Thursday, October 02, 2014

The Apostle John on Jesus Christ

"No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known." [1]

Courage and Godspeed,

1. English Standard Version Bible, John 1:18.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Video: The Biology of the Second Reich- Social Darwinism and the Origins of World War I

This 14-minute documentary tells the little-known story of the influence of Social Darwinism on German militarism leading up to World War 1, including an exploration of the German military's genocidal policies in Southwest Africa (modern Namibia). The video features the work of California State University historian Richard Weikart, author of the book From Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics, and Racism in Germany (Palgrave Macmillan). [1]

You can learn more about Weikart's work here.

Courage and Godspeed,

1. Text originally found here.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

2013 Mt. Airy Apologetics Conference Audio

With Mt. Airy's 2014 "Defending the Faith" conference quickly approaching [For details, see here.], I thought it would be useful to list the audio from last year's conference.  This was one of the best conferences I have attended and the speakers were excellent.  They were as follows:

1. "Why I Became a Christian:"Understanding Truth  -Brett Kunkle

2. "Cold Case Christianity:"Understanding the Facts of Christianity  -J. Warner Wallace

3. "Truth and Compassion:"What You Need to Know about Homosexuality  -Alan Shlemon

4. "The Case for Life:" Does Being Pro-Life Even Matter?   -Jay Watts

5. "How to Become a Apolojedi:" Using Practical Apologetics  -Nathan Hansen [1]

Enjoy and be sure to register for the upcoming Mt. Airy "Defending the Faith" Conference here.

Courage and Godspeed,

1. Audio originally found here.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Context is King

Greg Koukl’s advice to never read a Bible verse but rather to read the context in which the verse resides is an effective principle to follow when studying and applying scripture.  The following are a couple of passages in which its effectiveness can be seen1:

Titus 2:  This passage is sometimes used to argue for intergenerational discipleship. By this it is meant that middle aged men and women are to mentor men and women in their twenties and thirties who in turn are to mentor those in their teens who are to mentor those from ages seven to twelve and so on. Let’s take a look at the passage:

But you must speak what is consistent with sound teaching. Older men are to be self-controlled, worthy of respect, sensible, and sound in faith, love, and endurance. In the same way, older women are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not addicted to much wine. They are to teach what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands and children, to be sensible, pure, good homemakers, and submissive to their husbands, so that God’s message will not be slandered.
Likewise, encourage the young men to be sensible about everything. Set an example of good works yourself, with integrity and dignity in your teaching.2

Now, granted each one of us is to be an example of Christ to those younger than us, but the concept of intergenerational discipleship is just not here. Take a look at what I have put in bold font. From this it is clear that older married men and women are to disciple younger married men and women. I have a three year old son and I do not want him to be a disciple of a seven or eight year old.

Philippians 4:13:  This passage is often read as a promise that with any task we set out to accomplish, say run a four minute mile, Christ will give us the strength to get it done. Is that really what Paul meant? Let us put this paraphrase in bold within the text to see if it works.

I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last you have renewed your care about me, but lacked the opportunity to show it. I don’t say this out of need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content-whether well-fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I am able to run a four minute mile through Him who strengthens me.3

Obviously, this does not work so what is Paul talking about? Perhaps he is talking about having contentment in all circumstances. Now let us put this paraphrase within the text and see what results.

I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last you have renewed your care about me, but lacked the opportunity to show it. I don’t say this out of need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content-whether well-fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I am able to have contentment in all circumstances through Him who strengthens me.

Clearly this fits much better in the context of the larger passage. In conclusion, never read a Bible verse. Always read at least a paragraph.

Stand firm in Christ,

1. All references are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible.
2. Titus 2:1-7.
3. Philippians 4:10-13.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Sunday Praise: Beautiful Rider by Jake Hamilton & The Sound

My sister-in-law recently sent me this album as a gift as she felt strongly I would enjoy it.  She was right!  I thought I would share the song Beautiful Rider which is also the name of the album that was released earlier this year.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Video: Naturalism and How it is Affecting Culture by J.P. Moreland

In this lecture J.P. Moreland explains:
  • why you not only need to know your Bible, but you also need to learn to think philosophically 
  • naturalism, post-modernism and Christianity
  • the importance of the soul
  • dualism
  • consciousness vs. the brain

Courage and Godspeed,

Friday, September 26, 2014

Quote: Nancy Pearcy on the Importance of Apologetics

"The only way teens become truly 'prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks' (1 Pet. 3:15) is by wrestling personally with the questions. Ironically, those who have never grappled with diverse worldviews are actually the most likely to be swept away by them. As G. K. Chesterton wrote, ideas can be dangerous — but they are far more dangerous to the person who has never studied them…we should always couch discussions of Christianity in the language of reasons and evidence. We should be giving apologetics from the pulpit and in the Sunday school classroom. Every course in a Christian school should be an opportunity to show that a biblical perspective does a better job than any secular theory of accounting for the facts in that field, whether psychology, biology, government, or business. Apologetics should be naturally woven in to all our discourse." [1]

Courage and Godspeed,

1. HT: The Poached Egg

Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering

Part Three: Walking with God in the Furnace

In Part One, Dr. Keller explored the philosophical aspects of suffering.  In Part Two, he took us through what the Bible teaches about it. In Part Three, he is going to take us through the most practical material. Going through the “furnace of affliction” is not a matter of technique, but one of walking with God, or orienting ourselves towards him so that the changes that occur help make us better rather than worse.

Chapter Eleven: Walking

On page 225, Dr. Keller states, “How can we actually, practical, face and get through the suffering that has come upon us?  Most books and resources for sufferers today no longer talk about enduring affliction but instead use a vocabulary drawn from business and psychology to enable people to manage, reduce, and cope with stress, strain, or trauma.   Sufferers are counseled to avoid negative thoughts; to buffer themselves with time off, exercise, and supportive relationships; to problem solve; and to “learn to accept things we can’t change.” But all the focus is on controlling your immediate emotional responses and environment.”

One of the main metaphors given in the Bible for facing affliction is walking.  In many ancient societies, as in our modern western culture, suffering is seen as something to avoid or insulate ourselves from, something that must be endured without flinching or feeling until it passes.  But we are not supposed to just stand our ground against it, but to meet it and move through it without shock, surprise, denial, resentment, fear, surrender or despair.

In Isaiah chapter 43 God says to Israel, “When you pass through the waters…when you pass through the rivers…when you walk through the fire…”  He doesn’t say “if”, but “when”.  And he encourages them by reminding them “do not be afraid, for I am with you.”  This is our promise that God is with us, walking beside us.

In the New Testament, Peter takes the metaphor and drives it further.  In 1 Peter 1:7, he states, “Trials…have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”  Gold, when put through fire, is not destroyed, but melts and the impurities within it are burned off or removed.

Our faith is mixed with all sorts of impurities – commitments to comfort, power, pride, pleasure and self.  Our faith may be abstract and intellectual, thinking we are sinners saved by grace, yet actually thinking we are doing well because we are more decent, open-minded, hardworking or loving than others.  We may have many blemishes on our character.  We may be too harsh, ungenerous, impulsive, controlling, unreliable, fragile, timid or cowardly.  Going through the furnace, we can see who we really are.  Or not.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego found themselves required to conform their religious faith and practice to the dictates of the state.  When confronted with their refusal, they declared that God was able to deliver them, yet could confidently state, “But if not…”  They declared that their confidence was in God, not because they somehow knew he would deliver them, which they did not, but simply because their God is God.  When we trust God for an answer to prayer and it seems that he lets us down when we don’t what we sought, it is because we treat God as a means to an end and our faith and trust is in our own agenda.  Our greatest joy comes from honoring God, not from him giving us what we want in life.  And while Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego found another in the furnace to walk beside them, Jesus went through the furnace of the cross alone.  Why?  Because on the cross he not only suffered with us but for us.

So what can we learn?  We can learn who we are – our strengths and weaknesses.  We can learn to compassionately help others who are hurting.  We can learn to trust in God in a way that will fortify us against life’s impending disappointments.  And we can learn to be wise about life.  God walks with us, but the real question is will we walk with him?  In Dr. Keller’s words, “If we have created a false God-of-my-program, then when life falls apart we will simply assume he has abandoned us and we won’t seek him…So what do you have to do in order to grow instead of being destroyed by your suffering?  The answer is that you must walk with God.  And what is that?  It means we must treat God as God and as there…it means to see with the eyes of your heart how Jesus plunged into the fire for you when he went to the cross… This means remembering the gospel.”

Then you can say to yourself in the furnace, “This is my furnace.  I am not being punished for my sins, because Jesus was thrown into that ultimate fire for me.  And so if he went through that greatest fire steadfastly for me, I can go through this smaller furnace steadfastly for him.  And I also know it means that if I trust in him, this furnace will only make me better.”

On page 236 Dr. Keller says, “There are many people who think of spiritual growth as something like high diving.  They say, ‘I am going to give my life to the Lord…I am really going to transform!’…[but that] is not what a walk is.  A walk is day in and day out praying; day in and day out Bible and Psalms reading; day in and day out obeying, talking to Christian friends, and going to corporate worship, committing yourself to and fully participating in the life of a church.  It is rhythmic, on and on and on…So walking with God through suffering means that, in general, you will not experience some kind of instant deliverance from your questions, your sorrow, your fears…in general it will be slow and steady progress that comes only if you stick to the regular, daily activities of the walking itself...We are called to walk, to grieve and weep, to trust and pray, to think, thank, and love, and to hope.”

Next week Chapter Twelve: Weeping

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

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Article: Intellectual Faith? by Brett Kunkle

I remember once asking my wife why it is that I sometimes feel more comfortable talking to atheists than I do with fellow Christians.  I then realized that it is because atheists often care more about evidence and reason than most Christians do.  As Brett Kunkle explains in this featured article:

 "Christians tend to talk in terms of feelings and emotions. Atheists tend to talk in terms of science and rationality. "

Now, it should be stated that historic Christianity has always been a rational and intellectually robust worldview and that it is only in recent years that it has become so emotional and feeling driven. Whether you agree with their theology or not, the faith of Calvin, Luther and Aquinas was well thought-out and passionately defended.  

As Kunkle explains about the state of the church today:

"The church has succumbed to a culture that has cordoned off Christianity from all areas of knowledge and reason. Instead, we are relegated to the outskirts of personal private faith, which can only draw upon the resources of feelings and experience. The language Christians use betrays this very fact."

For more details on how the church has retreated from the life of the mind, I recommend J.P. Moreland's Loving God with All Your Mind

So, how can we begin to turn the tide?  Kunkle offers the following practical suggestion:

"It’s time to talk differently. A first step is to pay careful attention to your language. How do you talk about Christianity? Do you merely employ language of feelings and sentiments? Start using cognitive-oriented terms. Talk more about knowledge than faith. Indeed, the New Testament does just that, as knowledge is referenced almost twice as much as faith. Of course, we’re not eliminating talk of faith, just offering a biblical balance."

Amen!  And as I have suggested here, Christians need to learn a new language!

You can read Brett's full article here and I highly recommend his ministry.  

Courage and Godspeed,

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Video: The Fine Turning of the Universe

Here is an excellent video on the fine turning of the universe from the drcraigvideos Youtube Channel.

You can see the first video in this series on the Kalam cosmological argument here.

Courage and Godspeed,