Thursday, August 27, 2015

Quote: Lenny Esposito on Apologetics and the Christian Life

"The idea of apologetics as a necessary part of one's faithful walk is new to most Christians. They understand the need to worship God, to live a set apart life, and even the command to evangelize given by Jesus in the Great Commission. However, learning apologetics isn't something preached from most pulpits today. Yet, in the first few centuries, apologetics and evangelism were inter-reliant. In fact, when you look at the writings of the early church fathers, you see how big a role apologetics played in their interaction with the outside world… Just as the Christians in the second century faces a culture hostile to the teachings of Christ, so Christians today find themselves in a post-Christian (and post-pagan) culture. Apologetics is therefore necessary to fulfill our faithfulness to The Great Commission. We see it in the examples of the Church Fathers. We would do well to follow them." [1]

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Footnote: 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Tough Topic Tuesday: God, Government, and Gospel

This is Pt. 3 of our posts working through this work by Pastor Wayne Grudem.  The purpose of the series is to explore the relationship between God, the Government and the Gospel.

Pt. 1 is here.  Pt. 2 is here.


C. Wrong view #3: All Government Is Evil and Demonic 

According to this third view, all use of government power is deeply infected by evil, demonic forces. The realm of government power is the realm of Satan and his forces, and therefore all governmental use of “power over” someone is worldly and not the way of life that Jesus taught.

1. Support from Luke 4:6 

This viewpoint has been strongly promoted by Minnesota pastor Greg Boyd in his influential book The Myth of a Christian Nation (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005). Boyd’s views in this book have had a large impact in the United States, especially on younger evangelical voters.

Boyd says that all civil government is “demonic” (p. 21). His primary evidence is Satan’s statement to Jesus in Luke 4:

"And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours” (Luke 4:5–7).

Boyd emphasizes Satan’s claim that all the authority of all the kingdoms of the world “has been delivered to me” and then says that Jesus “doesn’t dispute the Devil’s claim to own them. Apparently, the authority of all the kingdoms of the world has been given to Satan.”

Boyd goes on to say, “Functionally, Satan is the acting CEO of all earthly governments” (p. 22). This is indeed a thoroughgoing claim!

2. The mistake of depending on Luke 4:6 

Greg Boyd is clearly wrong at this point. Jesus tells us how to evaluate Satan’s claims, for he says,

When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44).

Jesus didn’t need to respond to every false word Satan said, for his purpose was to resist the temptation itself, and this he did with the decisive words, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve’” (Luke 4:8).

And so we have a choice: Do we believe Satan’s words that he has the authority of all earthly kingdoms, or do we believe Jesus’ words that Satan is a liar and the father of lies? The answer is easy: Satan wanted Jesus to believe a lie, just as he wanted Eve to believe a lie (Gen. 3:4), and he wants us to believe a lie as well, that he is the ruler of earthly governments.

By contrast, there are verses in the Bible that tell us how we should think of civil governments. These verses do not agree with Satan’s claim in Luke 4:6 or with Boyd’s claim about Satan’s authority over all earthly governments. Rather, these verses where God is speaking (not Satan) portray civil government as a gift from God, something that is subject to God’s rule and used by God for his purposes. Here are some of those passages:

The Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men (Dan. 4:17).

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. . . . For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good . . . the authorities are the ministers of God (Rom. 13:1-6).

Peter sees civil government as doing the opposite of what Satan does: civil governments are established by God “to punish those who do evil,” but Satan encourages those who do evil!  Civil governments are established by God “to praise those who do good” (1 Pet. 2:14), but Satan discourages and attacks those who do good.

The point is that Satan wants us to believe that all civil government is under his control, but that is not taught anywhere in the Bible. The only verse in the whole Bible that says Satan has authority over all governments is spoken by the father of lies, and we should not believe it. Greg Boyd is simply wrong in his defense of the view that “government is demonic.”

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Footnote:
2. For example, echoes of Boyd’s writing can be seen at various places in Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw, Jesus for President (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008).

Monday, August 24, 2015

Will the Church Rise Up and Usher in Abortion's Demise?

In the subject piece, Online for Life President Brian Fisher writes the following regarding the recently released Planned Parenthood videos:

These undercover Planned Parenthood videos provide a phenomenal opportunity for the Church to help accelerate our mission of making abortion unthinkable and unavailable in America. Let’s not let it go to waste.

Fisher further expands upon the need for action from the Church and also answers the following objections:

“Abortion is a political issue. Churches shouldn’t talk about it.”

 “This just isn’t at the top of the list of issues for my church.”

“Are you suggesting that American churches should be activists?”

Stand firm in Christ and stand firm for the preborn,
Chase


Saturday, August 22, 2015

Article: The Problem with the Term "Pro-Choice" by Randy Alcorn

What is someone really saying when they claim to be "pro-choice" and how should we respond?  In this featured article, Randy Alcorn explains how to cut through the rhetoric of the pro-choice crowd and get to the main issue.

Alcorn writes:

"The term pro-choice obscures the subject we are talk­ing about, because it demands the explanation, “pro-choice about what?” If our attention is on the “right to choose,” we can be dis­tracted from the subject at hand."

You can checkout the article here.

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Friday, August 21, 2015

Book Preview: Keeping Your Kids on God's Side by Natasha Crain

About the Author

Natasha Crain's work is some of the most important in apologetics today and if you are not familiar with her work, you need to be.  I am not aware of another individual writing better content on apologetics and parenting than Mrs. Crain.

Crain writes a popular Christian parenting blog at ChristianMomThoughts.com.  She has an MBA from UCLA and has completed the Certificate Program in Christian Apologetics at Biola University. She and her husband, Bryan, have three children.


About the Book

Are your children being exposed to negative criticism of Christianity as they spend time at school, with friends, or online?

Perhaps they are already expressing doubts about God and the Bible. You can strengthen your kids' faith by helping to answer the questions that are challenging them. In Keeping Your Kids on God's Side, you'll find 40 of the most common challenges they face--along with clear, concise responses you can discuss together. This book will...

- encourage open dialogue on issues your kids might hesitate to talk about
- replace their doubts with the confidence only God's truth can give
- equip them to respond well to the tough questions others ask

The time you spend helping your children in this way is one of the greatest investments you can make! It will draw you closer together and benefit them for the rest of their lives.


Further, if that isn't enough, J. Warner Wallace, whom I consider to be another of today's most important apologists, has written the foreword!

You can pre-order the book here.

I also encourage readers to check out Mrs. Crain's excellent website here.

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Featured Resource: The Ultimate Apologetics MP3 Audio Page

Are you looking for some great apologetics audio?  Apologetics 315 offers a massive list of audio on their "Ultimate Apologetics MP3 Audio Page" found here.

You'll find audio from thinkers such as William Lane Craig, J.P. Moreland, Daniel Wallace, Greg Koukl, Kenneth Samples, John Frame, Gary Habermas, Ravi Zacharias and many, many more and it is all free!

There are also hundreds of topics to pick from!

I encourage you to check it out here today!

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

B.O.M.B. Book Review- God's Crime Scene: A Cold-Case Detective Examines the Evidence for a Divinely Created Universe by J. Warner Wallace

B-Background

J. Warner Wallace is a cold-case homicide detective, popular national speaker, and author of Cold-Case Christianity (our review is here).  He's been featured repeatedly on Dateline, Fox News, and Court TV and is a member of a three-generation law enforcement family.  J. Warner and his wife have four children and live in Southern California.

O-Overview

It was with great anticipation that I began reading J. Warner's Wallace's latest offering God's Crime Scene: A Cold-Case Detective Examines the Evidence for a Divinely Created Universe.  It is my conviction that Wallace is one of the most practical, intelligent and passionate apologists writing today.  His work is easy to grasp, intellectually challenging and spiritually rewarding.  Further, Wallace always makes his points in a way that make them applicable to real-life conversation.  His latest effort is no exception.

As a former atheist and a cold-case homicide detective who became a Christian largely because of the abundance of evidence he encountered, the manner in which the author examines the evidence is utterly unique because he does so through the eyes of a homicide detective.  The same objective, evidence-based approach Wallace uses in his cases, he also employs in examining the case for the existence of God.

Wallace explains his approach:

"This book is my attempt to help you look at the nature of the universe-my effort to share a personal investigation of God's existence.  I hope to pass along a detective's perspective related to evidence evaluation and case construction.  I want to make you a better investigator..." [p. 25]

The book begins with the author explaining how the universe is similar to a death scene investigation. One of the questions detectives ask during an investigation is, "Can I account for all the evidence in the room by staying in the room?"  If the answer is yes, then the result of death is deemed as an accident, some natural cause or suicide; however, if the answer is "no," then a homocide investigation begins.  In like manner, if we think of the universe as a "room," Wallace rightly asked the same question, "Can I account for all the evidence in the room by staying in the room?"  Wallace explains how a death scene investigation and an investigation of the universe are similar:

"...we can examine the evidence inside the natural, physical realm of the universe to determine if there is someone we need to look for outside the natural, physical realm." [Ibid]

The result is a case for the existence of God that is systematic, thorough, and compelling.

M-Main Arguments

One of the objections I hear from fellow followers of Christ regarding Christian Case Making is that it is to hard to understand.  Many don't think of themselves as intellectuals and therefore don't believe they can learn to defend their Christian convictions and sometimes the task can seem daunting. However, those who may have struggled in the past to understand the arguments for the existence of God may find a friend in J. Warner Wallace.  Wallace's use of clear illustrations and diagrams make his case easy to follow and understand.  Further, his use of cases from his past investigations make this work read less like an apologetics book and more like a crime novel.  At the conclusion of one chapter I found myself immediately ready to start the next so that I could learn about another investigation!

Using various types of reasoning and methodology, Wallace investigates evidence from the following areas to adjudicate what the best explanation of the available data is:
  • The Origin of the Universe
  • The Fine-Tuning of the Universe
  • The Origin of Life- DNA and Irreducible
  • Our Experience of Consciousness
  • Free Will
  • Moral Truths
  • Can God and Evil Coexist?
I have two young girls and one thing we enjoy doing is going to Toys 'R' Us.  I have always been a toy enthusiast and I suppose my girls have inherited that from me.  Sometimes we diligently search for a specific toy and when the item is discovered our excitement is evident to each other and, most likely, to those around us. For myself, reading through God's Crime Scene is very similar.  I read with highlighter in hand anticipating those passages that, when found, were reminiscent of discovering a sought after toy!  For example, the author discusses how some scientists, in an effort to avoid the conclusion that the universe came into being from nothing, have attempted to change the definition of the word nothing to actually mean something.  Wallace writes:

"The evidence demonstrates all space, time, and matter began with the origin of the universe.  Whatever preceded the universe cannot, therefore, have been spatial, temporal, or material, at least by the definitions we have been using all along.  Emergent models redefine the meaning of "nothing" to include "something" (the primordial vacuum, virtual particles, and time).  While this solves the problem semantically, it doesn't solve the problem evidentially." [p. 40]

It is passages such as this that make Wallace's work a joy to read through and equip the reader with great responses to common objections.

I also want to note that the author's chapter on consciousness is the best treatment of the subject I have read to date.  

As a teacher, I am continually impressed by Wallace's ability to explain complex concepts in a manner that is easy to grasp.  When you are reading this work one can clearly perceive that the author not only understands the arguments, but has made them his own.  Further, his conclusions are presented honestly and humbly.

While reading this book you are not only learning about the case for a Divine Creator, but how to think through arguments and how to shift through evidence in a logical and fair-minded manner.

B- Bottomline

I am convinced that anyone would benefit from reading this book, regardless of their familiarity with the arguments dealt with therein.

For the believer, Wallace's book is a treasure chest of arguments and illustrations that will not only equip you to share your faith more clearly and effectively, but will also serve to affirm your conviction that God exists.

For the unbeliever, the author challenges you to begin your own investigation regarding the question of God's existence.  He writes:

"If you've just now become interested in the existence of God, I hope this book will begin a passionate, urgent investigation.  I am not an expert witness; I'm only a detective.  So I've listed some of the expert witnesses you might want to consider examining as you continue an investigation of your own...I would encourage you to read the Secondary Investigation and Investigative Notes at the end of the book.  I've done my best to help you take another step in your understanding, and I've cited my research to provide you with a variety of facts and details." [p. 203]

I cannot recommend God's Crime Scene highly enough and it is a most worthy follow-up to Cold-Case Christianity.

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Tough Topic Tuesday: God, Government and Gospel

This is Pt. 2 of our posts working through this work by Pastor Wayne Grudem.  The purpose of the series is to explore the relationship between God, the Government and the Gospel.

You can find Pt. 1 here.

B. Wrong View #2: Government Should Exclude Religion

The opposite error from the “compel religion” view is “exclude religion.” This is the view that says we should completely exclude religion from government and politics. According to this view, religious beliefs should never be mentioned in governmental functions or on government property and should never play a role in decision-making processes in politics or government.

This is the view promoted today by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). According to it, religious belief should be kept at home and quiet. There should be no influence from religious groups in the political process.

Examples of this view are seen when people object to prayers being given at the beginning of a city council meeting, or when groups demand that the Ten Commandments be removed from public places. Supporters of this view seek to prohibit religious expression in high schools, student-led Bible studies, prayers before sporting events, or even a valedictorian talking about his or her faith at graduation.

1. It changes freedom of religion into freedom from religion

The “exclude religion” stance is wrong from a Constitutional viewpoint, because it twists the positive ideal of “freedom of religion” to mean “freedom from all religious influence”— which is entirely different and something the signers of the Declaration of Independence and the framers of the U.S. Constitution never intended.

In fact, the “exclude religion from politics” view would invalidate the very reasoning of the Declaration of Independence, on which the United States of America was first founded. The first two sentences mention God twice in order to say that God’s laws authorize independence from Great Britain and that God is the one who gives human beings the rights that governments must protect:

"When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men.…"

In other words, the fifty-six signers of the Declaration of Independence proclaimed that both the laws of nature and of God gave our country the right to become an independent nation. They claimed divine authorization for the very existence of the United States of America! Furthermore, the signers said that the purpose of government is to protect the rights that are given to people by God (“endowed by their Creator”). This is hardly “excluding religion” from government or important government publications.

The First Amendment to the Constitution likewise declared: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech.” What they meant by “an establishment of religion” was an established state church, a government-sponsored or government-endorsed denomination or specific religion. But they did not intend this amendment to exclude all religious speech and activity from government building and activities, for our nation’s early political leaders continued praying publicly to God at government events, even having church services in the Capitol for many years.

The phrase “separation of church and state” does not occur anywhere in the Constitution. It was first seen in a letter from Thomas Jefferson in 1802, in which he assured some Baptists in Connecticut (the Danbury Baptists) that the government would never interfere with the affairs of their church. The First Amendment was never intended to guarantee that government should be free from religion or religious influence. The only “freedom of religion” that was intended was freedom from government sponsorship of one particular religion or denomination.

2. It wrongly restricts freedom of religion and freedom of speech 

The First Amendment also excluded any law “prohibiting the free exercise” of religion. This is directly opposed to the “exclude religion from government” view, which actually seeks to prohibit Christians and Jews and others from exercising their religious freedom when speaking or giving a prayer at a public event. Their free exercise of religion is taken away from them.

This view also wrongly restricts individual freedom of speech. Why should a high school valedictorian not be free to express her own viewpoint in her graduation speech? Speaking a religious opinion in public is not compelling people to accept that viewpoint!

3. It was never adopted by the American people 

The “exclude religion” view was never adopted by the American people through any democratic process, but it is being imposed on our nation by the exercise of “raw judicial power” by our courts, and especially by the Supreme Court. This has been an increasing problem for the last several decades in America.

The Supreme Court decision Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971) was especially significant. In that case the court said that government actions “must not have the primary effect of advancing or inhibiting religion.” It did not say “advancing or inhibiting one particular religion” but “religion” in general. (An earlier decision in 1947, Everson v. Board of Education, had said something similar.) This kind of “exclude religion” view was never adopted or approved by the American people but simply decreed by our Supreme Court, taking to itself powers it never legitimately had.

4. It removes from government God’s teaching about good and evil 

The Bible says that a government official is “God’s servant for your good” (Rom. 13:4), but how can government officials effectively serve God if no one is allowed to tell them what they believe God expects of them? The Bible says that government officials are sent “to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good” (1 Peter 2:14), but how can they do that if no spokesmen from any of the world’s religions are allowed to give them counsel on what is “good” and what is “evil”?

Such a viewpoint has to assume that there is no God, or if there is, his moral standards can’t be known. And by rejecting the idea of absolute moral standards that come from God, this viewpoint leads toward the moral disintegration of a society.

We see the payoff of this view in the rampant moral relativism among today’s young adults who were taught as children in “exclude religion” schools, schools where “because God says so” could no longer be used as the strong foundation for moral conduct as it had been for the first 200 years of this nation.

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad