Thursday, August 21, 2014

Kenneth Samples Summarizes 10 Ways Christian Belief Creates a Hospitable Environment for Scientific Inquiry

1. The physical universe is an objective reality, which is ontologically distinct from the Creator (Genesis 1:1; John 1:1).

2. The laws of nature exhibit order, pattern and regularity, since they are established by an orderly God (Psalm 19:1-4).

3. The laws of nature are uniform throughout the physical universe, since God created and providentially sustains them.

4. The physical universe is intelligible because God created us to know himself, ourselves and the rest of creation (Genesis 1-2; Proverbs 8).

5. The world is good, valuable, and worthy of careful study because it was created for purpose by a perfectly good God (Genesis 1).  Humans, as the unique image bearers of God, were created to discern, discover and develop the goodness of creation for the glory of God and human betterment through work. The creation mandate (Genesis 1:26-28) includes scientific activity.

6. Because the world is not divine and therefore not a proper object of worship, it can be an object of rational study and empirical observation.

7. Human beings possess the ability to discover the universe's intelligibility, since we are made in God's image and have been placed on earth to develop its intrinsic possibilities.

8. Because God did not reveal everything about nature, empirical investigation is necessary to discern the patterns God laid down in creation.

9. God encourages, even propels, science through his imperative to humans to take dominion over nature (Genesis 1:28).

10. The intellectual virtues essential to carrying out the scientific enterprise (studiousness, honesty, integrity, humility and courage) are part of God's moral law. [1]

Courage and Godspeed,

1. Kenneth Samples, Without a Doubt, p. 192-194; this is a summary that Doug Groothuis offers in his book Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith, p. 102-103.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The One Minute Apologist Interviews Brett Kunkle on Mormonism

In these featured videos Brett Kunkle of Stand to Reason explains how we can know if Mormons believe in the same Jesus as Christians and how to respond to a Mormon testimony.

For more from the One Minute Apologist, see here.

Courage and Godspeed,

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Was the Apostle Paul Anti-Semitic?

Some have charged that the Apostle Paul was guilty of anti-Semitism because in 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16 he wrote:

"For you, brothers, became imitators of God's churches in Christ Jesus that are in Judea, since you have also suffered the same things from people of your own country, just as they did from the Jews.  They killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and persecuted us; they displease God, and are hostile to everyone, hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved.  As a result, they are always adding to the number of their sins, and wrath has overtaken them completely" [HCSB].

However, this accusation clearly misunderstands the text, as the study notes in the Apologetics Study Bible explain:

First of all, "Paul-a Jew himself-was not speaking of all Jews but only of the small minority in Judea involved in anti-Christian persecution.

Furthermore, logically Paul could not have meant "all Jews," because many of those who followed Jesus (including himself) were Jews.  Paul taught that our sins are the reason Jesus died; we all share responsibility in His death (Rm. 4:25; 1 Cor. 15:3; Gal. 1:4; 1 Tim 1:15)." [1]

This is a good lesson for both the Bible believer and the Bible critic- always read verses in their context using good reason!

Courage and Godspeed,

1. The Apologetics Study Bible, see study notes, p. 1791.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Future of Science

Will science keep its materialist foundation? In this podcast of Houston Baptist University, Dr. John Mark Reynolds spoke with Dr. Philip E. Johnson of the paradigm shifts occurring in science.

Stand firm in Christ,

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering

Chapter Six: The Sovereignty of God

The bible describes two foundational balances:
1.      Suffering is both just and unjust.
2.      God is both a sovereign and a suffering God.

On page 131, Dr. Keller tells us, “Human beings were not created to experience death, pain, grief, disappointment, ruptured relationships, disease, and natural disasters.  The world we were made to live in was not supposed to be like that.  A frustrated world is a broken world, in which things do not function as they should, and that is why there is evil and suffering.”  That is the theme of Genesis 1-3.  We now live in a world that falls short of its design.  Paul explains this in Romans 8:18-21.

So in this context, we understand that the Bible teaches that suffering is a form of justice.  Throughout history peoples and individuals have been rewarded or punished as natural consequences of their choices and actions.  Much of the suffering we see around us results from violating God’s moral law which has its consequences just as jumping off a building in an attempt to violate the law of gravity will have rather painful results.

Now some take this idea to the degree that every instance of suffering has a specific wrongdoing for which one is being punished.  We also recognize that suffering is not proportionate or fair.  Many bad people live very good lives while some of the best people have absolutely terrible lives.  Yet we can indeed cry out in our confusion.

The Bible reveals both of these ideas to us.  Proverbs shows how justice is related to suffering as the result of wrongdoing, that hard work leads to prosperity and laziness leads to want.  But Job and Ecclesiastes show that it doesn’t always work that way, that suffering is definitely not the result of wrongdoing, it is often unjust.  But the Bible also teaches that the world is the creative product of one all-powerful God for the sheer joy of creating and that there is a fabric of design or structure and a foundation of moral order.

Next we learn of suffering as the enemy of God.  It is an intrusion into creation.  The explanation of this is found the narrative of Jesus raising Lazarus from death.  When Jesus approached the tomb, the Greek word used describes that Jesus “bellowed with anger.”  Death is the object of his wrath it is that which he came into the world to destroy.  As we learned previously, evil is so rooted in the human heart that if Jesus had destroyed evil he would have destroyed us.  But instead he came in weakness and endured the cross to pay for our sins so he can wipe out evil in the future without ending us.

While philosophers (and non-philosophers) decry an all-powerful and all-good God, the Bible goes beyond these abstract ideas.  God is not just all-powerful he is sovereign over every event in history.  God is not just all-good he entered into this world and experienced greater evil, pain and suffering than any of us have experienced.  Sometimes this doctrine of sovereignty is called compatibilism.  He is in complete control of what happens yet exercises that control through the free choices and actions of human beings who are responsible.  His plan is worked out perfectly through our choices and willing actions, not despite them.  He never forces us to do anything, we always do what we want to do and our choices have consequences.

In the Book of Acts, Peter explains that Jesus was crucified according to God’s plan, yet it was lawless men who killed him.  Joseph, in Genesis, explains to his brothers that what they intended for evil, i.e. selling him into slavery, God intended for good, i.e. raising him up to save innumerable lives from famine.  In Exodus, the text describes that Pharaoh’s heart is hardened by God and by Pharaoh himself both equally.  So which is it?  Both.  So at the most practical level, we have “crucial assurance that even wickedness and tragedy, which we know was not part of God’s original design, is nonetheless being woven into a wise plan.  So the promise of Romans 8, ‘that all things work together for good,’ is an incomparable comfort to believers.”  (page 144)

Next week Chapter Seven: The Suffering of God.

Until then, don’t take my word for it, read the book – don’t wait for the movie,
and have a little hope on me,

To learn more about Timothy Keller and his work at Redeemer Presbyterian Church, you can check out his 
personal website, his Facebook page or the church homepage.

Keller, Timothy (2013), Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering. Penguin Group. ISBN 978-0-525-95245-9

Friday, August 15, 2014

Peter Kreeft on How to Communicate

“An argument in apologetics, when actually used in dialogue, is an extension of the arguer. The arguer's tone, sincerity, care, concern, listening, and respect matter as much as his or her logic - probably more. The world was won for Christ not by arguments but by sanctity: 'What you are speaks so loud, I can hardly hear what you say.'' [1]

Courage and Godspeed,


1. Peter Kreeft, Pocket Handbook of Apologetics.


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Old Testament Law and the Charge of Inconsistency

I recently came across this article published in 2012 by Timothy Keller:

I find it frustrating when I read or hear columnists, pundits, or journalists dismiss Christians as inconsistent because “they pick and choose which of the rules in the Bible to obey.” What I hear most often is “Christians ignore lots of Old Testament texts—about not eating raw meat or pork or shellfish, not executing people for breaking the Sabbath, not wearing garments woven with two kinds of material and so on. Then they condemn homosexuality. Aren’t they just picking and choosing what they want to believe from the Bible?”

It is not that I expect everyone to have the capability of understanding that the whole Bible is about Jesus and God’s plan to redeem his people, but I vainly hope that one day someone will access their common sense (or at least talk to an informed theological advisor) before leveling the charge of inconsistency.

First of all, let’s be clear that it’s not only the Old Testament that has proscriptions about homosexuality. The New Testament has plenty to say about it, as well. Even Jesus says, in his discussion of divorce in Matthew 19:3-12 that the original design of God was for one man and one woman to be united as one flesh, and failing that, (v. 12) persons should abstain from marriage and from sex.

However, let’s get back to considering the larger issue of inconsistency regarding things mentioned in the OT that are no longer practiced by the New Testament people of God. Most Christians don’t know what to say when confronted about this. Here’s a short course on the relationship of the Old Testament to the New Testament:

The Old Testament devotes a good amount of space to describing the various sacrifices that were to be offered in the tabernacle (and later temple) to atone for sin so that worshippers could approach a holy God. As part of that sacrificial system there was also a complex set of rules for ceremonial purity and cleanness. You could only approach God in worship if you ate certain foods and not others, wore certain forms of dress, refrained from touching a variety of objects, and so on. This vividly conveyed, over and over, that human beings are spiritually unclean and can’t go into God’s presence without purification.

But even in the Old Testament, many writers hinted that the sacrifices and the temple worship regulations pointed forward to something beyond them. (cf. 1 Samuel 15:21-22; Psalm 50:12-15; 51:17; Hosea 6:6). When Christ appeared he declared all foods ‘clean’ (Mark 7:19) and he ignored the Old Testament clean laws in other ways, touching lepers and dead bodies.

But the reason is made clear. When he died on the cross the veil in the temple was ripped through, showing that the need for the entire sacrificial system with all its clean laws had been done away with. Jesus is the ultimate sacrifice for sin, and now Jesus makes us “clean.”

The entire book of Hebrews explains that the Old Testament ceremonial laws were not so much abolished as fulfilled by Christ. Whenever we pray ‘in Jesus name’, we ‘have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus’ (Hebrews 10:19). It would, therefore, be deeply inconsistent with the teaching of the Bible as a whole if we were to continue to follow the ceremonial laws.

The New Testament gives us further guidance about how to read the Old Testament. Paul makes it clear in places like Romans 13:8ff that the apostles understood the Old Testament moral law to still be binding on us. In short, the coming of Christ changed how we worship but not how we live. The moral law is an outline of God’s own character—his integrity, love, and faithfulness. And so all the Old Testament says about loving our neighbor, caring for the poor, generosity with our possessions, social relationships, and commitment to our family is still in force. The New Testament continues to forbid killing or committing adultery, and all the sex ethic of the Old Testament is re-stated throughout the New Testament (Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Corinthians 6:9-20; 1 Timothy 1:8-11.) If the New Testament has reaffirmed a commandment, then it is still in force for us today.

Further, the New Testament explains another change between the Testaments. Sins continue to be sins—but the penalties change. In the Old Testament things like adultery or incest were punishable with civil sanctions like execution. This is because at that time God’s people existed in the form of a nation-state and so all sins had civil penalties.

But in the New Testament the people of God are an assembly of churches all over the world, living under many different governments. The church is not a civil government, and so sins are dealt with by exhortation and, at worst, exclusion from membership. This is how a case of incest in the Corinthian church is dealt with by Paul (1 Corinthians 5:1ff. and 2 Corinthians 2:7-11.) Why this change? Under Christ, the gospel is not confined to a single nation—it has been released to go into all cultures and peoples.

Once you grant the main premise of the Bible—about the surpassing significance of Christ and his salvation—then all the various parts of the Bible make sense. Because of Christ, the ceremonial law is repealed. Because of Christ the church is no longer a nation-state imposing civil penalties. It all falls into place. However, if you reject the idea of Christ as Son of God and Savior, then, of course, the Bible is at best a mish-mash containing some inspiration and wisdom, but most of it would have to be rejected as foolish or erroneous.

So where does this leave us? There are only two possibilities. If Christ is God, then this way of reading the Bible makes sense and is perfectly consistent with its premise. The other possibility is that you reject Christianity’s basic thesis—you don’t believe Jesus was the resurrected Son of God—and then the Bible is no sure guide for you about much of anything. But the one thing you can’t really say in fairness is that Christians are being inconsistent with their beliefs to accept the moral statements in the Old Testament while not practicing other ones.

One way to respond to the charge of inconsistency may be to ask a counter-question—“Are you asking me to deny the very heart of my Christian beliefs?” If you are asked, “Why do you say that?” you could respond, “If I believe Jesus is the the resurrected Son of God, I can’t follow all the ‘clean laws’ of diet and practice, and I can’t offer animal sacrifices. All that would be to deny the power of Christ’s death on the cross. And so those who really believe in Christ must follow some Old Testament texts and not others.”

Does that make sense to you?

Have a little hope on me!
You can find more articles by Dr. Keller and others at Redeemer Presbyterian Church here.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Art of Listening

In conversations I am continually learning that what I don't say is sometimes just as important as what I do say.

James writes, "My dear friends, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry" [James 1:19].

Further, the Book of Proverbs is full of such reminders.

However, this raises the imperative question, "How does one really learn to listen?"  It involves the following:
  • Taking genuine interest rather than planning your next move.
  • Communicating acceptance rather than passing judgment before the other person is finished.
  • Being patient rather than trying to close the conversation as quickly as possible.
  • Being courteous rather than repeatedly interrupting and fighting for the floor.
  • Valuing another's ideas rather than missing what he means and feels.
The way we listen will communicate whether we regard the other person as important and they are important to God and therefore should be important to us.

How do we put this into practice?

Here are six suggestions:
  • Listen for the expression of interests in the areas of personal background, family, vocation, recreation, and culture.  This is the key to friendship, because you are looking for areas of common ground.
  • Listen for the expression of felt needs.  What is this person willing to admit about himself?  This is the key to opportunities to tell about the only One who can meet our needs.
  • Listen for the expression of previous or present religious experience, without pressure or condescension.  This is the key to appreciating another's position.
  •  Listen for the expression of caricatures of Christianity.  This is the key to overcoming obstacles.
  • Ask clarifying and probing questions.  This is the key to understanding.
  • As inquiring, provocative, and challenging questions.  This is the key to helping people think their way to Christ. [1]
Remember, evangelism is a process [John 4].  

Courage and Godspeed,

1. Taken and modified from a handout given by Search Ministries at the 2012 Mt. Airy Bible Church "Defending Your Faith" Conference.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Responses that Stimulate Conversation

Here are some principles for participating in a discussion that will increase openness and decrease defensiveness.

1. When stating your position, you can preface your remarks with tentative statements.  You may be absolutely sure of your position, but when you preface a remark with a tentative statement, it promotes an atmosphere of openness and enhances the quality of the discussion.
  • I understand what you're saying, but let me tell you how I see it.
  • I'm just wondering, have you ever considered this _____________?
  • In my opinion...
  • How would you respond to this: ________?
  • Have you considered the evidence for __________?
  • Can I give you another option?
2. When you want another person in the group to say more you can respond this way:
  • I'm not sure I understand what you're saying, tell me more.
  • Is this what you're saying _______?
  • What do you mean by the term ________?
  • Can you explain (or illustrate) that?
  • How are you defining ________?
  • I'm not sure I see where the conflict is.
  • So essentially what you're saying is, ________.
  • It seems like you're saying, ________.
  • I understand what you are getting at.  You're saying _________.
3. When you want to express your disagreement...
  • What you're saying raises some red flags in my mind.
  • My perception of this issue is a little different.  Can I share it with you?
  • I'm not piecing together the facts in the same way.
  • Correct me if I'm wrong, but I see a conflict between - and - .
  • That would make a lot of sense to me, but...
  • This doesn't seem to fit with what you've said before.
  • I appreciate that perspective.  However, let me tell you how I view it.
4. When you agree...
  • That's really good.  I've never heard it put that way before.
5. When you partially agree...
  • I agree with you (state what you agree with) but I'm not seeing eye-to-eye on this other issue.
6. When you want to stimulate discussion...
  • Wait.  I'd be interested in ________'s reaction to that....
  • How does what you're saying relate to this comment? [1]
The more I share my Christian convictions with others, the more I see how valuable it is to be able to maneuver through conversations is a thoughtful manner.  It is my hope that these responses will help you do just that.

Courage and Godspeed,

1. Taken from a handout given by Search Ministries at the 2012 Mt. Airy Bible Church "Defending Your Faith" Conference.