I do not love God, I’d not be shackled to a morally pure life required by Christianity. As Friedrich Nietzsche thought, if God does not exist, everything is permitted. I am my own god.

Decisions abhorrent to a well meaning Christian would be desirable to an atheist. An atheist can abort his / her unborn child. Gaining wealth by hook or by crook cannot be condemned by moral relativism. Fraud and bribery are acceptable. If anyone impedes his pursuit, he can bulldoze them, figuratively and literally. Thanks to atheism.

Pleasure in all forms is acceptable to an atheist, for atheism is sufficiently undergirded by the relativistic paradigm. An atheist is free to practice adultery, polygamy, homosexuality, child sex and what not. Thanks to the power of subjective moral values.

This is not it.

An atheist could also live a depressing life, for he would suffer a constant existential struggle.

This metaphysical struggle is between moral relativism and the law of the land, which is fundamentally predicated on objective moral values (you shall not kill, you shall not steal, you cannot rape etc.).

Although moral relativism prescriptively allows an atheist to gain wealth through unholy means, the law of the land legislates various stipulations that stifles and could imprison him for gaining wealth through unholy means. So he should painfully ponder over the wisdom behind the law of the land not being predicated on moral relativism!!

Jeffrey Dahmer, an American serial killer, expressed this struggle, “If a person doesn’t think there is a God to be accountable to, then—then what’s the point of trying to modify your behavior to keep it within acceptable ranges? That’s how I thought anyway. I always believed the theory of evolution as truth, that we all just came from the slime. When we, when we died, you know, that was it, there is nothing…” (Jeffrey Dahmer, in an interview with Stone Phillips, Dateline NBC, Nov. 29, 1994.).

Is there any value to the benefits stockpiled from atheism?

Atheists who wholly experience the unholy pleasures of this material world is destined to become weary of pleasure so to doom themselves into the darkened dungeons of meaninglessness.

Edward Young, in his work “Night Thoughts” ridiculed pleasure, “Sure as night follows day, Death treads in Pleasure’s footsteps round the world, When Pleasure treads the paths which Reason shuns.” And wasn’t it G.K Chesterton who said, “Meaninglessness does not come from being weary of pain. Meaninglessness comes from being weary of pleasure.”?

The author of Ecclesiastes pronounced the meaninglessness of pleasure, “I said to myself, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good.” But that also proved to be meaningless. “Laughter,” I said, “is madness. And what does pleasure accomplish?” I tried cheering myself with wine, and embracing folly—my mind still guiding me with wisdom. I wanted to see what was good for people to do under the heavens during the few days of their lives.

I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards…I amassed silver and gold for myself…I acquired male and female singers, and a harem as well—the delights of a man’s heart. I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me.

I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my labor, and this was the reward for all my toil. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 2: 1-11, NIV).

So atheism does not set anyone free instead it imprisons its devotees to meaninglessness. Atheism offers perishable benefits, not enduring benefits.

What about those atheists who have lost faith in God because of the problem of evil and suffering? If you’re one of those atheists, please read the book of Habakkuk in the Bible.

The author of Habakkuk complains to God about evil, injustice and God’s apparent inactivity. But after hearing God’s response, he wholeheartedly proclaimed, “Though the cherry trees don’t blossom and the strawberries don’t ripen, Though the apples are worm-eaten and the wheat fields stunted, Though the sheep pens are sheepless and the cattle barns empty, I’m singing joyful praise to God. I’m turning cartwheels of joy to my Savior God. Counting on God’s Rule to prevail, I take heart and gain strength.  I run like a deer. I feel like I’m king of the mountain!” (Habakkuk 3: 17-19, MSG).

To conclude, yes, atheism offers a plethora of unholy benefits. But unholy benefits cannot enrich life.

There’s a God. HE desires that we love HIM. When we love God truly and wholly, we don’t gain pleasure from anything the material world has to offer. We find pleasure in enjoying God’s presence and the peace HE offers us through the good and the bad days of our lives. Because we love HIM, we long to be with HIM forever – even beyond this earthly life.

So let’s echo the words of the author of Ecclesiastes, who after having considered everything the material world has to offer, finds meaning in God alone, “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12: 13-14, NIV).

Original Blog Source: http://bit.ly/2nxaiun


Where Social Justice and Apologetics Intersect

Last week I had the opportunity of leading 30+ high school students to live at the Urban Rescue Mission on Skid Row for 3 days. We helped serve meals, paint walls, play with kids, pray for people, and much more. To say the least, it was life changing. The trip reminded me of how important it is for apologists (and really all Christians) to be involved in serving people who are less fortunate. Below is an essay on the intersection of apologetics and social justice from my book A New Kind of Apologist. It is written by my friends Ken Wytsma and Rick Gerhardt. This blog is longer than my typical post, but the content is absolutely vital for believers today. I hope you will take the time to digest it and share it with others.

Social Justice Apologetics

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Where Social Justice and Apologetics Intersect

Ken Wytsma & Rick Gerhardt

We get apologetics. We understand the need for Christians to be able to give a reasoned formulation and winsome presentation of a rational defense of the Christian world-and-life-view. Whatever ministries we have helped to birth or nurture have been grounded in our conviction that Christianity provides a uniquely accurate understanding of the real world we all live in.

We have graduate degrees in philosophy and apologetics. We have devoured the arguments of C.S. Lewis and of older apologists like Augustine and Blaise Pascal, who describe the realities of human existence with stunning accuracy. We have conducted “skeptics’ balls,” opportunities for anyone—seekers, believers with doubts or questions, true skeptics—to interact with the claims of the Bible in raw, open honesty.

Eventually, Christ called us to plant a church in Bend, Oregon, in one of the most unchurched regions of the country. From its inception, Antioch has had an apologetics component. At any given time, we are offering a skeptics’ Sunday school series, a learning group centered on apologetics, or a full-semester apologetics course at Kilns College, the school we founded during Antioch’s first year of existence. The skeptics’ balls have since morphed into Redux, a question-and-answer service that we hold most Sundays after the regular worship service.

Enter “The Justice Conference”

But a funny thing happened on our way to an apologetically grounded local church and college.

We had hosted two successful citywide apologetic conferences through Kilns College. We brought in leading apologists from around the country, and together we offered a powerful defense of the reliability of the Gospel accounts of Jesus’s life, the historicity of the resurrection, the reconciliation of science and the Bible, and Christianity’s uniqueness in explaining reality and human experience.

But before we could begin planning a third such conference, another conviction took root. We were defending important aspects and truth claims central to historical Christianity, but the Lord urged us that contemporary evangelical Christianity was missing one central aspect for a true and authentic Christian witness.

One of the tasks of the Christian apologist is to accurately articulate what it is Christians believe, what the Bible teaches, and what God has revealed to us of himself. And the Lord was convicting us that our tribe had been failing to articulate—for at least most of the last hundred years—one of his essential, inseparable attributes: his concern for justice. In lieu of yet another conference offering a general apologetic for Christianity, the Lord called us to gather a wide variety of Christian scholars, teachers, pastors and leaders, NGOs, field workers, and lay people from every walk of life for a conversation about the theology and practice of social justice.

We partnered with World Relief to host the Justice Conference in Bend, Oregon, in February 2011, and we were awed and humbled by the response. In 2012, the Lord greatly multiplied the number of attendees and the overall impact as we moved the conference to Portland. Since then, there have been Justice Conferences in Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and Hong Kong. As we write this chapter, the run-ups to Chicago 2015, Melbourne, Australia, and a second Hong Kong Justice Conference are under way.

Along the way, we have met thousands of passionate followers of Christ, and many unbelievers who, while extending the practical compassion of Christ, had not yet acknowledged him as their redeemer. Many Christians we met were already involved in efforts to relieve poverty and suffering—the results of injustices—across the world. Others knew they were called to a life of selfless service to others, but found no encouragement from their Christian communities to follow that call to the brothels of Cambodia, the villages of northern Uganda, or the complex web of social injustices in the city centers of the United States.

Indeed, many experienced a disconnect between the discipleship the Lord was calling them to and an articulation of Christianity that had everything to do with saving souls and nothing to do with redeeming the whole person, much less the rest of creation. For the Christians involved, the overwhelming success of the Justice Conference is quite simply because the form of Christianity that acknowledges that God in Christ is establishing his justice “on earth as it is in heaven” is a more holistic, truer form of Christianity than the version that, in much of evangelicalism, had come to ignore this deeply biblical truth.

Lest You Missed It…

Justice in the social realm is a thread running through all of Scripture. Justice is at the very heart of God’s character and at the core of what he desires from his people.5 According to the psalmist, “The Lord is known by his acts of justice” and “a scepter of justice will be the scepter of [his] kingdom.” The Creator executes justice for the oppressed, gives food to the hungry, sets the prisoner free, and watches over the immigrant, the widow, and the orphan.

The Lord says, “Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue, that you may live and possess the land,” and he ties the future of his people to their treatment of the oppressed, the immigrant, the orphan, the widow. What he wants from mankind is that we do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with him. When God’s people fail to act justly, they are disciplined or separated from him. In commending King Josiah, God equates knowledge of himself with defending the cause of the poor.

Jesus’s own mission statement incorporates healing and social justice, and his followers will be recognized by their feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, welcoming the immigrant, and visiting the sick and the prisoner. Whereas we evangelicals have sometimes made the good news all about an other-worldly heaven, Jesus’s own gospel was of the in-breaking of God’s kingdom on earth. Paul’s understanding was that Christ’s redeeming work applied to all of this creation,18 and that his followers—those saved by grace—would be ambassadors of reconciliation,19 doing the works of justice to which he calls them.

Social Justice and Apologetics

Most of us would agree that the best apologetic is a life well lived. Our character and relationships with others have a greater capacity for attracting those around us to the Christian message than do our arguments or rhetoric.

We also know that many intellectual or academic objections to Christianity usually mask deeper reasons for rejecting Christ. You may have experienced this in your conversations with friends. One such common reason to reject Christianity is the hypocrisy of his followers—failure to live according to the teachings of Jesus and to the worldview we espouse. This is reflected in many of our personal interactions, and it’s also the conclusion of a 2007 poll designed to identify the most common perceptions of Christianity among young adults—in which 85 percent viewed Christians as being hypocritical.

Our experiences throughout the United States and around the world have led us to some clear conclusions about the generation now growing up and the reasons they are suspicious of Christianity and the church. Let’s look at three of these, because they have important implications for doing effective apologetics today.

First, young people are globally aware to a degree unimaginable just a few years ago. The Internet and social media have provided the tools for keeping on top of current events around the world. These include not just the high profile and political events and issues that would always have made headlines. They include the more hidden goings-on unearthed by the isolated fieldworker, the personal friend on vacation, or the unknown blogger.

Second, what provides purpose and meaning for many is a variety of ongoing critical problems in the way people are being treated by others. Slavery and human trafficking are occurring at a greater rate than at any time in human history, and young Westerners know this. Poverty, malnutrition, lack of clean drinking water, abuse and exploitation of women and children, denial of property rights, government corruption that leads to squalor and destitution—all of these are occurring in our messy fallen world and being made increasingly visible in the flat world of modern technology. Racism is alive and well, not just in twentieth-century Germany or South Africa, but today in our own cities and towns. Issues that rightly fall into the category of social justice—justice in the realm of social relationships—are at the center of the individual and corporate consciousness of young people today.

The Justice Conference has always been organized and hosted by passionately and overtly Christian people and organizations. Nonetheless, many who are not (or were not) followers of Christ have been drawn to that conversation and have attended those conferences. The reason is simple: all humans are made in the image of the one true God, who cares about justice. All people share with their Creator (at least to some degree) a sense of right and wrong, fairness and unfairness, justice and injustice. Therefore, given the knowledge of and ability to expose social injustices with global media, it is not at all surprising that many people today find their purpose in combatting what the God of creation detests.

Third, for most people, the truth of any worldview is logically linked to its practical applications. If Christianity is—as its apologists claim—the accurate understanding of reality, then it ought to result in practices that offer hope and solutions to the obvious brokenness of our world. If we want to remove the obstacles preventing people from following the One who cared about “the least of these” and commanded his disciples to do the same, we ought to be aligning our lives with that command.

Social Justice and a New Kind of Apologist

From an apologetics perspective, there are at least two reasons for a renewed commitment to social justice. On the positive side, justice is a fundamental attribute of God and an inseparable part of the gospel of Christ. If it is Christianity we defend, our arguments and lives must include the teaching and practice of the social justice that Christianity necessarily entails. As John Perkins has it, “Preaching a gospel absent of justice is preaching no gospel at all.”

On the negative side, inattention to social injustices and apathy toward God’s creation represent the sort of hypocrisy that prevents our defense of Christian truth from being heard.

Everything we are arguing on behalf of social justice could be urged on behalf of caring for the creation as well. As those who claim an intimate personal relationship with the Creator, we Christians—of all people—ought to respect, enjoy, and care for creation, to be concerned about and leading the conversation regarding environmental problems and potential solutions. Christ created all things, sustains all things, and died to reconcile and redeem all things, and works through his followers to actualize this ministry of reconciliation.

A new generation of Christian apologists will be able to relate to the newer generations in the language they speak and about the issues that motivate them. That means recognizing and living according to the truth that God cares deeply—and commands his people to care deeply—about justice in the social realm, about the flourishing (shalom) of whole people, communities, and nations, and all of his creation.

We have witnessed this in the lives of Christians pursuing justice all over the world, but let us share a single example, that of the Association for a More Just Society (AJS) in Honduras. In some of the most dangerous neighborhoods on earth, AJS workers minister to and fight for justice on behalf of victims of violence and corruption. As they do so, they frequently watch those victims discover (or rediscover) a vibrant Christian faith.

As they work tirelessly to reform the systems that perpetrate injustice, AJS team members present to the UN representatives, government officials, and foreign ambassadors with whom they interact a truer, more Christlike Christianity than these folks have ever seen. And many of the young people who come to participate in such justice work—whose prior church experience has offered little to attract them—find a faith worthy of the dedication of their lives.

Though the founders and workers of AJS are merely living out the call of Christ on their lives, the result is that they are frequently asked for “the reason for the hope” that is in them.

For the younger generations (and increasingly for people of all ages), our best articulation of the cosmological argument for the existence of the Creator will not receive a hearing if our actions demonstrate a disregard for the creation itself.

Our most robust defense of the reliability of the Gospel accounts of Jesus’s life and teaching will fall on deaf ears if we ignore his commands to plead the cause of the poor, the orphan, the widow, the immigrant, and the prisoner.

Our clearest argument for the historicity of Jesus’s resurrection will sound hollow if we are not going forth in the promised power of that resurrection to establish his kingdom “on earth as it is in heaven.”

And our best theodicy—our most satisfactory defense of God’s goodness and power despite the pain and suffering in the world—will be seen as empty words if it doesn’t cause us to join with him in alleviating some of that pain and redressing the injustices from which that suffering results.

We believe and pray that the Lord is raising up a new generation of apologists whose rhetorical defense of Christian truth will be accompanied by just and compassionate living, and that as a result, a broken world might see our good works and glorify our Father who is in heaven.


Are Deathbed Conversions Fair?

By Brian Chilton

A church member approached me recently and asked a difficult question.  He told me of the story of a family member who had accepted Christ as Savior moments before he died.  While the church member was happy that his relative had made it to heaven, he still wondered how it was fair that he would work for the Lord his whole life, and his family member only lived for Christ moments before death, and they both went to the same heaven.  Are death bed conversions fair?

Deathbed Conversion

I researched this topic and oddly enough did not find anyone who has dealt with this issue.  So, to my knowledge, this is the first treatment of this particular topic.  Before we find an answer to this topic, we must cover a variety of issues that together will bring us to a reasonable answer.  We must examine the depth of sin, the importance of faith, the importance of repentance, the compassion of God, the call of God, Christian judgment, and the rewards of heaven.  First, the depth of sin must be examined.

The Depth of Sin

question2-724662

As we look at the fairness question of deathbed conversions, we must first look at the depth of sin itself.  In our culture, many possess a high sense of entitlement.  Those who possess this mentality feel that they deserve a living, deserve benefits, and deserve salvation.  Let the reader know that I am not insinuating that those who posed this question to me are in any way, shape, or form these kinds of people.  But, many in our culture do have a high sense of entitlement.  I am reminded of the word of my dad when I was young.  He used to say, “No one owes you anything.  You must work to earn a living.”  Even though there may be those who come to faith even having done some horrible things, we must ask this question, is it fair that any of us are saved?  Do any of us deserve salvation?  Have we been good enough to be saved from hell?  The answer is shocking because the answer is “no.”  None of us deserve salvation.  None of us can earn salvation.  None of us can be good enough.  This is a Scriptural fact.

Isaiah puts this in perspective as he wrote, “For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; and all of us wither like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.”[1]  So even at our best, we are not worthy of salvation.  Our very best is as a “filthy garment” to the holiness of God.  So if salvation is not by grace, it cannot be given at all, because we would have to be holy as God in order to earn salvation.  None of us are good enough to do so.  I know that is not encouraging, but it is truthful.  As the 80s band “The Human League” sang, “I’m only human…born to make mistakes.”[2]  So is anyone righteous at all?

The apostle Paul wrote to the Romans the following,

What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; as it is written, “There is none righteous, not even one; There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God; All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, There is not even one.”  “Their throat is an open grave, With their tongues they keep deceiving,” “The poison of asps is under their lips”; “Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness”; “Their feet are swift to shed blood, Destruction and misery are in their paths, And the path of peace they have not known.”  “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” [3]

As disturbing as it may be to confess, we all meet the qualities that Paul gave.  Even the very best of us are unworthy before God.  Think about the most holy, righteous person you know…if that person is me, then you need to meet more people.  That holy, righteous person is nothing compared to the goodness of God.  So how can anyone be saved?

The only way we can know God is by the Spirit of God working in our lives.  Just like I cannot know what you are thinking unless you tell me, we cannot know the mind of God or the qualities of God unless God reveals them to us.  We then have the opportunity to respond positively or negatively to the grace that He bestows to us.  So how then are we saved?  We must have faith.

The Importance of Faith

The writer of Hebrews writes, “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.”[4]  What is faith?  The Greek term for “faith” is “pisteuo.”  The term represents a “trust” and “dependency” upon something or someone.  So, the biblical term for “faith” is trust.  Without this trust, it is impossible to please God.  Why?  I think the answer is because when we trust God, we realize that He has the power to help us where we do not.  Some would call this arrogance on God’s part, but that is not the case.

I understand this need for dependency upon God more as a parent.  My son is an independent soul.  He wants to do things himself and wants very little help.  But, there are some things that he cannot do for himself.  I am more than willing to help him and give him instruction if he is willing to listen and ask for help.  No matter how hard he tries or how much he climbs, he still cannot reach the top of the refrigerator.  If he wants something from on top of the refrigerator, I have to reach down to him.

I think the same is with God.  He has reached down to us to give us something that we cannot earn and do not deserve in salvation.  God is our Master and our Creator.  Without God, we would not be here.  We need His direction and His instruction.  So, I think that is part of the reason why faith is the only way we can please God.  Plus, dependency upon His work on the cross is the only thing that can save us from the penalty of our sins.  Is it fair for a person on his or her death bed to ask forgiveness?  It is no fairer than it is for any of us to ask for forgiveness.  But it is not about justice, because if God was about serving only justice we would all be in hell.  It is about love and grace.  But, isn’t there a need for repentance?  Yes, we will examine this aspect in the next section.

The Importance of Repentance

repent

Jesus is quoted in Luke’s gospel as saying, “I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.  “Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? “I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”[5]  What does it mean to repent?  The Greek term for “repentance” is “metanoeo.”  Metanoeo means “to change one’s life, based on complete change of attitude and thought concerning sin and righteousness.”[6]  So if a person is truly repentant, he or she will admit their wrong and change from his or her lifestyle of sin.  This does not mean that he or she will never do anything wrong, but that the person has a complete transformation of mind, soul, and body.  As Paul writes, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”[7]

Therefore, if a conversion is authentic before death occurs, a transformation will take place.  The guilty person will seek to reconcile the best he or she can with that time the person has left.  Forgiveness requires repentance and repentance requires reconciliation to the best of one’s ability.  Jesus said, “Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.”[8]  So, the person should be a changed person and not simply looking for a quick fix.  None of us know that when we come to know the Lord that we will not be taken shortly afterwards.  Faith comes first, then repentance, and finally repentance brings the responsibility of reconciliation to the best of one’s ability.

When I taught a discipleship course, the Holy Spirit worked in my life and brought up reconciliation that needed to happen between one of the members of the church and myself.  The Holy Spirit would not let me rest until I at least attempted to make reconciliation.  So, I spoke to the member and we worked things out.  As a matter of fact, I believe my relationship with that member of the church is stronger now than it was before.  One other element must be remembered as we discuss death bed conversions: the compassion of God Himself.

The Compassion of God

compassion of God

Simon Peter writes in his second letter, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”[9]  The issue that Peter presents is clear-cut.  God does not desire that anyone goes to hell but that all come to repentance and faith which would lead to heaven.  So, heaven rejoices when a person, even an evil person, comes to faith because a life has been saved from eternal death.  When we think of hell, we sometimes forget the horrible eternal state that one would endure.  But, what about a person who has been very bad?  Doesn’t such a person deserve hell?  Yes, but again, all of us do.

We must remember that Jesus endured the most horrible death that anyone could suffer while bearing upon His back the sins of the world.  Luke records the following, “But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves.”[10]  Jesus was able to forgive the very persons who were torturing Him while they were torturing Him.  How is that possible?

I must confess that I do not have the power to forgive like that myself, but only through the power of God.  I have had some bad things done to me in my past, but nothing like that which Christ suffered.  Yet, I have found the power to forgive through the presence of God.  It would be very difficult for me to forgive someone who harmed my family.  Honestly, I know that I do not have the power to do so alone.  But, forgiveness does not claim that something that was wrongfully committed was okay, or that something bad was right.  Forgiveness simply hands the case over to God.  Forgiveness puts the situation in God’s hands knowing that He will bring about reconciliation and/or justice in the end.  As the writer of Hebrews states, “For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge His people.”  It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”[11]

How can there be justice for someone in the body of Christ?  Doesn’t this give a clear slate to everyone in the church?  Does this give Christians the clearance to do wrong?  Heaven forbid.  There is still a judgment for Christians as we will see later.  But before we do, let us examine the Christian’s responsibility.  You may ask, “How does this affect deathbed conversion?”  Hang tight; we will bring it all together in the conclusion.  Let us examine the responsibilities of the Christian, or rather the “Call of God.”

The Call of God

Take-the-Call

Before we examine our final segment and move towards the conclusion, let us examine the call of God for the Christian.  As we read earlier, it is not God’s will that anyone should perish but that all come to repentance.  It may be asked why some are allowed in the kingdom towards the end of a person’s life.  God does not desire for anyone to perish even if the decision is made only moments before one dies.  To exemplify this point, Jesus gave a parable about a landowner.  To understand this parable correctly, one must understand that the workers were desperate and needed money to feed their family.  It is set in a time that was similar to the times of the Great Depression where displaced workers depended on day to day work to provide for their families.  Keep this in mind in addition to the need for salvation as you read Jesus’ parable.  Jesus said,

       For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard.  “When he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius for the day, he sent them into his vineyard.  “And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the market place; and to those he said, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.’ And so they went.  “Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did the same thing.  “And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why have you been standing here idle all day long?’  “They said to him, ‘Because no one hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’  “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last group to the first.’  “When those hired about the eleventh hour came, each one received a denarius.  “When those hired first came, they thought that they would receive more; but each of them also received a denarius.  “When they received it, they grumbled at the landowner, saying, ‘These last men have worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the scorching heat of the day.’  “But he answered and said to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius?          ‘Take what is yours and go, but I wish to give to this last man the same as to you.  ‘Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?’  “So the last shall be first, and the first last.[12]

 

From this parable, we find two great principles.  First, we find that salvation is a gift that God gives.  Like the landowner who gave money to those in need, God gives salvation to all those who receive the grace freely given.  Second, the gift offer is available until this life is over.  The only time when grace is no longer available is when the last breath of a person is taken from an unrepentant sinner.  God shows no partiality.  He loves us all the same.  But, does this mean that there is no justice to the deeds done on earth?  Does this mean that the Christian can get away with anything?  No.  The Christian will face judgment, but will be justified.  The deeds done as a Christian do matter as we will see in our final section.

The Christian Judgment: Grace Is Not a “Get Out of Jail Free” Card

get out of jail free card

In Hasbro’s famous board game Monopoly, a card exists that gets the board game player out of jail in the event that the player lands on the “Go to Jail” slot.  The card is called the “Get Out of Jail Free” card.  Christians have been charged for viewing salvation in this regard.  In other words, some believe that Christians can do anything they want without a penalty for their actions.  In fact, some Christians do view salvation in this regard.  Who is to blame for this viewpoint?  Well, to be honest, we preachers are guilty to some degree.  Preachers want to stress the forgiveness found in salvation.  While it is true that our sins are forgiven judicially, this does not give us permission to do anything we desire without repercussion.  In fact, numerous Scriptural references show that even though the Christian is forgiven, he or she will still have to stand before judgment.

One example can be seen in Jesus’ teachings.  Jesus said, “For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds.”[13]  Jesus shows that everyone will be judged for his or her deeds.  But, this does not mean that the Christian is no less forgiven.  Judicially the Christian has been forgiven.  But relationally, the Christian will still have to give an account for the deeds done while in the body of Christ.  We also see this in the book of Acts.

Peter, who had walked and learned from Jesus for three and a half years, told Cornelius the following at Caesarea, “And He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead.  “Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.”[14]  Notice that Peter refers to God as the Judge of all.  Everyone who trusts in Him receives forgiveness, but that does not indicate that the person will not stand before God the Judge.  Paul gives us a lot of information concerning the judgment of all men, and especially that of the Christian judgment.

Paul gives information concerning judgment in his epic theological book to the Romans.  Paul writes,

For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus. [15]

 Paul continues as he writes about the judgment that we all must face.  Paul writes,

But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.  For it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall give praise to God.” So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.  Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this—not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way.[16]

 Is this judgment the same as what the unbeliever faces?  No.  Paul explains what is judged in the Christian’s life.  Paul explains this as he writes to the Corinthians,

According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it.  For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.  Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work.  If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward.  If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. [17]

 Paul shows that this judgment is called the Judgment Seat of Christ.  He continues this thought in his second letter to the Corinthians as he writes,

          Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord—for we walk by faith, not by sight—we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.  Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.  For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.[18]

 Paul shows the importance of working for the Lord as these works will be offered as rewards and the bad things will be exposed, confronted, and removed.  Paul shows that this work is important for everyone regardless of their position.  He writes the following to the church of Ephesus,

With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men, knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free.  And masters, do the same things to them, and give up threatening, knowing that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him. [19]

The writer of Hebrews even shows God as the Judge of all when he writes,

But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel. [20]

 The obvious objection that many will pose has to do with references that our sins will be removed and remembered no more.  The question to ask is when the writers are referring to this removal and lack of remembrance.  Paul indicates that salvation is a process.  Paul writes, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.”[21]  So in other words, we are saved at the moment of repentance, we are being saved as we are being forgiven, and will be saved when we are finally justified at the Day of Judgment.  God’s promises are sure.  So, even though we will face the Judgment Seat of Christ, we have the promise that we will be forgiven by the blood of the Lamb.  On the final day of salvation…when we are justified or declared “innocent”…our sins will be remembered no more.  So, in actuality, the promises of God are sure so it is a sure thing that our sins have been removed.  But, this does not give any Christian the license to sin.  Actually, salvation brings the responsibility to keep the commands of Christ.  Jesus tells us, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”[22]  Salvation brings us security so that we can pay attention to serving Christ and working for the Kingdom.  This is something that one who comes to Christ before death will not have the opportunity to do.  The issue of deathbed conversions comes full-circle when we understand the importance of the Judgment Seat of Christ: issuing rewards.

The Rewards of Heaven

Rewards in heaven

Jesus said, “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”[23]  Many Christians take the position of the gospel-bluegrass song titled Lord Build Me a Cabin in the Corner of Gloryland.  In other words, the position is, “As long as I make it to heaven; that is all I am worried about.”  But really, that position is extremely arrogant.  Where is the appreciation?  Where is the Christian responsibility?  Jesus expects us to work for Him.  He gave His all to save us.  The least we can do is to work for Him.  Does Jesus show the previously mentioned lazy Christian mentality as acceptable?

Jesus did not present a lazy type of Christianity in an acceptable light.  The following is a parable that He gave that shows the importance in working for the Lord:

“For it is just like a man about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves and entrusted his possessions to them.  “To one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey.  “Immediately the one who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and gained five more talents.  “In the same manner the one who had received the two talents gained two more.  “But he who received the one talent went away, and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.  “Now after a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them.  “The one who had received the five talents came up and brought five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you entrusted five talents to me. See, I have gained five more talents.’    “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’  “Also the one who had received the two talents came up and said, ‘Master, you entrusted two talents to me. See, I have gained two more talents.’  “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’  “And the one also who had received the one talent came up and said, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no seed.  ‘And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.’  “But his master answered and said to him, ‘You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no seed.  ‘Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest.  ‘Therefore take away the talent from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents.’  “For to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away.  “Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.[24]

Some do not like the idea of rewards in heaven or the exposure of bad deeds.  But, those who oppose this idea either are not actively working for God as they need to, or they have something in their lives that they know they shouldn’t.  It cannot be said what the rewards are or what they represent.  But, the fact that rewards are given and the stress that Jesus places on Christian service shows that they are important for the Christian.  The fact that they are important to Jesus should make it important for the disciple of Christ.  Could the rewards represent a status in heaven?  Could the rewards represent special privileges, positions, or jobs in heaven?  Only God knows for sure.  But these rewards are more important than we give them credit especially in lieu of the emphasis of Jesus’ Parable of the Talents.  Let’s bring this all together.

Conclusion:

joyful-girl1

So, is it fair for people to be saved moments before death?  It is just as fair as it is for anyone else who is saved.  Everyone is under the curse of sin.  No one is worthy of salvation.  Even the best among us is as a filthy rag compared to the holiness of God.  Salvation is a gift given by God.  God can save anyone at any stage in life who truly comes to God in trust and repentantance.  But, there is a price that comes with a person who comes to salvation late in his or her life.

The Bible gives several references to the fact that every person will stand before God in judgment.  The Christian will stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ.  The problem with one who comes to Christ late in life is that the person will not have any opportunities to offer any work for Christ to be rewarded.  Remember, the works that are rewarded are done in the body of Christ.   Bottom line is that the works done for Christ during a lifetime will be rewarded.  So, the one who comes to faith moments before death will enter heaven but will have little to show for his or her life in Christ.

When people graduate from college, both thograduationse on the honor roll and those who barely scraped by will graduate.  But, those who graduate with honors have special recognition.  The same is true with the one who has worked a lifetime for Christ compared to one who was saved moments before entering heaven.  The one who worked a lifetime for Christ could be equated to the student graduating with honors whereas the person who was saved on their deathbeds are comparable to those who graduated by the skin of their teeth.  Some have honors and some do not, but they all graduate.


[1] All Scripture unless otherwise noted comes from the New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Isaiah 64:6.

[2] The Human League, “Human,” Crash (Virgin Records, February 1986.)  All rights reserved.

[3] Romans 3:9–18.

 [4] Hebrews 11:6.

[5] Luke 13:3–5.

[6] James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages With Semantic Domains: Greek (New Testament), electronic ed. (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).

 [7] Romans 12:2.

[8] Matthew 5:23–24.

[9] 2 Peter 3:9.

[10] Luke 23:34.

[11] Hebrews 10:30–31.

[12] Matthew 20:1–16.

[13] Matthew 16:27.

 [14] Acts 10:42–43.

 [15] Romans 2:14–16.

 [16] Romans 14:10–13.

 [17] 1 Corinthians 3:10–15.

 [18] 2 Corinthians 5:6–10.

 [19] Ephesians 6:7–9.

 [20] Hebrews 12:22–24.

 [21] Romans 5:8–9.

[22] John 14:15.

[23] Matthew 5:12.

[24] Matthew 25:14–30.

Original Blog Source: http://bit.ly/2o2mlgJ


God, The Shack, and the Christian Mind

By Adam Tucker

Unless you live under a rock, you’re no doubt familiar with the New York Times bestselling book The Shack by William P. Young that has also recently been released as a big-budget feature film. Much has been said and will continue to be said, regarding the alleged merits of The Shack as well as its reported theological (and perhaps even heretical) shortcomings. The reader can avail himself of these two articles HERE and HERE as examples of the controversy surrounding this work of “Christian fiction.” For now, I’m not interested in whether or not Christians should read The Shack or whether or not it teaches ideas contrary to historic Christianity. Rather, I want to discuss a trend that is very troubling to me which I see surrounding this debate amongst my own Christian friends.

God Shack Christians

For many years now emotion has trumped the intellect for both Christian and non-Christian alike. Christian stories/testimonies that elicit particular emotions are used over and over to draw out particular responses in people (not that that is necessarily always a bad thing). Sadly, it is often only when these emotions are stirred that someone thinks God is actually working through a particular missionary, ministry, or church. Our feelings have become the arbiter of truth, and more times than not, it is the missionary, ministry, or church that makes the most emotional impact that gets the most encouragement and support (whether verbal, prayer, or financial support). Make no mistake, we are emotional beings, but we are not merely emotional beings. We are in fact rational beings with intellects and wills, and this, I would argue, is what it means to be made in the image of God. The trend about which I am concerned is the way otherwise discerning and grounded believers, who obviously love God and desire to see others come to Christ, so easily celebrate emotionalism at the expense of the necessary, and biblical, art and science of critical thinking. The reactions I am seeing to The Shack simply serve to illustrate this point. After all, it was Jesus Himself who commanded us to love God with all of our minds (Matt. 22:37). Yet it seems too many Christians ignore this part of Jesus’ imperative.

Afraid to Grow Up

In a 2014 INTERVIEW at a church in England, The Shack author Young relayed his past life struggles, sins, and restorations. It was a very moving testimony, and no doubt God has used his past experiences for His glory and has done a work in Young’s life. But Young went on to say, “Do I understand [the success of] The Shack…this is all God’s sense of humor as far as I’m concerned. I don’t understand the purposes of God, and I don’t want to know. It took me 50 years to become a child. I’m not going back to being an adult. It’s too much work.” This is a case-in-point regarding the above mentioned trend of emotionalism. Millions upon millions of people have read The Shack and have been impacted. Because the author is a professing Christian who also has an emotionally moving testimony many Christians simply assume that this is a work of God, and that God is using The Shack in a major way for His glory. Even Young admits this when he says it’s “all God’s sense of humor.” But millions upon millions have been impacted by many other popular books that most Christians would likely classify as heresy, unorthodox, or worse. How does Young, or anyone else, know that The Shack’s success is a work of God rather than something being used by the enemy to weaken the life of believers and confuse unbelievers? Well, according to Young, he doesn’t know that because He says he doesn’t want to “understand the purposes of God.” He claims to be a “child” because it’s too much work to be an adult.

Here’s the problem. According to the Apostle Paul, we are not to be children in our thinking. We are certainly to be children when it comes to our complete dependence upon God for salvation (Matt. 18:3), but Paul says when he became a man he put aside childish thinking (1 Cor. 13:11). In fact, in 1 Cor. 14:20 he says, “Brothers, don’t be childish in your thinking, but be infants in regard to evil and adult in your thinking.” Neither success, emotional impact, nor even God’s ability to use something for His glory are adequate tests for truth. The fact is, everyone has a testimony, and God even used adultery in the life of King David to bring about the Messiah (and surely no Christian would advocate committing adultery because God can use it for His glory)! There are countless Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Muslims, Hindus, New Age gurus, and even atheists who could share, and have shared, life-changing and emotionally wrenching testimonies about how their beliefs have positively impacted their lives. But virtually no orthodox Christian would claim these belief systems are true simply because their followers have a testimony. Why are these same Christians so quick to believe and celebrate most any emotionally charged thing a Christian says just because he claims God is the source? We are commanded to test the spirits (1 These. 5:21; 1 John 4:1). Lest we forget, “For Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no great thing if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness” (2 Cor. 11:14-15).

The Necessity of Doctrine

How do we “test the spirits” as it were? How do we know whether any successful and emotionally charged story/testimony or circumstance is actually from God? Paul says in 1 Tim. 4:16, “Pay close attention to your life and your teaching [i.e. doctrine]; persevere in these things, for by doing this you will save both yourself and your hearers.” In other words, if a teaching/doctrine does not line up with the teaching of the Bible then it must be abandoned. When one is led by emotionalism, however, his ability to discern right doctrine becomes clouded.

For instance, in the blog linked above, My Response to Those in the Church Boycotting the Shack, author Michele Perry, a former missionary, says, “You see the Gospel isn’t a doctrine. The right doctrine alone will not get you saved.…The Gospel is a Person and it is a relationship with that Person.” While it is true that doctrine alone will not save, it is false that “the Gospel isn’t a doctrine.” The Gospel is not a Person [Jesus]. The Gospel is about Jesus and our trust in His death and resurrection as payment for our sin as Paul lays out in 1 Cor. 15:1-8. The Gospel is most certainly a doctrine! Believing the Gospel entails one having further doctrines correct. For instance, is Paul referring to the Jesus of Mormonism, the Jesus of Arianism (a.k.a. Jehovah’s Witnesses), or the Jesus of historic Christianity? If he’s referring to Jesus as God (i.e. the Jesus of Christianity), are we to hold to modalism, tri-theism, partialism, or the historic Christian doctrine of the Trinity? Why does any of that matter and what does that mean for the nature of God? All of these questions are of extreme importance and we ignore these doctrines to our own detriment. To once again quote Jesus, “Therefore I told you that you will die in your sins. For if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24). Who is He? The answer to that is a doctrinal issue.

We cannot feel or emote our way through these issues. We must actually think about them. That requires intense study and work. One has to actually think and act like an adult in order to wrestle with these questions. In other words, we must do just as Paul says and “[hold] to the faithful message as taught, so that he will be able both to encourage with sound teaching and to refute those who contradict it” (Titus 1:9). I would encourage readers to also ponder Eph. 4:13-14; 1 Timothy 4 and 2 Timothy 4 among other scriptures.

Yet Michele goes on to say, “To imply we can know God through an intellectual doctrine apart from experience, that my friends is a blasphemy far greater than a parable that seeks to make His heart, goodness and love known to those who have ears and hearts able to receive it.” Once again, if she means to “know” God in the salvific sense then I agree. Being in right relationship with God is much more than knowing “an intellectual doctrine,” but it is not less than that. We cannot know God in any sense if we do not believe the right things about Him in the first place! And what exactly are we supposed to “experience” beyond this knowledge of God? There is zero scriptural support for this experiential emotionalism. How do we know our “experience” isn’t demonic influence or simply the result of the tacos we ate last night? Why does my experience supersede the experience of the Mormon, etc.?

We’re right back to the absolutely essential need of thinking rightly about God. That just IS a doctrinal issue that requires much work, study, and critical thinking. And if experience is so important, why are my own experiences ignored or dismissed when I talk about how amazing thinking deeply about the nature of God can be? Digging into philosophical issues regarding the divine nature and attributes of God that we’re able to know via human reason (Rom. 1:20) is astoundingly eye-opening. It has enriched my worship and devotional life. It has helped my struggles with sin. And it is vital to our ability to properly understand the Scriptures.

On What Will Our Focus Be?

Why aren’t we celebrating the early church fathers and defenders of the faith? Why aren’t we writing blogs about the merits of the work of the early creed writers that helped us think more clearly about God? Why is someone like Thomas Aquinas, arguably the most brilliant Christian thinker to ever live besides Jesus and the inspired biblical authors, not a household name? Why aren’t Christians more often making modern day Christian philosophers and theologians New York Times bestsellers? Why aren’t churches celebrating and encouraging their bright minded congregants to pursue further study at seminary and welcoming with open arms what these bright minds can offer to the local body of believers? Why are the emotionally driven ministries the ones who receive 90% of the financial support as opposed to the seminaries and other institutions who are supposedly training the next generation of Christian leaders and influencing the intellectual life of the church? Why do we focus on pet doctrines like the age of the earth (which is a recent debate compared to most of church history) and then celebrate emotionalism elsewhere? Why can we pack out auditoriums when a Christian music group entertains us, a popular fiction writer shares his story, or a man recalls his moving testimony of his alleged visit to heaven, but we struggle to get more than a handful of believers to show up for evangelism training (that involves more than sharing your testimony) or a conference on defending the faith? Why are so many Christians afraid to be adults and think?

I know, I know. Those things don’t pull at the heart strings and they require effort to think about. Those things are for others to deal with in their ivory towers and don’t affect you. That’s not your grandma’s Christianity, and that’s not what your pastor or favorite Christian fiction author said to focus on. That’s fine. You’re free to continue to “feel” your way through the Christian life, but don’t pretend like you are doing the body of Christ any favors or offering God the worship He is due. Will you continue to withhold your mind from the whole-being worship Jesus commanded? What we feel should be judged in light of what we know and measured in the context of reality. Our will should follow our intellect, not the other way around. God is the one who said, “Come now let us reason together…” (Is. 1:18). Do with that invitation what you will.

Original Blog Source: http://bit.ly/2nkzaWx


 

The Kalam: An Overview & Defense

By Ronald Cram

William Lane Craig is famous for resurrecting and defending the Kalam Cosmological Argument (KCA). The argument appeals to both philosophical and scientific evidence for the beginning of the universe. If the Kalam is sound, it seems to prove the existence of God.

Kalam Cosmological Argument

The question is raised: Is the argument sound given our modern, scientific understanding of cosmology? In this essay I will review and examine the premises of the Kalam to see if we have good reason to affirm them as probably true. The standard form of the KCA goes as follows:

1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
2. The universe began to exist.
3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

We can add the following steps:

4. The universe (all space, time, and matter) cannot cause itself.
5. The cause of the universe must be spaceless, timeless, immaterial, and uncaused.
6. This uncaused, immaterial and timeless cause of the universe is what everyone means by God.
7. Therefore, God exists.

The argument is valid, but are the premises true? Science uses Bayesian probability theory to assign a probability to a hypothesis. I will follow that procedure for each of the premises.

Step #1

All science is based on cause and effect relationships. Zero evidence exists that this premise is false and so this premise has never faced any serious or informed challenges. In our daily experience, objects do not pop into existence uncaused.

Scientists have proposed a number of possible causes of the Big Bang including colliding branes in string theory, false vacuum in inflationary theory, and quantum fluctuations in quantum mechanics. Each of these ideas propose a “universe generator” of some type that must exist prior to our Big Bang. Scientists recognize that the Big Bang must have a cause.

Some have attempted to claim that quantum fluctuations are uncaused, but this claim is untrue. Quantum fluctuations are caused by the energy in the vacuum. While no one can predict where quantum fluctuations will appear, the number of fluctuations within a given volume and time are quite predictable.

Others have proposed that while things within the universe need a cause to begin to exist, we have no reason to believe the universe as a whole needs a cause. This is special pleading of the most irrational type. If objects within the universe need a cause (when the atoms and molecules already exist), then it is even more true that the universe as a whole needs a cause to exist because an extra step is required (the creation of matter, energy, space and time). A Bayesian probability can be assigned to this premise of 99+%.

Step #2

This is more complicated. Stated simply, the standard cosmology is that the universe is 13.8 billion years old. This means the universe began to exist 13.8 billion years ago. While it is true that theorists are working on models for a past eternal universe, a Bayesian probability can be assigned to this premise of 98%.

For those who are not interested in cosmology, you may skip to the discussion of the third premise. For those interested in cosmology and a defense of this Bayesian probability, read on.

William Lane Craig often refers to BGV theorem in his debates with atheists. (The theorem is often misunderstood to be a singularity theorem. It is not. It is an incompleteness theorem. But it is completely compatible with the singularity theorems.) BGV theorem states that any universe which is on average expanding throughout its history cannot be eternal into the past but must have had a beginning. This is an extremely robust theorem. Within a classical spacetime, BGV theorem does not depend upon any particular energy condition (low energy, high energy) nor does it depend on any particular solution to Einstein’s equations. The fact the theorem is so robust makes it very difficult to evade. It applies to multiverse theories and cyclic universe theories. Any past eternal cosmological theory must evade BGV theorem.

In his debate with William Lane Craig, Sean Carroll referred to his paper titled “What if time really exists?” and its Quantum Eternity Theorem.

In Carroll’s post-debate reflections, he writes:

“Indeed, I quoted a stronger theorem, the “Quantum Eternity Theorem” (QET) — under conventional quantum mechanics, any universe with a non-zero energy and a time-independent Hamiltonian will necessarily last forever toward both the past and the future. For convenience I quoted my own paper as a reference, although I’m surely not the first to figure it out; it’s a fairly trivial result once you think about it.” (Click here)

The QET is not a “stronger theorem” in any sense. Most cosmologists believe our universe has zero net energy. So any model built on a non-zero energy is extremely unlikely. Also, the theorem has the requirement of “under conventional quantum mechanics.” But a beginning necessarily requires something other than conventional quantum mechanics. There’s nothing to prevent a beginning of our conventional quantum mechanics. In reality, Carroll’s QET is not at all helpful to his argument. Aron Wall provides a cosmologist’s assessment of Carroll’s claims and his use of QET (click here).

Proposed Models

Some models have been proposed than can evade BGV theorem. We will look at a few of these theories in greater detail.

A. The first of these is the Aguirre-Gratton model supported by Sean Carroll in his debate with Craig. Obviously, Carroll thinks this model is the strongest possible, the most likely to be true, or he wouldn’t have used it to support his position that the universe may be past eternal. But what is the Bayesian probability this model describes our universe?

In the Abstract of his paper “Eternal inflation and its implications,” Alan Guth writes:

“Although inflation is generically eternal into the future, it is not eternal into the past: it can be proven under reasonable assumptions that the inflating region [our universe] must be incomplete in past directions [have a beginning], so some physics other than inflation is needed to describe the past boundary of the inflating region.”

On page 14 of the same paper Guth writes:

“If the universe can be eternal into the future, is it possible that it is also eternal into the past? Here I will describe a recent theorem [43] which shows, under plausible assumptions, that the answer to this question is no.”

According to Guth, under “reasonable assumptions” and “plausible assumptions” the BGV theorem cannot be avoided. On page 16, Guth discusses the Aguirre-Gratton model with its reversal of the arrow of time and explains that this model does evade BGV theorem. The natural conclusion is that the Aguirre-Gratton model does not have reasonable or plausible assumptions. Aguirre and Gratton have not put forward any plausible mechanisms that might cause the arrow of time to reverse and no reversal of time has ever been observed.

Remember this is the best model that Sean Carroll had to represent his view that the universe is past-eternal. A Bayesian probability that the Aguirre-Gratton model applies to our universe is <1%.

B. Cosmology from Quantum Potential Model – Because the BGV theorem applies to classical spacetimes, another way to evade the theorem is to appeal to the uncertainty of quantum mechanics. One example is the paper “Cosmology from Quantum Potential.”

However, this cosmological model has serious problems. A recent paper titled “Perturbative Instability of Cosmology from Quantum Potential” has the following Abstract:

“Apart from its debatable correctness, we examine the perturbative stability of the recently proposed cosmology from quantum potential. We find that the proposed quantum corrections invoke additional parameters which apparently introduce perturbative instability to the Universe.”

Our universe is stable. This model does not produce a universe like the one we observe. The Bayesian probability of this model being correct is less than the Aguirre-Gratton model and is <1%.

C. Emergent Universe Models – This class of models successfully evade BGV theorem. The idea is that a “cosmic egg” that exists forever until it breaks open to produce an expanding universe. Proponents of these ideas include Ellis, Barrow, Campo, Wu, and Graham.

Mithani and Vilenkin show that this class of models can collapse quantum mechanically, and therefore cannot have an eternal past.

A Bayesian probability of Emergent Universe Models being correct is <1%.


Side Note: What About Guth?weird-guth-sign

Someone may mention the photo of Alan Guth holding a sign at the Carroll/Craig debate that read [The universe is] very likely eternal but nobody knows.” Why would Guth pose holding that sign when all of his scientific papers say the universe had a beginning? Some assumed Guth was going to publish a new paper that explained his change of view, but it’s been three years and no paper has been published supporting a change in the science.

Perhaps Guth posed for that picture just as a favor to Carroll.


In order to defeat premise #2, skeptics must be able to show that a past-eternal universe is more likely than a universe of a finite age. While a number of past-eternal models have been proposed, the cosmological community has rejected all of them as highly unlikely. A Bayesian probability can be assigned to premise (2) of 98%.

Step #3

The third step of the argument is the rational conclusion of the first two premises. A Bayesian probability can be assigned to this conclusion of 98%.

Step #4

The fourth premise – “The universe cannot cause itself” – seems non-controversial. However, cosmologists (driven by their dislike of the way a beginning of the universe points to creation by God) have proposed ideas attempting to challenge this premise. Lawrence Krauss’s book, A Universe from Nothing, was one of the first of these proposals to get a wide audience. The idea, first proposed by Edward Tryon, is that the universe is a quantum fluctuation. Physicist Don Page pointed out that Krauss’s idea is not really “from nothing” because quantum fluctuations require a quantum field (which is something). Since the quantum field must exist before the Big Bang, this is not a universe from nothing at all.

Alexander Vilenkin modified Tryon’s idea referring to the origin of the universe as a “quantum nucleation” that happened before the existence of any matter, energy, time or space. In order words, the quantum nucleation happened in the absence of a quantum field. Not only is this logically incoherent as things happening before time require time, but this idea is problematic for most physicists because the theory makes an untestable claim. Scientifically untestable claims are not scientific. The probability the universe can cause itself is <1%.

Step #5

“The cause of the universe must be spaceless, timeless, immaterial, and uncaused” is mostly non-controversial. If the universe is defined as “all matter, energy, space and time” and the universe cannot create itself, then it follows that the cause of the universe must be spaceless, timeless and immaterial. Some may argue that the cause does not necessarily have to be uncaused. But if a contingent being of finite age were the creator, that being would not be the ultimate answer.

The real Creator would be the one who created the intermediate being. An infinite causal regress is a logical absurdity and has been rejected by philosophers since the time of Aristotle. A Bayesian probability can be assigned to this premise of 99%.

Step #6

“This uncaused, immaterial and timeless cause of the universe is what everyone means by God” is largely uncontroversial. A Bayesian probability can be assigned to this premise of 99%.

Step #7

“Therefore God exists” is a rational conclusion. A Bayesian probability can be assigned to this conclusion of >95%.

Whether this God is the God of the Bible or some other God is a separate question and requires additional evidence and reasoning.

Original Blog Source: http://bit.ly/2mJ8ZFg


10 Things Children Should Learn About Faith

By Natasha Crain

[NOTE: This post is 4 years old but continues to receive a large number of visitors from Google searches on teaching kids about faith. A lot has happened here on the blog since I wrote this–including having the opportunity to write a book that was released in March 2016 by Harvest House Publishers: Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side: 40 Conversations to Help Them Build a Lasting Faith! If you’re here because you’re looking for resources to help you effectively raise your kids to follow Jesus in the midst of this secular world, please take a moment to check it out!] 

Yesterday, my 3-year-old daughter asked about the word “faith” after hearing it in the devotional book she received for Christmas. I told her that faith means we believe in God even though we can’t see Him, hear Him or touch Him. Hearing myself say that out loud, I realized for the first time just how difficult the concept of faith can be. My definition was true in a simple sense, but as my kids grow I want them to understand the greater richness of the word as used in the Bible.

This inspired me to study the different instances of the word translated as “faith” in the New Testament. Based on my (digital) study Bible, there are 245 such instances. I read each of the passages and categorized them into 10 key insights on faith that I hope to teach my children as they grow.

Children Faith God

10 Things Children Should Learn About Faith

1. Faith is what saves. Amongst the many verses that attest to this, Ephesians 2:8 clearly states, “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God”. Our children first and foremost need to learn that faith in Jesus is the only thing that results in salvation of our souls.

2. Faith can grow. Since the Bible clearly establishes faith as the requirement for salvation, it is natural to think of it as something we either have or don’t have. While that is true for saving faith, many verses make it clear that the faith of (saved) Christians can and should continue to grow (e.g., Romans 4:20, 2 Corinthians 10:15, Philippians 1:25, 1 Thessalonians 3:10, Romans 14:1). Our children need to understand that growing faith is a life-time process that starts with saving faith.

3. Faith can fail. In Luke 22:31-34, Jesus foretells Peter’s denial. In verse 32 Jesus says, “…but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.” Our faith can fail due to our circumstances. When facing such circumstances, our children need to know they can pray for their faith to remain firm.

4. Faith is a gift. Romans 12:3 and 1 Corinthians 12:9 tell us that faith is a spiritual gift from God and therefore it varies by person.  When it first registered for me last year that strength of faith is actually a gift, I honestly felt a sense of relief; I had always thought something was wrong with my faith because it’s been more of a struggle for me to believe than for many other Christians I know.  Our children should understand that faith DOES vary amongst believers and that comparisons are fruitless. What matters is our personal faith growth.

5. Faith can move mountains.  Jesus says in Matthew 17:20 and 21:22 that if you do not doubt, your faith can move mountains; note He didn’t say that “medium” faith will move hills! Our children need to understand that the power of prayer lies in full conviction.

6. Faith means to trust. The book of Matthew quotes Jesus saying “O you of little faith” on five occasions. On all but one of those occasions, He was addressing the disciples regarding their fear or worry (6:30, 8:26, 14:31, and 16:8). If little faith results in worry, that implies great faith results in trust. When our children are worried or scared, we should help them pray specifically for God to grow their faith; faith that results in trust is the remedy for fear.

7. Faith is protective. There are two New Testament verses that use faith as a metaphor for spiritually protective armor (the “shield of faith” in Ephesians 6:16 and the “breastplate of faith” in 1 Thessalonians 5:8). Our children need to be aware of the need for spiritual protection in their daily lives, and that faith is the basis for that protection.

8. Faith results in action. Hebrews chapter 11 recalls many of the most faithful people of the Old Testament. Each verse starts with the pattern, “By faith (person) (did something)”.  It wasn’t enough for the author to point out that each of these people HAD faith; the focus was on what that faith produced. Our children need to understand that authentic faith results in action.

9. (Great) Faith is believing before you experience.  In almost every instance where Jesus acknowledged someone for having great faith, it was in the context of believing in Him prior to experiencing healing (e.g., see Matthew 8 for the “greatest” faith of the Centurion). Our children need to know that faith doesn’t require waiting for signs or experiences that lead to the “conviction of things not seen”; Jesus acknowledged great faith as first believing in Him.

10. Faith is a decision everyone makes. Even if a person does not have faith in God, he or she must have faith in another “unproven” alternative about the afterlife (even if it’s that nothing exists). Our children need to realize that faith is a decision everyone makes, not just Christians.

Original Blog Source:  http://bit.ly/2n1hiOs


5 Ways Christian Parents Fail to Prepare Their Kids to Engage with Questions of Faith and Science

By Natasha Crain

I’m coming down to the final six weeks of writing my next book and am very much looking forward to being on the other side of that deadline! I’ve missed being able to blog regularly during this intense writing time, so I had to take a break today and share a new post inspired by some of the topics my next book will address. (On a side note, watch for a new post very soon to reveal the cover and title of the book!)

Children Faith Science

My favorite section to write has been on Science and God, because I know so many parents are looking for help in talking about this subject with their kids. While writing the chapters in that section, I thought a lot about how we, as Christian parents, are collectively failing to adequately prepare our kids to engage with questions of faith and science. Today, I want to share 5 ways I believe that’s happening, and encourage all of us to consider what we can do better in our own homes.

1. We don’t talk about the relationship between faith and science at all.

This is, without a doubt, the number one way we fail our kids in this area—we fail to say anything at all. Not only do we need to say something, we need to say quite a lot. Over and over again, researchers have found that a leading reason why so many young people walk away from faith is that they believe they have to choose between Christianity and science. Meanwhile, other research has shown that only ONE percent of youth pastors address any issue related to science in a given year.

This is a giant disconnect.

Regardless of the fact that churches need to do a much better job in this area, parents need to take the reins. This is our responsibility, and there is absolutely no doubt that questions of faith and science will challenge our kids in some way…whether this is an area we feel equipped to discuss or not. If you do feel equipped, great—get started. If you don’t, that’s OK—start learning. Those are really the only two options.

2. We boil all “science versus faith” conversations down to one (or two) issues.

I find in talking with parents that when you say the words “science and faith,” most people quickly launch into a conversation about evolution. There’s no doubt that evolution is one of the most important topics in this category, if not the most important topic. But there are many other questions our kids need to understand, especially at the more philosophical level. For example, people throw out broad statements like “science disproves God” all the time. Kids need to know what to make of those kinds of assertions just as much as they need to know what to make of the subject of evolution.

The second section of my next book will address six of these broader questions:

  • Can science prove or disprove God’s existence?
  • Do science and religion contradict one another?
  • Do science and religion complement one another?
  • Is God just an explanation for what science doesn’t yet know?
  • Can science explain why people believe in God?
  • What do scientists believe about God?

3. We teach overly simplistic answers that ignore important nuances.

I understand that science is not a “user-friendly” topic for many people. The only C grade I ever received in my life was in high school chemistry and I’m still bitter about it.

Unfortunately, this leads many parents to either 1) ignore the science-versus-faith dialogue completely (see my first point) or 2) teach overly simplistic answers that can inadvertently do major damage to their kids’ faith later.

One of the most important ways we can avoid this is by taking the time to define key words. For example, consider the question, “Can science prove or disprove God’s existence?” If someone asked me that, I couldn’t even answer their question unless I first asked them: What do you mean by science? What do you mean by prove or disprove? And what do you mean by God? People use those words in many different senses today and you simply can’t have a meaningful discussion without understanding their more nuanced underlying question. They may be asking:

 Can a specific branch of science provide evidence that strongly challenges a specific historical claim of a given religion? (Answer: Yes.)

Or, they may be asking:

Can the field of science, when defined as the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the natural world, say anything about the existence of God, when defined simply as a supernatural being who may or may not have created the world? (Answer: No—and even most atheists would agree.)

While we may wish we could simply teach our kids easy answers like, “Of course science doesn’t disprove God!”, we fail to adequately prepare them for this challenging secular world when we do.

4. We teach only one of several Christian views on origins (age of the Earth and evolution).

If you’ve read my first book, Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side, you know how strongly I feel about this. There are eight chapters written to explain why Christians have varied views on how and when God created the world—based on both scriptural and scientific considerations. While many parents don’t teach their kids anything at all on this subject, many of the remaining parents only teach their kids one specific view (for example, young-Earth creationism, old-Earth creationism, or theistic evolution). Whatever view you teach, your kids will hear challenges from both other Christians and from atheists—a very confusing position for them to be in if you’ve never explained the issues at stake.

Note that I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t tell our kids what we believe. There’s no problem at all with explaining our own convictions. The problem lies in teaching them our views in a silo rather than taking the time to explain why fellow believers and skeptics interpret science and/or the Bible differently than we do.

5. We’re overly fearful of suggesting there’s a conflict between Christianity and science.

One of the things I found most interesting when preparing to write on whether or not science and religion contradict one another was just how quick Christians are to lay out a case for why Christianity and science are not in conflict. Much of the time, Christians jump straight to showing 1) how science can’t say anything about a Being outside of nature and/or 2) how there’s no reason to expect that science could even be done if there weren’t a God to rationally design the universe. Those things are true. But much of the time when skeptics talk about the conflict of science and Christianity, they’re talking specifically about the conflict between mainstream scientific consensus and a specific claim of the Bible that intersects with the natural world—for example, the age of the Earth (based on the young-Earth interpretation of Scripture) and direct creation (versus evolution). If we just keep insisting “there’s no conflict,” when there actually are apparent conflicts in some areas, we miss some very important discussion opportunities with our kids. Again, we have to define terms clearly.

Finally, it’s important to remember that the accurate interpretation of scientific data and the accurate interpretation of the Bible will never be in true conflict. If apparent conflicts arise, (at least) one interpretation is wrong. When we’re convicted of the accuracy of our interpretation of Scripture, we shouldn’t be afraid to acknowledge when the Bible conflicts with scientific consensus; Scientists can be wrong. On the other hand, when there is an apparent conflict, we should be willing to thoughtfully consider the scientific data; Our biblical interpretation can also be wrong.

Rather than sweep apparent conflicts under the carpet, we can help our kids significantly by 1) confidently explaining why apparent conflicts may arise and 2) studying the scientific and scriptural considerations together.

What questions about science and faith do you most have trouble discussing with your kids? If you don’t currently have these discussions, what’s your biggest barrier?

Original Blog Source: http://bit.ly/2mouGKB


 

Did Man Invent God?

I have recently become aware of a video on the internet that is making its way around the campus of the local university. Several college students told me that after viewing the video, it really made them question their faith. Now, this might surprise you, but I am all for questioning one’s faith (I encourage atheists to do the same), but if one is to question what they believe, it should be for good and logical reasons!

Did Men Invented God

In my experience, it is usually Christians who present arguments utilizing the laws of logic with premises that lead to deductive conclusions. Most (not all) of the atheist arguments I find on the Internet are usually based in emotion as opposed to logic, and therefore, they rarely put their thoughts into logical argument form. After watching this video, I decided to put the statements of this atheist into a deductive syllogism. Let’s see if it is a logically valid argument or not.

1- According to the Bible, God has always existed and predates the universe itself.
2- According to the evidence, the idea of God began evolving 14,000 years ago.
3- Therefore, God has not always existed since man invented the idea of God, the Bible is false and atheism is true.

Now the first two premises are direct quotes from the atheist in the video. Let’s quickly examine them. Premise (1) is true. The Bible does teach that God exists necessarily, eternally with no beginning, and that God brought all things into being (including the universe). Here are two verses from the Old Testament and two from the New Testament to consider:

Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Hebrew for universe).

Psalm 148: 1-5 “Praise him, you highest heavens and you waters above the skies. Let them praise the name of the Lord, for at his command they were created.”

John 1:1-3 “In the beginning was the Word (Jesus), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.”

Colossians 1:15-17 “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through him and for him.”

However, this proposition is not only “according to the Bible.” In fact, a logic-based argument that is supported by scientific data suggests the exact same thing! This is known as The Kalam Cosmological Argument. Moreover, arguments such as the Leibnizian Cosmological Argument and the Ontological Argument also logically conclude the same. The Kalam and Leibnizian arguments both rationally infer that there is ONE timeless, beginningless, eternal, necessary, spaceless, immaterial, volitional and personal mind that the universe (and all of its contents) is contingent upon. What is more, the Ontological Argument demonstrates that a Maximally Great Being exists and therefore, monotheism must be true as it is incoherent to have multiple “maximally great beings.”

So, yes, the Bible does make these monotheistic claims; however, even if the Bible didn’t exist, we would still come to these conclusions by thinking according to the laws of logic and the rules of rationality. Since the Bible makes claims that are in line with the laws of logic, it ought to be considered as a plausible explanation of reality. So far the argument is good, because premise (1) is true and is backed up by the laws of logic and modern science. Let’s look at the second premise:

(2) According to the evidence, the idea of God began evolving 14,000 years ago.

This is a controversial premise that historians can argue; however, I am not interested in attacking the supposed “evidence” this atheist thinks he has; rather, I am interested in arguing logically. So for the sake of argument, I will actually grant this premise (I’m not affirming it at all). Here’s the big question: Since I affirm the first premise and grant the second, does the conclusion follow? No, it does not follow because although the premises may be true, the argument is invalid because the conclusion does not logically follow from the two premises. Let’s look at the conclusion again:

(3)Therefore, God has not always existed since man invented the idea of God, the Bible is false and atheism is true.

Premise (2) seems to assume that if we can show why or how humanity started believing that God exists, then, we can logically conclude that these theistic beliefs are false. However, this line of thinking makes a big mistake in reasoning called the genetic fallacy. This mistake is made when someone argues against a proposition by pointing out why someone believes the proposition is true. While it is correct that people can believe propositions for bad reasons, it does not logically follow that the propositions they affirm are therefore false.

The truth or falsity of a proposition is independent of how or why someone came to believe the proposition.

For example, atheistic naturalists believe that all that exists is nature, and therefore, they hold that everything is determined by the laws of nature and past events receding all the way back to the initial conditions of the big bang (this includes all of our thoughts, beliefs, and actions). So, if I told an atheistic naturalist that the only reason he believes in atheism, naturalism and determinism is because he was determined by physics and chemistry to do so, and therefore, these positions are false, I would be committing the genetic fallacy. My objection does not show that the naturalist’s beliefs are false, they only show that he cannot rationally affirm his beliefs and therefore his beliefs do not count as knowledge (a.k.a. justified true belief). The determinist’s belief that determinism is true could luckily happen to be true, even if he does not have reason, warrant, or justification in affirming his propositions.

Back to the argument in question: the atheist is assuming that human ideas about God evolved from pantheistic ones a relatively short and finite time ago. He argues that these are not good reasons to believe in Christian monotheism, and therefore, Christianity is false. His entire argument is based on the genetic fallacy and therefore the whole thing must be discarded as any argument based on a logical fallacy is no argument at all. He claims we have come to believe Christian monotheism is true for bad reasons; therefore, Christian monotheism is false. However, the objective truth-value of the propositions of Christianity is true or false regardless of how we came to hold these beliefs. Remember the other arguments I listed above are good reasons to think monotheism is true independent of what the Bible does or does not say. These arguments are used without touching the Bible and only rely on the laws of logic with support from scientific data. Therefore, in regards to the Bible’s claims about monotheism, it is exactly right and in line with the rules of reason. Moreover, these arguments also prove the negation of this atheist’s invalid conclusion – atheism is therefore, false!

Premise (2) is not only controversial, but it implies the propositions Christians affirm are false because of how we came to hold these beliefs. Let me reiterate this again for the sake of clarity: This commits the genetic fallacy, and therefore, this entire argument is invalid.

One last thing: this video only attacked the Old Testament’s views of God. It is important for Christians (and non-Christians alike) to realize that the truth of “mere” Christianity requires only two key ingredients: 1- God’s existence, and 2- the resurrection of Jesus. That’s it! We don’t even need the Old Testament to reach the conclusion that Christianity is true (logically speaking). I’m glad we have it and it helps make sense of many things, but we don’t need it to conclude Christianity is true. Therefore, any attacks on it, or its infallibility, are completely impotent if their hope is to demonstrate Christianity is false. To do that, one must either demonstrate one of the two premises in the following argument to be false, or that the conclusion does not logically follow deductively from them:

1- God exists.
2- God raised Jesus from the dead.
3- Therefore, Christianity is true.

Premise (1) is reached by a cumulative case of logical arguments such as:

– The Kalam
– The Leibnizian Cosmological Argument
– The Moral Argument
– The Ontological Argument
– The Teleological Argument
– (And many more)

Premise (2) is reached via the historical method and inference to the best explanation. If God raised Jesus from the dead, it seems that God is validating everything that Jesus said, taught, and exemplified. Therefore, Christianity is true!

For more on some of these specific arguments, start here:

http://www.reasonablefaith.org/does-god-exist-1

Stay reasonable (Phil 4:5)

Original Blog Resource: http://bit.ly/2mYIUGf


Biblical Faith VS. Blind Faith

By Evan Minton

Many Christians when asked by unbelievers why they should believe anything The Bible says, the most common response is “Just have faith!”. And this “just have faith” line is pretty much the answer to every single objection one could possibly raise against the Christian.

Blind Faith

Far too often people are turned away because of intellectual doubts that plague them. “If God is all loving and all powerful, why does He let so much suffering go on in the world?” “How could a loving God send people to an eternal Hell?” “How do I know Yahweh is the one true God instead of these thousands of other gods in these other religions that contradict Christianity? How do I know The Bible is true and not The Koran or the Hindu Scriptures?” And when a Christian or a pastor responds with “Just have faith” that translates in the mind of the unbeliever as “in order to be a Christian, you need to commit intellectual suicide.” This blind faith approach is so, so, so very unbiblical. Many places in The Bible command us to tell others WHY Christianity is true.

“Always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have, but do so with gentleness and respect.” – 1 Peter 3:15

“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 10:5

In Jude 1:3, Jude urges his readers to DEFEND the faith (that’s what we call “Christian Apologetics”).

In Phillipians 1:16, Paul says that he was appointed to DEFEND the good news (i.e do Christian Apologetics).

“Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.” – Colossians 4:5-6

In 2 Corinthians 12:12 Paul says he gave the Corinthians PROOF that he was indeed an apostle from God because he performed many signs and wonders when he was with them. If God really wanted us to have blind faith, why would Paul give evidence for his credibility?

In 2 Corinthians 13:3 Paul says he is willing to offer the Corinthians PROOF that Christ speaks through him. Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa whoa! Hold the phone, Paul! Paul, buddy! Don’t you know that if you offer the Corinthians proof that Christ speaks through you that they won’t have legitimate faith? Why would you deprive them they opportunity of having faith, Paul? Maybe faith isn’t what people think it is.

Objection: If you need evidence, you don’t have faith.

This is an objection often proposed by Christians (as well as atheists) who think that the word “faith” means to believe something without any reason to and/or even to believe something in the face of reasons to not believe it. This distortion of the meaning of the word “faith” has had very bad consequences on the church because it makes a person think that Christianity requires you to be an undiscerning airhead who doesn’t like reason.

Here is a Bible verse that gives an example of a person placing their faith in God in spite of having evidence for His existence. I tell ya, reading The Bible is like going into a spiritual gold mine and mining all the good stuff you find. BUT you gotta dig for it. Usually, I’m not looking for stuff like this, I just happen to stumble across it while reading through the verses. I found this one night when reading through Exodus. I think it does a good job of arguing against Christians who think that apologetics is wrong because you’re supposed to have blind, undiscerning belief.

“When the Israelites saw the mighty power that The Lord had unleashed against the Egyptians, they were filled with awe before Him. THEY PUT THEIR FAITH IN HIM and His servant Moses.” – Exodus 14:31

Clearly, the Israelites had evidence that God existed and was helping them escape Egypt and yet the text says they put their faith in Him anyway (for a little while at least. we all know they lost faith a bunch of times after this). They ESPECIALLY had evidence that MOSES existed and the text says they placed their faith in him as well. So given this piece of scriptural evidence we know that a Christian can still base his belief THAT Christianity is true on the basis of evidence and still be able to have faith in God. You see, faith means the same thing as the word “trust”. Or as I’ve said before “Faith is when someone is holding you over a ledge and knowing in your heart that not only will they not let you fall, they’ll pull you up to safety”. You know that the person holding onto you exists. You have very powerful evidence that that person exists, yet all the evidence in the world is not going to make you trust that that person will help save your life. This is the real definition of the word “faith”.

I like using an analogy. Let’s say you discovered you had heart disease, and need a risky surgery. You have sufficient resources, so you research doctors, anesthesiologists, etc. until you have the best team possible assembled. You now have a group of people that you believe will give you the best chance of survival. Even though you have researched extensively, you still show your faith in this team when you allow yourself to be put under. Faith does not mean not researching and exploring the truth. Jesus even says as much when he tells us to love God with our heart, soul, *MIND* and strength.

http://bible.cc/exodus/14-31.htm <– Here you can look at other translations of Exodus 14:31 to see all the different words that are used other than “faith”. The NLT uses “faith”, the NIV used “trust”, the KJV uses “believed” that is; they believed IN God and His promises even though they had just witnessed good evidence THAT He existed and was helping them. This is the difference between belief THAT God exists, THAT Jesus rose from the dead and belief IN His character and His promises to you.

We are never told to have a blind faith. Paul commended those in Berea for checking the Scriptures daily to see if what he was telling them was so. Jesus showed Himself alive to make sure those believed on Him, especially Thomas (John 20:28)

Paul also said to “Test everything, hold onto the good.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:21

1 Thessalonians 5:21 seems to be telling us to have just the exact opposite of blind faith.

Objection: “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly” – Hebrews 11:6

I agree with this. Without faith it is impossible to please God. But then again, it’s impossible to please ANYONE without faith. It is not possible to have a good relationship with any human being without faith. What is faith? Remember, the word “faith” is synonymous with “trust”. If you’re constantly distrusting God, you’re not going to have a very good relationship with Him just as you wouldn’t have a very good relationship with your wife/husband if you were always distrusting her/him. If you’re constantly suspecting your wife of cheating on you, I “suspect” that it’s not going to be very long before she hands you the divorce papers telling you “I can’t live with someone who distrusts me so severely”. Although sometimes that kind of suspicion is warranted.

I walk by faith, not by sight. This doesn’t mean I believe God exists without any evidence or reason. It means I trust in Him even when I don’t know what He’s up to. Sometimes our circumstances can have deceitful appearances. Sometimes it looks like God has abandoned us when He really hasn’t. Sometimes it looks like God won’t keep His promises. Sometimes we think our suffering has no good purpose to it. It is in times like these that we have to have faith in (i.e to place our TRUST in) God. That His plans are for ours or someone else’s ultimate good.

Having evidence for God’s existence does not mean you’re not walking by faith. Faith is placing one’s trust in a person. Just because you have EVIDENCE for that person’s existence does not mean you don’t trust them. Moses had PLENTY of evidence for God’s existence, but He still had to trust that God was going to lead Him and the Jews where He said they were going to. Many times it looked like Yahweh was leading them on a wild goose chase, but Moses continued to have FAITH in the God which he had plenty of proof existed. Although many of the people did lose faith. They got impatient and started worshipping false idols, and constantly complained.

Objection: Do Apologists forget the work of The Holy Spirit?

Anyone who does apologetics knows the Holy Spirit has to play an integral part of the entire process. As Ergun Caner says, “It is impossible to be effective in apologetics without the work of the Spirit in both the apologist and the hearer.” (2) No mature apologist forgets that the Bible stresses that humans are blinded by sin. Therefore, sin has damaging consequences on the knowing process (Is. 6:9-10; Zech. 7:11-12; Matt. 13:10-13; 2 Cor. 4:4). How people respond to God’s revelation depends on several factors such as his/her personal history (both past and present). People can be hardened towards God; sin certainly dampens an individual’s ability to being receptive to God’s invitation to them. The Holy Spirit works through apologetics just as He works through preaching.

Objection: Shouldn’t we just preach the gospel?

This is true. By all means, “Preach the Gospel!” But guess what? What do you do when you try to open the Bible and use it with someone who doesn’t think the Bible is an authoritative or inspired book? This happens all the time to Christians. And did you know Muslims and other people think their holy book is just as inspired and authoritative as the Bible? The Hindus think their scriptures are inspired. The Buddhists think their holy scriptures are inspired. If you keep trying to quote the Bible, you would be “begging the question.”

“Begging the question” is a form of logical fallacy in which a statement or claim is assumed to be true without evidence other than the statement or claim itself. When one begs the question, the initial assumption of a statement is treated as already proven without any logic to show why the statement is true in the first place. In some cases, you may be able to go quote the Bible to many people without any objections, like when you’re trying to witness to Mormons and Jehova’s Witnesses. If you’re witnessing to Jews, you can show them all the messianic prophesies and how Jesus fulfilled all of the prophesies. But in other cases (like when witnessing to atheists and agnostics), you would need to show the individual the Bible is a reliable historical document before trying to use it as an authoritative text in these types of conversations.

Avoiding Apologetics can have dire consequences.
Christianity is under a severe attack in this day and age. In fact, I’ve never seen the Christian faith under attack more than I have in the 21st century. “The New Atheist” movement has set a goal to eliminate religious belief from the face of the Earth. High School teachers and College professors endorse Darwinian evolution and try to convince your kids that a Creator was not needed for advanced life to come into being.

Christian philosopher William Lane Craig concurs. He said “In high school and college Christian teenagers are intellectually assaulted with every manner of non-Christian worldview coupled with an overwhelming relativism. If parents are not intellectually engaged with their faith and do not have sound arguments for Christian theism and good answers to their children’s questions, then we are in real danger of losing our youth. It’s no longer enough to simply teach our children Bible stories; they need doctrine and apologetics. It’s hard to understand how people today can risk parenthood without having studied apologetics.”

If Jesus wants us to have blind faith, then why did He have to fulfill so many ancient prophesies? 
If God required us to have blind faith, then why did Jesus have to fulfill so many prophesies to PROVE to the Jews that He was the true messiah? Why couldn’t Jesus just come onto the scene and say “Hey, I’m the Messiah, follow me!” Maybe because so many other people were claiming to be the Messiah at the time period and they were NOT the messiah. The Jews needed the ability to tell truth from falsehood. The Jews needed the ability to tell the difference between the TRUE messiah and a phony. Blind Faith can’t give you that. God gave the Jews a test for the real messiah to take and if He was able to get a perfect score, then their conclusion would be that He was and is the messiah. Lee Strobel calls this “The Fingerprint Evidence” in his book “The Case For Christ”. Jesus had to fulfill each and every one of the messianic prophesies. If He did, then that proved He was the genuine article.
 
Blind Faith can actually be dangerous!
Blind Faith can actually be dangerous. How are you going to “beware of false prophets” like Jesus said if you don’t exercise some discernment? Back in ancient Judaism, the way to tell if a prophet was truly from God was if he gave evidence that he came from God. How’s that? Well, if his prophesies came true then he was truly from The Lord but if his prophesies were false then everyone knew he was a false prophet and they had him stoned. 1 John 4:1 says “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” Yet another verse telling us that blind faith is wrong. This verse is telling us that we should “test the spirits” to see if they give evidence that they are indeed from God.

NOTEWORTHY QUOTES:
“I do not feel obliged to believe that same God who endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect had intended for us to forgo their use.” – Galileo Galilei

“As I speak around the country, I often encounter devoted, committed Christians who are hesitant to embrace an evidential faith. In many Christian circles, faith that requires evidential support is seen as weak and inferior. For many, blind faith (a faith that simply trusts without question) is the truest, most sincere, and most valuable form of faith that we can offer God. Yet Jesus seemed to have a high regard for evidence. In John 14:11, He told those watching Him to examine ‘the evidence of miracles’ (NIV) if they did not believe what He said about His identity. Even after the resurrection, Jesus stayed with His disciples for an additional forty days and provided them with ‘many convincing proofs’ that He was resurrected and was who He claimed to be (Acts 1:2-3 NIV). Jesus understood the role and value of evidence and the importance of developing an evidential faith. It’s time for all of us, as Christians, to develop a similarly reasonable faith’.” —J. Warner Wallace

“The “I just take Christianity on (blind) faith” attitude can’t be the right approach. It leaves the Bible without defense, yet Peter directs us to make a defense for the hope that is in us. Also, the biblical word for faith, pistis, doesn’t mean wishing. It means active trust. And trust cannot be conjured up or manufactured. It must be earned. You can’t exercise the kind of faith the Bible has in mind unless you’re reasonably sure that some particular things are true. In fact, I suggest you completely ban the phrase “leap of faith” from your vocabulary. Biblical faith is based on knowledge, not wishing or blind leaps. Knowledge builds confidence and confidence leads to trust. The kind of faith God is interested in is not wishing. It’s trust based on knowing, a sure confidence grounded in evidence.’ – Greg Koukl


Any and every other belief you hold, about anything whatsoever, if it is to be taken seriously, if it is to be of any value or worth anyone’s consideration, it must have in its favor more than your emotions, personal history or external circumstantial factors. It must have reasons.” —Clint Roberts (from the article, Believing for No Reason)
 
 “Question with boldness. Question even if the very existence of God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear.” – Thomas Jefferson

Original Blog Source: http://bit.ly/2mzdohl


When Does Personhood Begin? Part I

Once you have established that the unborn are human from fertilization, the next step is to ask when we should assign basic human rights to a human individual [1]. The right to life is the most fundamental of all rights since without it you can’t enjoy any other rights. It’s pretty difficult to enjoy freedom of speech if you’re not alive to speak in the first place.

As a Christian, I believe that all humans are valuable because we were made in God’s image. [2] God does not have a physical body, so we weren’t made in His physical image. We were made in the image of His likeness; in other words, God has a rational, moral nature, and made us with a similar rational, moral nature.

Clifton Blog

The pro-life view is that basic human rights should be established when the human comes into existence, that is, at fertilization. In fact, I hesitate to use the term “person” because it’s a legal term that has been used to legally discriminate against groups of people in the past (such as Africans when slavery was legal). So when I use “person” it’s usually synonymous with “entity with basic rights” (e.g. the right to life).

The view held by most pro-life advocates is the Substance View, which has its roots in the sixth century Christian philosopher, Boethius: “a person is an individual substance that has a rational nature.” [3] A substance is essentially something that maintains its identity through change. You are essentially the same being now as the embryo you were in the womb. You can cut off an arm and still be you. Since you are the same substance, if a morally justifiable reason is needed to kill you now, a morally justifiable reason is needed to kill you in the womb. So if anyone is going to support abortion, a reason must be given that could not also be applied to someone outside the womb, otherwise killing that person outside the womb would also be morally justifiable.

The only truly consistent position is the pro-life position, which holds that the unborn are human from fertilization. Basic human rights should be established as soon as the human comes into existence. By contrast, the pro-choice position establishes basic human rights at a certain arbitrary point in human development.

Furthermore, the pro-life view is the all-inclusive view, whereas the pro-choice view excludes certain humans based on their lack of some arbitrarily-decided-upon feature (or point in their development). But to the pro-life advocate, all humans are valuable based on their inherent capacity as rational, moral agents. The human is both a rational and a moral being. Without a moral nature there would be no true humanity, so those who would abolish the moral law would abolish humanity in the bargain. [4] As C.S. Lewis writes, “Either we are rational spirit obliged for ever to obey the absolute values of the Tao, or else we are mere nature to be kneaded and cut into new shapes for the pleasure masters who must, by hypothesis, have no motive but their own ‘natural’ impulses. Only the Tao provides a common human law of action which can over-arch rulers and ruled alike. A dogmatic belief in objective value is necessary to the very idea of a rule which is not tyranny or an obedience which is not slavery.” [5]

It often helps in discussions with pro-choice advocates to make sure you listen carefully and accurately understand what their actual argument is, rather than assuming it. It helps to make a distinction between the humanity of the unborn and their personhood. Sometimes when someone accuses the unborn of not being human, they really mean they don’t believe we should afford them basic human rights, or personhood. If they really mean the unborn isn’t alive or isn’t human, then you can refer to my previous article about how we know the unborn are unique, living, human organisms. But if they mean the unborn are not persons, then the conversation will most likely be led in the following direction.

Most pro-choice objections you will encounter will usually fall under one of four categories, and you can remember these by the acronym SLED, as conceived by philosopher Stephen Schwartz. [6] SLED stands for Size, Level of Development, Environment, and Degree of Dependency. An objection raised that falls under one of these categories argues that the unborn aren’t human, or aren’t a person. After looking at these objections we’ll analyze a few others which have to do with function and socioeconomic problems. There are other, more difficult objections which I’ll write about in a future post. For now, these are some of the more common objections you’ll encounter.

For each of these objections, it helps to affirm the difference. This establishes common ground with the pro-choice advocate. Yes, the unborn are smaller, less developed, etc. than we are. But then you’ll want to ask why it matters. Finally, point to someone outside the womb who has those same differences and ask if it would be okay to kill them for that same reason. [7]

Size — the unborn is certainly much smaller than we are, but two-year-old children are much smaller than adults. Women are generally much smaller than men. But does this mean that two-year-old children have less rights than adults, and women have less rights than men because they’re smaller? It would not be unfair for a basketball coach to choose Shaquille O’Neal for his team over Gary Coleman, but it would be equally wrong to kill either one of them.

Level of Development — the unborn are certainly less developed than we are. Two-year-olds are less developed than adults. Does this mean that two-year-olds have less rights as humans than adults do?

Environment — the unborn are in a different place than we are. They’re in the womb. Changing location doesn’t change your nature or your value. I flew to Italy three years ago but who I was didn’t change. So how does an eight-inch journey down the birth canal change one’s value or nature?

Degree of Dependency — the unborn are much more dependent than we are. But how does being more dependent make us less valuable? It seems to me that someone who is more vulnerable deserves that much more protection. Children can’t drive, so they are more dependent than their parents are, who have driver’s licenses. But does it follow that adults may kill their children because they’re more dependent? Some say that the fact that they are totally dependent on one person means that person has the right to kill them. But how does that follow?

First, it seems that only being dependent on one person makes you less of a burden than being dependent on many people. But second, as Justice for All’s Executive Director David Lee says, suppose you’re the last out of a public pool and you hear a splash from the deep end. You look in the water and a toddler has fallen in and is drowning. No one else is there but you. That child is completely dependent on you for its survival — are you morally justified in walking away and letting the child die?

Some say that it’s okay to kill the unborn because they can’t feel pain. I think when someone says this they really mean it’s better to kill someone as an embryo because they won’t be in pain. But still, the lack of feeling pain does not mean it’s morally justified to kill someone, otherwise you would be justified in killing someone in their sleep, or through a painless method.

Take the case of Gabby Gingras, born with congenital insensitivity to pain. [8] This would mean that it would be morally justifiable to kill someone with this condition for any reason that would be used for a similar abortion.

Some also say consciousness or self-awareness is what establishes value. The problem with self-awareness is that we’re not self-aware until sometime after birth. So this would justify infanticide (and some pro-choice philosophers, such as Michael Tooley and Peter Singer, support infanticide for this very reason). Plus, if the immediately exercisable capacity for consciousness is what establishes value, then we could kill anyone who loses consciousness. This would mean we would be morally justified in killing someone for any reason who falls asleep, enters a reversible coma, or goes under anesthesia before a major surgery.

Additionally, as Francis Beckwith and Patrick Lee note, if consciousness is required to bestow value on a human, then no humans are intrinsically valuable. Consciousness is intrinsically valuable. This would mean that the moral rule would be to maximize valuable states of functions. It would not be morally wrong to kill a child, no matter what age, if doing so enabled one to have two children in the future, and thus to bring it about that there were two vehicles of intrinsic value rather than one. [9]

The thing about pain, self-awareness, or consciousness (aside from the problems already mentioned) is that these are Level of Development problems. So point to a two-year-old, or another human outside the womb who also fails in that way, and ask if it’s morally justifiable to kill someone just because they’re less developed than we are.

Finally, there are certain objections that rely on socioeconomic problems. For example, they might say that a family can’t afford another child, or that overpopulation is an issue, etc. Someone making these arguments is simply assuming that the unborn aren’t human, so in an argument like this it helps to bring the argument back on topic (to what is the unborn?) by asking if these same reasons could be used to justify killing a two-year-old child. A family of six could not kill their two-year-old child to help feed their other children, so we can’t justify abortion for this reason. We can’t go around killing small children or homeless people to help with overpopulation, so we can’t justify abortion for this reason either. Trotting Out the Toddler is a powerful tool to help keep the discussion on what the actual issue is, the nature of the unborn [10].

Original Blog Source: http://bit.ly/2ncmmyd


[1] Note here that as a JFA mentor, we actually take a slightly different approach than the one presented here. The scope of this article is how to defend the position that personhood should be established at fertilization, but in JFA seminars we prefer to keep the focus on what the unborn is. I have used both approaches in my discussions with pro-choice advocates.
[2] Genesis 1:26
[3] Ancius Manlius Severinus Boethius, Liber de Persona et Duabus Naturis, ch. 3.
[4] Lewis, C.S., The Abolition of Man, p. 77.
[5] ibid., pp. 84-85. Note that when C.S. Lewis speaks of the Tao, he is referring to an objective moral law.
[6] Schwartz, Stephen D., The Moral Question of Abortion, Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1990, pp. 15-19.
[7] Credit goes to JFA for this approach to using the SLED tool in a dialogue.
[8] Note that this article is a little graphic.
[9] Paraphrased from Francis J. Beckwith, Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice, (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, New York, 2007), p.50, and Patrick Lee, Abortion and Unborn Human Life, (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1996), p. 55.
[10] Credit goes to Scott Klusendorf and Greg Koukl for the tool of Trotting Out the Toddler.

Who Cares about Truth? Activity to Help Students Grasp the Importance of Truth

Along with being a professor at Biola, I have been teaching high school students for thirteen years. Below is one of my favorite activities – which could be used by teachers, youth pastors, and even parents – to help students grasp how important truth is for their worldview.

Students Truth

PURPOSE: This activity helps students realize that truth should be the guiding principle for what we believe, and as a result, how we live our lives

SUPPLIES: Whiteboard and pens; or a large sheet of paper for recording answers.

DURATION: 20-30 minutes

INSTRUCTIONS:

1.Begin by asking students the following question, “Why do people believe what they do?” Encourage students to come up with any reasons they can think of for why we hold certain beliefs (not just about God, but about anything).

2.List their responses on a large sheet of paper or whiteboard according to the columns below. Do not label the columns until they have given all their answers.

Sociological Psychological Religious Philosophical
Parents

Friends

Society

Culture

Tradition

Comfort

Peace of Mind

Meaning

Experience

Hope

Identity

Scripture

Pastor

Priest

Guru

Channeler

Church

Consistency

Coherence

Completeness (best explanation)

True

3.Once you have a substantial list of reasons, go through each one and ask, “Is that a good reason to believe something?”

4.If you have sharp students, the discussion might look something like this:

Youth worker “I see that many of you listed sociological factors. For example, many of you mentioned that our beliefs are shaped by our parents. Is that a good enough reason to believe something?”
Students “No, not necessarily. Parents can sometimes be wrong!”
Youth worker Okay, what about cultural factors such as tradition? Do you think people ought to believe something because it has been passed down through tradition?”
Students “No, not necessarily. Traditions are not necessarily wrong, but they are also not necessarily right. Radical Muslims have a tradition of Jihad, but that can’t be right.”
Youth worker “Good. Now some of you mentioned psychological influences such as comfort. Is comfort alone a solid reason to believe something?”
Students “No, we’re not ‘comfortable’ with that. Just because something is comfortable does not make it true. Lies can often be very comfortable!”
Youth worker “So you’re saying that truth is an important reason to believe something because there can be consequences when people are mistaken?”
Students “Yes, that does seem to be the case.”
Youth worker “What about religious reasons? Should we believe something because Scripture tells us it is true? Should we simply follow whatever a pastor tells us?”
Students “No, because how would we know which Scripture is true? Which religious teachings do we follow? All religious leaders can’t be right.”
Youth worker “Good point. So, how do we know which religion we should follow, if any?”
Students “We would need some outside evidence to indicate that the claims are actually true. There needs to be some proof.”
Youth worker “So we seem to agree that something is worth believing if we have reason to believe that it is true.”

COMMENTARY:

One of the challenges we face in a postmodern culture is skepticism about reason as a means of knowing truth. It is not that young people are unable to reason. In reality, students reason everyday! They reason with their parents (for a later curfew), with their teachers (for an extension on their homework), and with themselves (over who to ask to prom). But young people are often reluctant to believe that reason can lead to a genuine understanding of God. Such a misunderstanding must be corrected. While our reasoning ability is deeply influenced by our emotions and background, we are made in the image of God with the capacity to accurately understand His revelation to the world (Rom. 1-2). Reason is one means that God has chosen to make Himself known to people.

God designed us to be truth-seekers in all areas of life, which is why it is so critical to help young people understand why they believe what they believe. Few have given their religious beliefs much thought. Most of their beliefs have been shaped by sociological factors that have very little to do with rational reflection. This does not mean that their beliefs are anti-intellectual or that they are less justifiable, only that they have not been formed by weighing the merits of various options and coming to the conclusion that is most reasonable. Such lack of convictions will not maintain a life-long vibrant faith.

This activity is an important step in helping students to be aware of their lack of conscious reasons for their beliefs. The idea is to help students recognize that they themselves actually operate their lives on whether they think something is true or false (whether they realize it or not). This is critical for young Christians because without some sense of why they believe, they may hold their faith with reservation or abandon their faith completely when challenged. And this is also important for non-believers, so they can clear away misconceptions and consider the credibility of Christianity.

SUPPORTING SCRIPTURE: Hosea 4:6; 2 Thessalonians 2:8-10


What the Bible Does (and Doesn’t) Say About the Life (or Death) of the Soul

As Christians, we believe humans are more than merely physical creatures. We are also “soulish” beings; living souls who also possess physical bodies. As a result, the vast majority of Christians believe our souls are unaffected by our physical death. We are eternal beings, even though our earthly bodies eventually die. Other groups, also using the Bible as their source of information about the soul, have argued souls die along with the body, entering what is sometimes called “soul sleep”. Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists, and Christadelphians all hold this position. Part of the problem is simply a matter of terminology. When we use the term “soul” as we have been using it in this post, we are referring to the existence of our immaterial being. But when Bible translators translate the original Hebrew and Greek words used by the Biblical authors, they are actually translating words typically used to describe something else:

Bible LIfe and Death

The Old Testament word, “nephesh” (neh’-fesh)
This word has been translated as “soul” on occasion in the Old Testament, but that’s not how the ancient Israelites understood the word. They used it throughout the Old Testament to describe any breathing creature or animal, and it is more often translated as “appetite”, “beast”, “body”, “breath”, “creature”, “dead”, “lust”, “man”, “mind”, “person”, or “life”, than it is translated as “soul”.

The New Testament word, “psuche” (psoo-khay’)
Like “nephesh”, this word has been translated as “soul” as well, but literally means “breath” and can accurately be translated as “heart”, “life”, “mind”, “us”, or “you” in addition to the connotation we would understand as “soul”.

How, then, are we to know exactly how the original writers of Scripture were using these words? How do we know whether they were using the words to describe some aspect of our temporal life or whether they were using the words to describe the soul? Let’s take, for example, Ezekiel 18:4, a passage often cited by Jehovah’s Witnesses trying to make the case we, as living souls, die or sleep when our bodies die:

Ezekiel 18:4
“Behold, all souls are Mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine. The soul who sins will die.”

From a simple reading of this passage, it sure sounds like souls die. But the word being used as “soul” is “nephesh” and we know it is more often used to describe living physical beings (creatures). So this passage could just as easily (and may more accurately) be translated in this way:

“Behold, all lives are Mine; the life of the father as well as the life of the son is Mine. The person (life) who sins will die.”

See the problem here? We really can’t make the case for the mortality of the soul from a simple word study in the Old or New Testament. But Jehovah’s Witnesses are not the only ones who have to be careful. Those who try to prove the soul is immortal from a simple word study also fall into this same trap. Let’s take one example:

Psalms 84:2
“My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.”

Those arguing for the immortality of the soul use this passage to demonstrate the soul is clearly defined as something different than the heart and the flesh of the body. But once again we have to remember the word used for “soul” (“nephesh”) is most often translated in a different way. This could just as easily be what the psalmist intended:

“My entire being yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.”

What the Bible Says About the Everlasting Nature of the Soul
Word studies
simply don’t help us understand the nature of the soul in regard to its immortality. There is a better way to examine the Biblical evidence without relying on any interpretation of “nephesh” or “psuche”. Let’s simply study examples in the Scripture where people are described as living beyond their physical bodies. If we see instances of “living disembodiment”, it is fair to conclude we are immaterial beings who live beyond our physical existence:

Luke 23:39-43
And one of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us.” But the other answered, and rebuking him said, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? “And we indeed justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom.” And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”

Even though both Jesus and the thief were about to experience physical death, Jesus clearly said something about our eternal life. He said our lives would continue and extend right from the point of death: “today you will be with me in paradise.” The word used here for “paradise” is the Greek word, “paradeisos” and it is the same word Paul used to describe heaven in 2 Corinthians 12:2-4 (“I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know-God knows. And I know that this man-whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows- was caught up to paradise.”) The Bible clearly describes a disembodied life here (what we would describe as the “soul”), even though it is not given a name. From this passage it is obvious the soul lives beyond the death of the body. Here is another important passage:

Luke 16:19-31
“Now there was a certain rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, gaily living in splendor every day. And a certain poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores. Now it came about that the poor man died and he was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. And in Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue; for I am in agony in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony. ‘And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, in order that those who wish to come over from here to you may not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.’ And he said, ‘Then I beg you, Father, that you send him to my father’s house – for I have five brothers – that he may warn them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them,’ But he said, ‘No, Father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent. But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone rises from the dead.’”

In this passage, the dead are repeatedly described as performing actions characteristic of the living. But that’s not all. How can this be? This is only possible if the physically dead are still immaterially alive. That’s why as Christians, we recognize we are living souls and immortal by nature:

Matthew 17:1-3
And six days later Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John his brother, and brought them up to a high mountain by themselves. And He was transfigured before them; and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him.

In this scene, Jesus was talking to Elijah and Moses. They obviously died long before Jesus was born, so how could this scene be true unless they still existed as immortal souls (and not simply as physical bodies)? We have another example of disembodied life after death, something possible only if we exist as living, immortal souls.

Matthew 22:31-32
“But regarding the resurrection of the dead, have you not read that which was spoken to you by God, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”

Were Abraham, Isaac and Jacob alive at the time of this statement? No. How, then, could they be described as living? This could only be true if they are actually immortal souls alive after death (and prior to their physical resurrection in the future). If they are immortal souls (immaterial beings), the passage begins to make sense.

1 Kings 17:19-23
And he said to her, “Give me your son.” Then he took him from her bosom and carried him up to the upper room where he was living, and laid him on his own bed. And he called to the LORD and said, “O LORD my God, hast Thou also brought calamity to the widow with whom I am staying, by causing her son to die?” Then he stretched himself upon the child three times, and called to the LORD, and said, “O LORD my God, I pray Thee, let this child’s life return to him.” And the LORD heard the voice of Elijah, and the life of the child returned to him and he revived. And Elijah took the child, and brought him down from the upper room into the house and gave him to his mother; and Elijah said, “See, your son is alive.”

This passage describes Elijah’s reviving of the widow’s son. The “life” of the child is said to “return to him”. The word used here is “shuwb” (shoob) and it really means “to turn back”, as if to retreat. But to turn back from where? Where is the “life” prior to being “returned”? The passage affirms the notion our true lives exist beyond death. God has the ability to return this “true” life to the body. This is consistent with what has been described elsewhere about the nature of the disembodied soul.

Ecclesiastes 12:5-7
Furthermore, men are afraid of a high place and of terrors on the road; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper drags himself along, and the caperberry is ineffective. For man goes to his eternal home while mourners go about in the street. Remember Him before the silver cord is broken and the golden bowl is crushed, the pitcher by the well is shattered and the wheel at the cistern is crushed; then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it.

This passage also describes life beyond the grave. After our death, while people are still mourning our absence, we are on our way to the God who created us. We are not stationary. We are not lying in the grave. We are alive and moving. We all know that our bodies will someday die. We don’t need to make a case from the Bible for this; we get to see it (unfortunately) every day. The real question is: “Do we live beyond the grave, beyond the physical life?” The scriptures seem to answer that question in a straightforward manner:

John 11:17-26
So when Jesus came, He found that he had already been in the tomb four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off; and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary, to console them concerning their brother. Martha therefore, when she heard that Jesus was coming, went to meet Him; but Mary still sat in the house. Martha therefore said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. “Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother shall rise again.” Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die.”

John 8:51
“Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death.”

We have a powerful promise here. When we place our trust in Christ we will never see death. Our bodies may cease to function, but there will never be a time when we could be considered dead. There is no soul sleep, even though the body dies. Once we understand what the Bible does (and doesn’t) say about the life (or death) of the soul, we can have confidence we will be reunited to God and in His presence the moment we leave this temporal life.


What is the Unborn?

By Clinton Wilcox

Before you can even answer the question of whether or not abortion is moral, you must first decide what the unborn is. For as Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason observes, if the unborn is not human, then no justification for abortion is necessary. It would be no different from having a mole removed or a tooth pulled. But if the unborn is human, then no justification for abortion is adequate.

Unborn Abortion Life

If it’s true that no one can tell when human life begins, then the benefit of the doubt should go to life. We should not be aborting the unborn because there’s a chance we could be aborting living human entities. If a hunter hears a rustling in the woods, does he shoot right away or does he make sure the rustling wasn’t caused by another human? Unless he’s Dick Cheney, he’s going to make sure it’s a deer he’s aiming at and not a human. Or if you’re driving down a road in the dark and you see the outline of something that may be a child or may simply be the shadow of a tree, do you drive into it or do you slow down? Or if you’re about to blow up a condemned building and you’re not sure if someone’s inside, do you blow it up anyway or send someone in to make sure?

However, it’s not true that no one can tell when human life begins. We can actually make the pro-life case in ten seconds or less: The unborn are alive because they grow, they are human because they have human parents, and living humans like you and me are valuable, aren’t they?

The unborn from fertilization are alive because they grow. They also exhibit other forms of life, such as cell division, metabolism, and response to stimuli. In fact, the only thing the unborn need to survive are adequate nutrition, a proper environment, and an absence of fatal threats. That’s all any of us need. There is no point in human development at which the developing entity goes from non-life to living.

The unborn are also human from fertilization. We know that everything reproduces after its own kind; dogs have dogs, cats have cats, and humans have humans. They have separate human DNA from, and often a different blood type than, the mother. A white human embryo can be created in a petri dish, implanted into a black mother, and be born white. In fact, if the unborn organism were simply a “part of the mother’s body,” then the pregnant woman would have four arms, four legs, two heads, four eyes, two noses, and roughly half the time male reproductive organs. But this is absurd. At no time during human development does the unborn ever go from “non-human” to human.

Some people think of the unborn entity as being constructed in utero, like a car. In fact, this probably accounts for why many people think pro-life advocates are so ridiculous, because they have a wrong view of what development in utero is. With a car, you have all the parts in front of you. They do not make a car on their own. It requires an outside builder to put all the pieces together into what we understand is a car. A car is not present from the beginning, because the parts that make a car can be used in the construction of something else (such as a boat or a plane).

However, the unborn’s development is different. It directs its own development from within. It does not have an outside builder, it directs its own internal growth and maturation, and this entails continuity of being. Professor Richard Stith illustrates the difference with the following analogy:

“Suppose we are back in the pre-digital photo days, and you have a Polaroid camera and you have taken a picture that you think is unique and valuable — let’s say a picture of a jaguar darting out from a Mexican jungle. The jaguar has now disappeared, so you are never going to get that picture again in your life, and you really care about it. (I am trying to make this example comparable to a human being, for we say that every human being is uniquely valuable.) You pull the tab out and as you are waiting for it to develop, I grab it away from you and rip it open, thus destroying it. When you get really angry at me, I say blithely, ‘You’re crazy. That was just a brown smudge. I cannot fathom why anyone would care about brown smudges.’ Wouldn’t you think that I were the insane one? Your photo was already there. We just couldn’t see it yet.” [1]

As pro-life philosopher Scott Klusendorf notes, “The science of embryology is clear. From the earliest stages of development, the unborn are distinct, living, and whole human beings. Therefore, every ‘successful’ abortion ends the life of a living human being.” [2]

Embryologists, who are the experts in the field on human embryos, consistently agree that the unborn are alive and human from fertilization. Consider the following from the most-used textbooks on the issue:

“Although life is a continuous process, fertilization (which, incidentally, is not a ‘moment’) is a critical landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new genetically distinct human organism is formed when the chromosomes of the male and female pronuclei blend in the oocyte.” [3]

“A zygote is the beginning of a new human being (i.e., an embryo).” [4]

There are many more examples I could give. In short, you didn’t come from an embryo, you once were an embryo. Sophisticated pro-choice philosophers also know that human life begins at fertilization.

“It is possible to give ‘human being’ a precise meaning. We can use it as equivalent to ‘member of the species Homo Sapiens.’ Whether a being is a member of a given species is something that can be determined scientifically, by an examination of the nature of the chromosomes in the cells of living organisms. In this sense there is no doubt that from the first moments of its existence an embryo conceived from human sperm and eggs is a human being.” [5]

“Perhaps the most straightforward relation between you and me on the one hand and every human fetus on the other is this: All are living members of the same species, Homo Sapiens. A human fetus after all is simply a human being at a very early stage in his or her development.” [6]

In fact, Alan Guttmacher, former president of Planned Parenthood, in 1933 (a full forty years before Roe v. Wade was passed), wrote:

“This all seems so simple and evident that it is difficult to picture a time when it wasn’t part of the common knowledge.” [7]

The facts of science are clear: human life begins at fertilization.

Objections

There are certain objections which are raised against the life and humanity of the unborn.

1) Human life doesn’t begin at fertilization, it began tens of thousands of years ago.

This is a rather bizarre objection. I’m including it here because I’ve now heard it twice. It’s simply semantic nonsense. A new, unique, genetically distinct human being is created at fertilization (as is attested by the science of embryology). In fact, the quote by O’Rahilly and Muller even attest to the fact that life is a continuous process. However, fertilization is that critical landmark that establishes the creation of a new, gentically distinct human organism.

2) Skin cells/hair follicles/sperm and eggs are human.

A pro-choice advocate who claims that zygotes/embryos/fetuses don’t have a right to life because we would have to give a right to life to cells, sperm, eggs, etc., because they are also human make the elementary mistake of confusing parts with wholes. The embryo from fertilization is a unique entity that directs its own development from within. Left alone, a skin cell will not develop into a mature human, but that’s exactly what a zygote will do. All of the embryo’s parts work together for the good (survival) of the whole organism.

Once the sperm and egg unite, they cease to exist and a brand new human organism exists. It makes no sense to say you were once a sperm or somatic cell. It makes complete sense to say you were once an embryo. The sperm and egg merely contribute genetic material to the creation of a new human organism.

3) Freezing/Twinning/Recombining

A pro-choice advocate I debated with once claimed that you can’t freeze an adult human, but you can freeze an embryo and it will come back to life, so the embryo cannot be human. This is faulty reasoning. First, embryos can only be frozen up to seven days after fertilization, but the embryonic stage lasts up to three months. After that, it is a fetus. But embryo and fetus are just stages of human development, like infant, toddler, adolescent, teenager, adult, and elderly.

Second, even though a very early embryo can survive the freezing process, it doesn’t follow that they are not human. This just means that early embryos can do one more thing that more mature humans can’t (they can also survive without a heart or a brain).

When it comes to twinning, this also doesn’t follow that just because some embryos twin, that there wasn’t one whole human organism before that. As Patrick Lee points out, “if we cut a flatworm in half, we get two flatworms.” [8] However, can you seriously argue that prior to the split, there wasn’t one distinct flatworm? Also, admittedly, we aren’t entirely sure what happens during twinning. Does the original organism die and give rise to two new organisms, or does the original survive and engage in some sort of asexual reproduction? Either way, it does not call into question the fact that there was one distinct organism prior to the splitting.

By the same token, it doesn’t follow that if one twin re-absorbs the other that there wasn’t one living human organism, then two separate organisms, then one living human organism again.

4) Not all products of conception are human and won’t develop into them, and not all human beings may result from conception.

Dr. Bernard Nathanson distinguishes three types of nonhuman entities that result from a union of sperm and egg: the hydatidiform mole (“an entity which is usually just a degenerated placenta and typically has a random number of chromosomes”), the choriocarcinoma (“a conception-cancer resulting from the sperm-egg union is one of gynecology’s most malignant tumors”), and the “blighted ovum” (“a conception with the forty-six chromosomes but which is only a placenta, lacks an embryonic plate, and is always aborted naturally after implantations”). [9]

Here, Dr. Nathanson confuses necessary and sufficient conditions. The sperm-egg union is a necessary condition for conception of a human, not a sufficient one. Not everything that arises from the sperm-egg union is a human conception, but a sperm-egg union is necessary for conception of a human.

Conversely, human clones arise without the benefit of conception. Just as the sperm-egg union is a necessary condition for conception and not a sufficient condition, conception itself is a sufficient condition for a human being to come into existence, not a necessary one. [10]

5) Miscarriages.

People often point to the high number of miscarriages that occur (many of which are flushed out of the woman’s body). However, how does it follow that just because the woman’s body may miscarry, that the unborn isn’t human? How does it follow that because nature spontaneously aborts unborn humans that we may deliberately kill them? People die of natural causes, but that does not justify murder. Natural disasters (e.g. tornadoes and earthquakes) kill many people at once, but this does not justify bombing cities.

Also, it should be noted that 100% of all humans conceived die. Whether you die as an embryo, a fetus, a teenager, or an adult, why would that affect your status as a human being?

Original Blog Source: http://bit.ly/2lzyh8U

Christian Apologetics Alliance BLOG Banner


[1] Richard Stith, “Does Making Babies Make Sense? Why So Many People Find it Difficult to See Humanity in a Developing Foetus,” Mercatornet, September 2, 2008.
[2] Scott Klusendorf, The Case for Life, Crossway Books, 2009, p. 35.
[3] Ronan O’Rahilly and Fabiola Muller, Human Embryology and Teratology, 3rd ed., New York: Wiley-Liss, 2001, p.8
[4] Keith L. Moore, The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology, 7th ed., Philadelphia, PA: Saunders, 2003, p.2
[5] Peter Singer, Practical Ethics, 2nd ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), pp.85-86.
[6] David Boonin, A Defense of Abortion, (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2003), p. 20.
[7] Alan Guttmacher, Life in the Making: The Story of Human Procreation, New York: Viking Press, 1933, p. 3.
[8] Patrick Lee, Abortion and Unborn Human Life (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University Press in America, 1996), p. 93.
[9] Bernard Nathanson, Aborting America, (New York: Doubleday, 1979), p. 214, as cited in Francis Beckwith, Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, New York, 2007), p. 74.
[10] Paraphrased from Francis Beckwith, Defending Life: A moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice, pp. 74-75.


 

The Difference Between Christian Grace and Mormon Grace

Words matter. Ideas have consequences. In the years that I have been engaging Mormons about matters of faith, I’ve learned to define terms very carefully. Christians and Mormons use many of the same terms: “grace”, “heaven”, “Jesus”, “God”, “salvation” and many more. But when the definitions of these terms are examined, it’s apparent that we are talking about extremely different ideas. These differences matter. They separate Mormons and Christians and demonstrate that we are not worshipping the same God.

Christian Mormon Grace

As an example, I’ve been in conversations with Mormons and have talked about the nature of grace and salvation. Maybe you’ve had similar conversations:

You: “As a Christian, I believe that we are saved by faith alone.”

Your Mormon Friend: “As a Mormon, I agree!”

You: “Huh?”

Your Mormon Friend: “Mormons know that ‘salvation’ as you put it, is a gift from God.”

You: “OK, but we believe that Jesus paid the penalty for our sin and that He alone saves us.”

Your Mormon Friend: “We agree! We believe that Jesus died for us and that without His gift of salvation, none of us would be ‘saved’ as you are calling it.

You: “OK, but Christians believe that Jesus’ work ALONE saves us; we don’t believe that our own efforts can save us at all.”

Your Mormon Friend: “We feel the same way! We know that Jesus alone makes it possible for us to be reunited with Heavenly Father; we don’t believe that ‘salvation’, can be achieved with our good works.”

Wow, it sure sounds like your Mormon friend holds a Christian view of salvation through faith alone, doesn’t it? I’ve had many conversations that are very similar to this one. The Mormon doctrine of salvation is NOT the same as the Christian doctrine, but unless you take the time to ask good questions and sift through the answers, you may not see the distinctions clearly.

What Do We Mean When We Use the Term, “Heaven”?
Let me try to describe the difference between “Christian grace” and “Mormon grace” with an illustration that I’ve used hundreds of times training Christians to discuss their faith with Mormons. Before we begin, however, we need to define a foundational term: “heaven”. Christians sometimes ask their Mormon friends, “If you died today, would you be in heaven?” or “What do you have to do to go to heaven?” Unless we define the term “heaven” this approach will not help us understand the differences between the two faith systems. I never use the term “heaven” when talking to my Mormon friends and family. Instead, I focus on “the greatest gift that God can offer us after death”. For Christians, this is, in fact, heaven; the realm of god we will share for all eternity. But the Mormon heaven is divided into three levels and virtually everyone is going to get into one of these levels. Any of these heavenly “ranks” could accurately be called “heaven”. So we need to be more specific with our Mormon friends; for them, the “the greatest gift that God can offer us after death” is not just “heaven”, it’s exaltation in Celestial Kingdom. This exaltation results in deity for the Mormon believer. They become Gods just like Heavenly Father.

Is Grace A Ladder or a Lifeline?
So, the real question is, “What must you do to be exalted in Celestial Kingdom with Heavenly Father?” Now, with this question clarified, we can talk about grace and the contribution that Jesus makes to this process. So, here is the illustration that I typically use: imagine that you are a Mormon who wants “the greatest gift that God can offer after death” (heaven). How can you achieve exaltation in Celestial Kingdom? For the Mormon, Jesus makes this journey possible because he visits us here on earth and, in essence, provides us with a ladder we can climb to heaven. This ladder is a free gift. It is given as an act of “grace” according to our Mormon friends. But here is the problem: the Mormon has to climb the ladder on his or her own. This climbing is done through a lifelong series of good works. Jesus may give you the ladder, but he doesn’t climb it for you.

This is an important distinction to understand. Mormons will tell us that they cannot get to “Celestial Kingdom” without the free gift offered by Jesus. That’s true. Without the free ladder, you can’t begin to climb. Mormons will also say that Jesus alone makes it possible for them to attain the “greatest gift that God offers us after death”. That’s true. Only Jesus has the ladder. Mormons will also say that they could never ascend to Celestial Kingdom on the basis of their own good works. That’s also true; “climbing” isn’t possible unless there’s a ladder to climb. Mormons can’t get to Celestial Kingdom with their own good works alone; they need that ladder.

So, What’s the Difference Between Mormon Grace and Christian Grace?
The Christian view of grace doesn’t involve a ladder of any kind; in Christian theology, Jesus doesn’t bring us a ladder to climb. Instead, Jesus drops us a lifeline, a rope He climbs down and ties to each of us. Jesus then pulls us up on his own, in spite of our own inability. It doesn’t matter how heavy we are or where we are in our journey toward sanctification. We simply have to trust him to tie the lifeline. Mormonism is a works based religion, like many other world religions. In fact, in this one regard, Mormonism is like every other world religion. Christianity stands alone as the only religion that offers true “grace” to its adherents. Salvation is not the result of anything we do. God offers it as a free gift; not a free opportunity to work hard for our salvation, but a truly free gift that needs no additional contribution on our part. This distinction is critical and it separates Mormonism from Christianity, not as a separate denomination, but as a completely separate notion about the nature and saving work of God.


J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, a Christian Case Maker, and the author of Cold-Case Christianity

How Do I Motivate Students Who Don’t Seem to Care?

One of the most common—and frankly one of the toughest—questions I receive is how to motivate students who are apathetic. How do you make students care? If you are expecting an easy answer, then you might as well click away now. Students are not robots and so we can’t force them to care about anything! But there are a few things I have learned from my experience and research that may help you motivate students who don’t seem to care about spiritual issues:

Students Apologetics Motivation

  1. Build a relationship with students. When students sense that an adult really cares, they are much more likely to listen. When I taught high school full time, I especially focused on building relationships with the students who seemed apathetic. I took time to listen to them, encourage them, and go to various events they found important (school plays, dances, sporting events, etc.). I wanted them to know that I genuinely cared. I knew that was a key ingredient in motivating them to care about spiritual issues. If you want students to care about spiritual things, they need to first know that you care about them.
  2. Take students out of their normal environment. One of the reason camps can be so powerful is that it gets kids out of their everyday routine. Sometimes kids need to be away from their daily lives to consider spiritual truths in a fresh way. It’s amazing how open students’ hearts often are when they just slow down and step outside their normal environment. But it doesn’t just have to be at camp. Some of my best conversations with students have been on car rides to sporting events, at barbeques, on mission trips, and over coffee.
  3. Use pop culture illustrations in your teaching. Students love movies. They love social media. That’s the air they breathe! In my experience, students seem to come alive when I teach biblical truth with examples from pop culture. That’s why I used to teach an entire worldview unit through the lens of film (my favorite text was Hollywood Worldviews by Brian Godawa). To be motivated to care about spiritual things, students need to see the connection between the secular and sacred worlds. Teaching biblical truth through film is one great way to do this.
  4. Challenge students. Many students are unmotivated because church (and by extension God) bores them. Yet, I have found many students respond when they are challenged and provided a practical way to make a difference. You can do this in three ways:
    1. Challenge students to serve: One year I took some students to visit a veteran’s hospital. The hospital requested DVDs, and so we did a DVD drive for the veterans. Once the students saw that they could practically make a difference, many stepped up and served.
    2. Challenge students to have spiritual conversations. Consider taking students on to a college campus, or to visit another religious site, to have spiritual conversations with people of different faiths. Just prep your students carefully, and use these surveys by Brett Kunkle at Stand to Reason to start conversations.
    3. Challenge students to defend their faith. I love to role-play with students. They tend to come alive when I role-play an atheist, Muslim, pro-choicer, or a host of other positions. I force them to think, put them on the defensive, and provide no easy answers. You can also consider bringing in someone of a different faith to engage your students, but just use wisdom if doing so.
  5. Ask questions rather than give simple answers. Jesus asked a lot of questions, even when he knew the answers. Why? He wanted to elicit faith in people. We do a disservice to students when we give simple answers rather than asking deep questions. In fact, when ministering to students, questions are almost always better than answers. I want students to gain a love for wisdom, and to learn how to think, which only comes when we refuse to give simple answers. Asking timely and thoughtful questions can often help elicit spiritual interest in students who are otherwise apathetic.
  6. Have a long-term perspective. Often times youth leaders beat themselves up for “failing” to motivate certain students. But here’s the reality: there may be nothing you can do to motivate certain students whose hearts are not open to spiritual things. I had a student who graduated from my class who went to the local JC. His goal in my class was to get the minimal passing grade (If I remember correctly, he got a C-). And yet the year after graduation he came back to sit in my class and to encourage other students to pay attention. Why? He was challenged in his faith by professors and started taking his beliefs more seriously than ever. I asked him what I could have done differently to motivate him in high school, and I will never forget what he said: “Nothing. I wasn’t ready spiritually. But I did learn more than you probably realized.” Even if a student seems apathetic, you might be surprised how much he or she is actually learning. Don’t give up!

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author of over 18 books, an internationally recognized speaker, and a part-time high school teacher. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.

 


 

Are People Who Believe in Minds Simply Ignorant of the Science?

As a Christian believer, I am a “dualist”; I identify the brain and mind (as well as the body and soul) as two distinct entities and realities. “Dualism” describes mind and matter as two separate categories of being; neither can be reduced to the other in any way. If non-material minds truly do exist, they are free to possess their own distinct characteristics, unshared by their physical counterparts (brains).

Materialists (those who reject non-material entities) typically reject such dualistic explanations. If dualism is true, the source for nonmaterial mind cannot come from “inside the room” of the material universe, and this, in and of itself, is objectionable to those committed to atheistic, material explanations. As a result, atheists have offered several objections to dualism. In this article, I’d like to examine just one of them to discover if it minimized the strength of the Christian explanation of reality:

Objection: Dualism Resists the Growing Acceptance of Physicalism

Philosophical naturalists deny the existence and influence of nonmaterial (or supernatural) entities, and many scientists are as committed to physicalism and physical evolutionary processes as they are opposed to dualism. The theory of evolution is a wholly physical enterprise; material processes engage matter using the laws of physics and chemistry, guided and shaped by physical, environmental influences. If materialistic, evolutionary processes produce humans such as ourselves, they must also produce human minds. If human minds are the result of purely physical processes of evolution, they must also be physical entities.

This objection may sound reasonable, but it begs the question. In the end, the explanation we embrace must account for the five distinct evidences differentiating minds from brains. We cannot begin this investigation committed to a presupposition of philosophical naturalism or physicalism when this is the very thing we are trying to investigate in the first place. (We are investigating the question: Is there a nonphysical entity called the mind?) There appear to be five distinct characteristics of mind distinguishing it from the brain (refer to God’s Crime Scene for these distinctions). Whatever explanation we finally embrace, it cannot be chosen (in advance) based purely on our prior philosophical commitments. Like detectives entering a murder scene (or jurors assessing the case in a courtroom), we cannot begin our investigation with a preconceived idea about who killed the victim. We must, instead, allow the evidence to guide our decision.

I’ve edited and excerpted this brief article from my expansive (and referenced) investigation in God’s Crime Scene. Any effort to deny the distinct differences between mental states and brain states simply ignores the evidence, errantly redefines the nature of the mind, or suffers from a logical inconsistency (three flaws common to false arguments in most criminal trials). Dualism remains the best explanation for our common experience of consciousness, in spite of the growing bias toward physicalism. The best explanation for the existence of non-material consciousness is the existence of a non-material mind who created us in his image:

An Illustration from God’s Crime Scene

Atheism simply cannot adequately explain our experience of mind. If, however, there is an all-powerful mind who created the universe and conscious creatures in His image, consciousness is not only reasonable but inevitable. For a much more robust account of the inadequacy of naturalism in this regard, please refer to God’s Crime Scene, and be sure to request our free teaching outlines so you can share the case with others.

J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, a Christian Case Maker, and the author of Cold-Case Christianity, Cold-Case Christianity for Kids, and God’s Crime Scene.

Comment or Subscribe to J. Warner’s Daily Email

Is It Reasonable to Believe in Minds Even If We Can’t Explain How They Interact with Brains?

As a Christian theist, I am a “dualist”; I identify the brain and mind (as well as the body and soul) as two distinct entities and realities. Dualism describes mind and matter as two separate categories of being; neither can be reduced to the other in any way. If nonmaterial minds truly do exist, they are free to possess their own distinct characteristics, unshared by their physical counterparts (brains).

Materialists (those who reject non-material entities) typically reject such dualistic explanations. If dualism is true, the source for nonmaterial mind cannot come from “inside the room” of the material universe, and this, in and of itself, is objectionable to those committed to atheistic, material explanations. As a result, atheists have offered several objections to dualism. In this article, I’d like to examine just one of them to discover if it minimized the strength of the Christian explanation of reality:

Objection: Dualistic Interaction Is Difficult to Understand, Therefore Dualism Is Untrue

The “interaction problem” is perhaps the largest obstacle for dualist explanations. Dualists believe the mind is completely distinct from the brain yet interacts with it in some way. But how precisely does this occur, especially given the nonmaterial nature of the mind? The laws of physics explain the causal interactions between physical objects, but how can a nonmaterial mind interact with a material brain? In response to this objection, philosophers have historically offered a variety of explanations, including “occasionalism,” “parallelism,” and “epiphenomenalism” (read God’s Crime Scene for more on these definitions).

But even without certainty related to the specific way in which the mind relates to the brain, this objection alone fails to exclude dualism from consideration. Our lack of understanding about how the mind interacts isn’t prohibitive evidence against this interaction. If dualism is true, we must look to a source external to the physical universe to explain the existence of the mind. This opens the door to the reasonable existence of God and, as a result, extra-natural explanations for the interaction between mind and brain.

However, even without pondering the Divine, there are several examples of causal interactions here in our universe for which we have less than complete understanding. Magnetic fields act on objects, as do gravitational forces. In both cases we have no doubt about the causal interaction between entities, yet we have less than complete understanding about the precise nature of these interactions. And in both cases, the nature of the causes and the character of the effects appear to be substantively different, just as the nature of the mind and the brain are fundamentally different.

I’ve edited and excerpted this brief summary from my expansive (and referenced) investigation in God’s Crime Scene. Any effort to deny the distinct differences between mental states and brain states simply ignores the evidence, errantly redefines the nature of the mind, or suffers from a logical inconsistency (three flaws common to false arguments in most criminal trials). Dualism remains the best explanation for our common experience of consciousness in spite of the “interaction problem.” The best explanation for the existence of non-material consciousness is the existence of a non-material mind who created us in his image:

An Illustration from God’s Crime Scene

Atheism simply cannot adequately explain our experience of mind. If, however, there is an all-powerful mind who created the universe and conscious creatures in His image, consciousness is not only reasonable but inevitable. For a much more robust account of the inadequacy of naturalism in this regard, please refer to God’s Crime Scene, and be sure to request our free teaching outlines so you can share the case with others.

J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, a Christian Case Maker, and the author of Cold-Case Christianity, Cold-Case Christianity for Kids, and God’s Crime Scene.

Comment or Subscribe to J. Warner’s Daily Email

Does the Temple Prediction Invalidate the Early Dating of the Gospels?

While the absence of any description of the temple’s destruction can reasonably be interpreted as a piece of circumstantial evidence supporting the early dating of the New Testament accounts, skeptics sometimes use this fact to make just the opposite case. Many have proposed that Jesus’s prediction related to the destruction was inserted to legitimize the text and make it appear that He had some prophetic power. If this was the case, the Gospels would clearly date to after the event (post AD 70), as the writers already knew the outcome before they cleverly inserted the prediction.

But, this sort of skepticism is clearly rooted in the presupposition I describe on this website and in my book, Cold-Case Christianity. If we begin from a position of philosophical naturalism (the presumption that nothing supernatural is possible), we have no choice but to describe the supernatural elements we find in the Gospels as lies. From a naturalistic perspective, prophetic claims are impossible. The skeptic, therefore, must find another explanation for Jesus’s prediction related to the temple; critics typically move the date of authorship beyond the date when the prophecy was fulfilled to avoid the appearance of supernatural confirmation. But as we described earlier, a fair examination of the evidence that supports supernaturalism must at least allow for the possibility of supernaturalism in the first place. The naturalistic bias of these critics prevents them from accepting any dating that precedes the destruction of the temple in AD 70 and forces them to ignore all the circumstantial evidence that supports the early dating.

When explaining why the destruction of the temple itself was not included in the gospel record, skeptics have argued that the gospel writers intentionally omitted the fulfillment to make the accounts look like they were written early. But if this was the case, why were the gospel writers unafraid to describe the fulfillment of prophecy in other passages in the Gospels? Over and over again we see the fulfillment of Old Testament messianic prophecies that are attributed to Jesus in one manner or another.

In addition to this, on several occasions Jesus predicted His own resurrection. The gospel writers readily described the fulfillment of these predictions in the resurrection accounts. Why would they be willing to describe this aspect of fulfilled prophecy, but shy away from discussing the destruction of the temple?

In addition, Luke freely admitted that he was not an eyewitness to the events in his gospel. He told us from the onset that he was writing at some point well after the events actually occurred, working as a careful historian. Why not include the siege of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple? There was no reason to be shy here. Other Old Testament authors wrote from a perspective that followed the events they described and were unafraid to say so. Moses, Joshua, and Samuel, for example, repeatedly reported on events that took place well before their written account; they often wrote that the conditions they were describing continued from the point of the event “to this day” (indicating the late point at which they were actually writing). Why wouldn’t Luke take a similar approach to the destruction of the temple, especially given the fact that he made no pretense about writing as a historian?

While it is certainly possible that the Gospels were all written after the destruction of the temple, it is not evidentially reasonable. In fact, the primary motivation for denying the early authorship of the Gospels is simply the bias against supernaturalism that leads skeptics to re-date the Scriptures to some point following the fulfillment of Jesus’s prophecy.

This article was excerpted from my first book. To learn more, please refer to Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels, and be sure to request our free teaching outlines so you can share the case with others.

J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, a Christian Case Maker, and the author of Cold-Case Christianity, Cold-Case Christianity for Kids, and God’s Crime Scene.

Comment or Subscribe to J. Warner’s Daily Email

Men of God Should Understand the Importance of Fatherhood

I first noticed the problem as a Gang Detail officer in the early 1990’s. Our city was culturally and ethnically diverse, and we had a gang problem that seemed to transcend ethnic, cultural, and socio-economic boundaries. We had wealthy Korean gangsters, middle-class white gangsters, and upper, middle class and lower class Hispanic and African-American gangsters. I was raising two and four year old boys at the time and I was interested in what caused the young men in my community to become gangsters in the first place. It certainly didn’t seem to be something in their culture; they came from very diverse backgrounds. What was it? The more I got to know these gang members, the clearer the problem became: all of them suffered from “lack of dad.”

god fatherhood

Many of the white gangsters had fathers that were uninvolved, alcoholic or “deadbeat” dads. Many of the Korean fathers were first generation Koreans who never learned the English language, started businesses in our community and worked so hard that they had absolutely no relationship with their sons. Some of the Hispanic fathers were incarcerated and most of our Hispanic gangsters came from a multi-generational gang culture. Many of the African-American gangsters told me that they never even knew their father; they had been raised by mothers and grandmothers without their biological dads. Over and over again I saw the same thing: young men who were wandering without direction or moral compass, in large part because they didn’t have a father at home to teach them. Many studies have confirmed my own anecdotal observations.

I can remember seeing a movie during my tour on the Gang Detail. It was called “Boyz ‘N The Hood“. My partner told me I simply had to see it. I thought it was one of the best movies ever made on the importance of fatherhood. The primary character is a young man who is raised by his mother until he starts to go astray. His mom then delivers him to his father who begins to raise him up in a tough neighborhood but manages to provide him with the moral role modeling he really needed. The movie demonstrated what I learned as a Gang Detail officer: it takes a man to teach a boy how to be a man.

I’ve also learned this first-hand. My dad was largely absent in my childhood and it was tough to understand my role in the world as a man without the daily input from my father. I noticed that as I reached my teen years, I was actually interested in reaching out to my dad and making sure we had a relationship. I needed him. In many ways, I became him in an effort to understand what it was to be a man. I ended up leaving a career in the arts to follow him into Law Enforcement. The power and guidance of a father is an undeniable force in the life of a young man.

As Christians, we ought to get this more than any other group. Scripture is filled with passages that describe the importance of fathers. In addition, the Bible consistently references fatherhood in an effort to analogize God’s relationship with each of us. What does Scripture tell us about the role of Fathers? First and foremost, we are to be teachers:

Deuteronomy 6:6-9
“These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”

This is the role and duty of fathers; to teach our kids to embrace the image of God in which they were created. So today, on Thanksgiving Day, I would like all of the fathers who read this post to recognize their debt to their own fathers. If your father was absent, be grateful that you have a chance to do what he never did. Be a dad. Start teaching your kids. Take the words of Dr. Tony Evans to heart:

“It is a fool who says. ‘I do not tell my children what to believe’, because if you don’t, someone else will.  The drug addicts are commanding your children and your children are obeying.  The lust mongers are commanding your daughters and your daughters are obeying.  For God’s sake YOU command something!”

J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, a Christian Case Maker, and the author of Cold-Case Christianity, Cold-Case Christianity for Kids, and God’s Crime Scene.

Comment or Subscribe to J. Warner’s Daily Email


How Do We Make Theology Come Alive for Students?

How do we make theology engaging and interesting for students? While I certainly don’t claim to have it all figured out, and am always looking for some creative and new ideas, here are four lessons I have learned from roughly two decades of teaching and speaking to students on theological issues.

students theology

First, use stories. We all love stories. Students do too. As Jonathan Gottschall wrote in his excellent book The Storytelling Animal, “Human minds yield hopelessly to the suction of story. No matter how hard we concentrate, not matter how deep we dig in our heels, we just can’t resist the gravity of alternate worlds.” Jesus told stories for a few reasons. People remember them. We relate to them. And lessons are best learned through stories. Jesus was asked who qualifies as a neighbor, and he told the story of the Good Samaritan. He was asked how many times we should forgive people and he told the story of the Unmerciful Servant. Teach theological doctrines, but whenever possible, tell a story.

Second, use cultural examples. Students today are engrossed with the prevailing culture. The movies they watch, the music they listen to, and the technology they use are all influenced by our wider culture. Sometimes we need to critique culture and other times we need to show how Christ is within culture. But using cultural examples of theology not only makes theology interesting to students, it also helps them make connections from their theology to the “real” world. For instance, recently I was talking with my students about the biblical view of sex. And so I used an example from the movie Passengers, which I wrote about here.

Third, ask good questions. In my experience, good questions are far better than answers. As I wrote in a recent post, my teachers who asked me good questions had a far greater impact on my life than those who simply gave me answers. Isn’t that true for you too? Students today have access to endless information. Simply giving kids theological truths has some value, but far more important is helping kids think theologically. We simply can’t cover every conceivable theological issue in our classrooms, ministries, or conversations. But we can give students a template for how to think theologically. And even if we did cover every issue of today, new issues will inevitably arise. Thus, the most important educational task today is teaching students how to think, how to arrive at truth. And one of the best ways to do this is to ask good questions and guide students through how to discover reasonable answers.

Fourth, connect theology to practical life. According to the National Survey of Youth and Religion [1] students today tend to compartmentalize their spiritual faith. In other words, they tend to believe that science, math and history are matters of objective truth, but spiritual beliefs are merely a matter of preference that helps give their lives meaning. As a result, few students are able (or interested) to translate theology to their practical lives. In other words, few students can show how their beliefs about God practically shape how they live. If we don’t connect theology to how kids actually live, what’s the point? While there are many ways to do this (such as through stories, experiences, and personal examples), one simple step is to always ask, after teaching a theological truth: How should this affect the way we actually live?

Students need to see that believing God created the world should influence how we treat the environment. They need to connect belief in the resurrection to how we handle death. And they need to see how belief we are made in the image of God shapes the way we think about abortion, pornography, bullying, racism, eating disorders and many other issues. Theological teaching is not complete until students connect truth to their daily lives.

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author of over 18 books, an internationally recognized speaker, and a part-time high school teacher. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.


[1] This study is admittedly dated. But my experience and subsequent research confirms that this point is still largely true among today’s youth.