An Atheist E-Mailed Me To Ask About The Christian View of Sex – Here Is My Response


E-Mail From An Atheist:

marriage 1Hi there,

I’m curious about something, I wasn’t really looking for Theology but I read some of your recent posts and have a question.

I’m an atheist, so this matter is not a moral one for me but about living my life to the fullest, but I would like to hear from someone with an opposing viewpoint.
I happen to be both a sex positive, single woman and an infertile one. I believe that sex, and ultimately, orgasm, is the greatest human experience and one I endeavor to achieve as often as possible. Since I’m never going to conceive a child, I am never having sex for the purpose of reproduction and since I have unconventional views on marriage I don’t believe I’ll ever do so inside the confines of one.

marriage 2Do you believe that for a person like me: unmarried (intentionally), non-religious and infertile (with no desire to parent a child) that I should be denied/or deny myself, the thing which brings me such an incredible amount of joy?

I don’t care if you think I’m a sinner, I don’t subscribe to your religious views and am unbothered by this, but I’m genuinely curious about the limitations your views or your religions would put on a person like me who views all consensual sexual activities as fundamentally healthy and pleasurable, and encourages sexual pleasure and experimentation.

My Response

Hello,

Thank you for taking the time to e-mail me and ask these questions. My hope is that you e-mailed me because you are interested in my insight and truly understanding why I take my position on sexuality that I have outlined on my website.

The reason that many people are compelled by the moral prerogatives that you have expressed is that our society reduces all forms of virtue to kindness. Every form of “loving your neighbor” is reduced to “being kind to your neighbor.” However, I think that showing love for an individual is about more than hoping that their immediate desires are satisfied and that they can do things that bring them joy. There are many treacherous evils that bring joy to an individual, and there are many acts of righteousness that do not bring joy or pleasure. Love is about more than kindness. Life is about more than pleasure.

With that in mind, I reject the ethic that says that one should just go for the gusto. I reject the idea that an individual should just do whatever feels good. I reject the notion that if you prevent somebody from indulging in every form of pleasure, that you are bringing harm to them. There is more to life than pleasure and pain. There is more to love than enabling somebody to just do what feels good.

Our culture seems to have a lack of self-control ingrained in its’ DNA. People just want what is front of them with little concern about what is right or what is even ultimately good for them. Consider this obvious example. You may want to enjoy a piece of cake, but you know that you should not. If you have no restraint at all and you spend your life just pursuing your unbridled dietary lusts, you will plummet into obesity.

Everybody has different temptations and indulgences and they often have different consequences. You can do what feels good all of the time and constantly pursue your unbridled lusts, but it will chauffeur a host of consequences, even if you do everything that you can to prevent it. Sexual activity with multiple partners will often disconnect an individual from any sort of emotional commitment to the person with whom they are engaging sexually. Now, you may think that is a good and noble thing. But it could lead to a lot of emotional pain for partners. You may suggest that you do everything that you can to prevent that. Well, that is fine. But it will not always work.

Beyond that, if you are pursuing your unbridled lusts in one area of life, then establishing this precedent and setting this example is likely going to have negative consequences. If you think that you should just give in to whatever feels good, then I do not know what would prevent you from doing anything that was easy. If you are feeling impatient waiting in line, and you have already established a precedent for just giving in to temptations, then lashing out at people might be the easiest thing for you to do. Sitting on the couch watching television will be easier than reading a book. A romance novel loaded with buzz words, rather than a thoughtful analysis of a particular topic will be the norm. You will become less thoughtful, less interested in doing what is right, less interested in intellectual stimulation because you just want to do what is easy and what feels good.

Indulging in immediate temptations is not just about that particular temptation. It is not just about what you want to do right now. It impacts everything. It impacts your character. It determines your character. The question that you should ask yourself is what sort of person you want to do. If you want to be a person who just gives in and does what is easy and what feels good to your own detriment, then that is your choice. I am not here to call you a sinner or shove my views into your face (after all, you e-mailed me and asked me). But I do think that character is important.

It is particularly important because society is comprised of individuals who demonstrate a particular character. How we behave and what we do impacts everything. What you have expressed has quickly become normal behavior in our society. We want a society that accepts and endorses our pursuit of every lustful temptation. I am fairly certain that you read my article How Our View of Sex Creates An Abortion Society and sent this e-mail in responses to it. When we just pursue our temptations without worrying about the consequences, we support a society that is amenable to terrible injustices.

Many of these injustices may be race-based or gender-based. Think about it like this. If an individual is giving in to every temptation that they have, what if they have racist temptations? Should they suppress them? The answer is that they obviously should. Now, you are probably thinking something like, “But racism hurts people, while sex does not.” Well, that is not quite the point. The point is rather that we are setting a precedent for giving into temptations and creating a society in which people just do what their immediate desires demand.

So I take my position on human sexuality because I believe that it is part of a larger narrative. It impacts everything, from every aspect of our character, our temptations, to society as a whole and other people. There is a tangible standard of morality to which we are all called to align ourselves. That is not to say that I am perfect or that I have perfectly aligned myself. I have not. We have all failed in some way. But I do believe that we need to strive after true virtue and righteousness.

Thanks for taking the time to e-mail me,
Richard Bushey

If you want to read the article that inspired this question, check out my article How Our View Of Sex Creates An Abortion Culture

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How Do You Know That The Bible Is God’s Word?

bible 1There are certain aspects of the Christian worldview that many people find objectionable. The man with the unregenerate heart will not enjoy hearing that Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation. The individual who aspires for moral autonomy will posit a form of relativism, suggesting that you cannot impose your morals upon them. The doctrine of Hell, the depravity of man and the need for forgiveness repel us. This has led the people of this generation to challenge the foundation for all of it. If you can compromise the inerrancy of the Bible, then one can justify their preferred lifestyle. They do not have to be concerned about marriage or abortion, and can breathe the air free from the sovereignty of God. As man flees the sovereignty of God, he will pose the question, “How do you know that the Bible is God’s word?”

bible 2Criticisms of the biblical data have come in several different forms. Scholars like Dr. Bart Ehrman will make their career and their living arguing that we cannot trust the Scripture, that we cannot know what the authors of the New Testament originally wrote in the absence of some sort of controlled and monitored transmission of the text of Scripture. Others will suggest that the text is plagued with historical errors and contradictions, compromising the reliability of the text. Still some will posit that the Bible portrays an unscientific view of the world. If you are interested in my response to the negative case against the Bible, feel free to review some of the linked articles or just use the search function. Instead, as I answer the question, “How do you know that the Bible is God’s word?” I will present a positive case regarding why I choose to believe in the Bible.

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The Historicity of The New Testament

While most people know the New Testament as the holy text of the Christian religion, it functions as more than that in the academic world. If a historian wants to learn about Jesus and the apostles, he needs historical data. The New Testament is a collection of the the primary sources that he or she will need to use. This means that one can use the New Testament to probabilistically conclude that certain events are historical or not historical. Now, I know that many people will take a surface glance at this answer to the question, “How do you know that the Bible is God’s word?” and feel tempted to blurt out, “You’re reasoning in a circle!” I urge you to resist that temptation. This is not circular reasoning. It would only be circular if I were assuming that the Bible were God’s word and is therefore inerrant. Rather, the task of the historian is to apply the same principles of historical investigation to the New Testament that they would apply to any ancient document. (By the way, if you are a presuppositionalist and preparing to accuse me of impiety, please read my article Is The Minimal Facts Argument Impious?)

bible 4So, with that in mind, when one applies the principles of historical investigation to the New Testament, the historian establishes a few facts surrounding the death of Jesus. As I argued in my article Did Jesus Rise From The Dead? a few of these facts include [1] the burial of Jesus, [2] the empty tomb, [3] the post-mortem appearances and [4] the perseverance of the disciples’ belief in the resurrection. The most probable explanation of these facts that far outstrips any naturalistic hypothesis is that God raised Jesus from the dead.

bible 5Okay, you are likely wondering how I connect that with the New Testament. After all, as I pointed out, this argument does not require an inerrant or even inspired Bible. So, you may reassert the question, how do you know that the Bible is God’s word? Well, I suggest that it is more probable that after Jesus rose from the dead, the religion that was preached by his disciples is true. If God raised Jesus from the dead, then he obviously wanted the world to hear his message. This message is contained in the writings of the disciples and the Christian religion. Therefore, we know that the Bible is God’s word because Jesus rose from the dead and commissioned his disciples to preach his message.

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How Jesus Viewed The Scripture

The premise that God raised Jesus from the dead has several implications. If Jesus had remained dead, he would have been proven to be a blasphemer. Deuteronomy 21:23 tells us, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.” The Jewish Sanhedrin who prosecuted Jesus would have been vindicated and their counter-arguments about Jesus would have been justified. As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:17, “If Christ is not risen, we are most of all to be pitied.” However, if God raised Jesus from the dead, vindicating his claims, then as Paul said in Galatians 3:13, Christ was under the curse of God on our behalf. He died the death that we deserve, absorbing our sins and then he rose from the dead. But if this man rose from the dead, we would be confronted with several other questions as well. We would have to ask why God raised him from the dead, who he was, what he said about himself and what he said about the Scripture.

The principles of historical investigation yield several startling facts about how Jesus viewed himself. First, the parable of the wicked tenants in the gospel of Mark meets the criteria of multiple attestation and is usually ascribed to the portrait of the historical Jesus. In this parable, he describes himself as God’s own Son and heir to his kingdom. Second, Jesus referred to himself on several occasions as the Son of Man, hailing from Daniel’s eschatological vision in the seventh chapter of the book named after him. The Son of Man was one who all of the people of the nations would worship. But it is startling that the Christians of the first century did not use that title. While it was Jesus’s favorite self-designation, it is scarce in the pages of the New Testament. This means that it meets the criteria of dissimilarity and is properly ascribed to the historical Jesus.

While this does not exhaust the historically verifiable claims that Jesus made of himself, they are potent enough that we can proceed. Jesus claimed to be both the Son of God and the Son of Man. He claimed to be the Messiah. Then he died and rose from the dead. His view of Scripture should be quite significant for us as we establish a proper view of the Bible. Jesus made claims such as “The Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35). He said “For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” (Matthew 5:18). How do we know that the Bible is God’s word? Well, Jesus believed that the Scripture was without error and was God-breathed. As the one who claimed to be the Son of God, Son of Man, died and rose from the dead, he is a worthy authority.

An obvious objection to this argument arises. One may point out that Jesus believed in what we call the Old Testament. What about the New Testament? Well, Jesus’s statements were related to the nature of Scripture, not the scope of Scripture. But, then one may ask how it is that we distinguish between the Roman Catholic Bible (containing the apocrypha) and the 66 books of the Bible used in Protestantism. That is certainly a valuable question. But the point that I am making is that on the authority of the one who rose from the dead, we should believe the religion that he left behind. Those who are striving to believe in that religion may debate amongst themselves about what the true faith is. I am personally a Protestant (more specifically, a Calvinist).

Fulfilled Prophecy

I am hesitant to include this line of argumentation because it is precisely what one would expect when talking to a person of any religious background. People believe in their faith because there was some fulfilled prophecy. God relayed some knowledge that could not otherwise be known. This is the same sort of argument that people will use when they go to a psychic. They will tell us, “They knew things about me that they could not have possibly known!” Muslims and Hindus will likewise tell us that they know their faith claims to be true because some prophecy has been fulfilled. I understand that this might strike you as a familiar and restated argument. I also believe that if you closely scrutinized most prophetic claims, they would either [1] quickly unravel or [2] they would be unfalsifiable. I believe that when one takes a close look at the prophecies throughout the Bible, they become firmer and better attested.

The prophecy to which I would like to draw your attention is the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. Jesus said in Mark 13:2, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another which will not be torn down.” The Temple was the center of the Jew’s religious life. It was everything to them. They believed that God himself resided in the Temple. They could not fulfill their obligations to their faith if they were not in Jerusalem with an active Temple. So when Jesus said that the Temple would be destroyed, that must have been a startling claim. It is something like if he suggested that the Twin Towers were going to fall. So, the gospels record him as saying this, and yet no one records that Jerusalem had actually been destroyed. As far as we can tell, in all of the gospels and all of the epistles, the Temple is still standing and Jerusalem has not been overrun. If it had been written after AD 70, it would be unthinkable that the disciples would not have mentioned “Oh, by the way, this was a fulfilled prophecy. Jesus predicted that it would happen, and it did.” That would have been a powerful argument that he was the Messiah. Yet we do not see it anywhere throughout the New Testament.

The probabilistic conclusion that I draw from this is that the synoptic gospels were written prior to AD 70. They record Jesus making this fantastic prediction before it was actually fulfilled. How do you know that the Bible is God’s word? We know that it is God’s word because the criteria of historical investigation unveils legitimate fulfilled prophecy.

The Christian Worldview Makes Sense of Reality

Everybody makes assumptions and everybody has a worldview. You might not think that you do, but it is unavoidable. You will interpret reality through the lens of your worldview. It is something like navigating through the world with a map. If you have an inaccurate map, you will struggle to get through the terrain. Similarly, if you have an inaccurate worldview, you will struggle to make any sense of reality. The Christian worldview makes more sense of reality than any other competing worldview. Indeed, unless you assume the Christian worldview, you will not be able to make any sense of the world in which you inhabit. This worldview is informed and defined by Scripture.

First, the Christian worldview informs us that God exists. As I argued in my article What Would A Universe Without God Look Like? a universe without God would look radically different from a universe in which God exists. [1] There would not be any intelligent lifeforms (such as human beings). [2] The evolution of biological organisms would be impossible. [3] Our cognitive faculties would not be functional. [4] Most importantly, if God did not exist, the universe would not exist. Since the universe is not necessary in its’ existence (we know that because it has not always existed), it must have an explanation beyond itself. Since the cause must transcend its’ effect, the explanation of the universe must be timeless, spaceless, eternal, uncaused, and supernatural. Since the Christian worldview contains the assumption that God exists, it makes sense of this reality, while a secular or naturalistic worldview would not. The secular presuppositions do not even permit them to have a universe, and last I checked, they need one.

Second, the Christian worldview tells us that there is an objective standard of morality, and everybody has violated it. This is something that we all intuitively recognize. We all recognize that certain things really are moral abominations. While our moral senses may be skewed by society and conditioning, we still generally know that some things really are right and others really are wrong. But as I argued in my article Can Goodness Exist If God Does Not Exist? the naturalistic worldview has no ontological foundation for moral values or moral duties. That is why most secularists have adopted relative morality, which is to say that human beings more or less decide what is right and wrong. But we do not really have value. As the atheist Dr. Michael Ruse suggested, “Morality is a biological adaptation, no less than our hands and feet and teeth.” The problem of sin is minimized.

Yet nobody can live as though there was no sin in the world. Nobody can live as though all claims were morally neutral. We all cringe in disgust at the idea of the child molester. Nobody can say that this man is morally neutral. But the secularist is left to just throw up his hands in futility, as he is left unable to make that condemnation. As Bertrand Russell said, “Only upon a foundation of unyielding despair can the soul’s habitation be henceforth safely built.” The secular worldview makes no sense of the problem of sin. But the Christian worldview (informed by the Bible) does.

Of course, one may object that Christianity is not the only worldview that posits the existence of God as the ontological foundation for moral values and duties. But while all of these worldviews may say that God exists, they offer an inadequate representation of God’s character, for in all of them, sin is not dealt with. After all, as the atheists will ask, why is there so much evil and suffering in the world? Where is the God of justice? Why does his judgment and his wrath tarry? Why has he not destroyed the sinful man? The competing worldview will usually suggest that if our good deeds weigh more than our evil deeds, then God does not need to give them justice. He will have mercy on them. But this mercy comes at the expense of his justice. If justice is not truly executed, then God is like the unjust judge who took a bribe (good deeds) and let a guilty criminal go.

The Christian worldview resolves this dilemma. Paul wrote, “…Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3:24b-26). We are guilty, and Jesus Christ paid our fine. He died in our place. How do I know that the Bible is God’s word? It is only by assuming the Christian worldview (informed by the Bible) that you can make sense of the world around you, including the existence of the universe and the problem of evil and suffering.

If you enjoyed this and would like to read similar content, see my article, What Does ‘Jesus Died For Our Sins’ Mean?

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What Can We Learn About Our Culture From The Dancing Man?

dancing man 1We all have compassion for other people. Unless you are a sociopath, you do not want other people to feel bad. Sometimes people do draw pleasure or amusement from inflicting pain and suffering upon others. An immoral person may enjoy causing an individual to depart from their marital vows and engage in an illicit affair. Some may want others to feel pain. But most of us are a little more compassionate. A few months ago, some sort of compassion emerged when a man was made fun of for doing a little jig in public (if indeed that is what we was doing). Placed next to a picture of him with his head down, allegedly a shameful reaction to being caught dancing, this image quickly spread across Los Angeles and went viral. He was named the Dancing Man and people unified under their compassion to find this man. They even hosted a dance party, and the so-called Dancing Man would be the honored guest. While it might just seem like a nice and compassionate gesture, I think that there are deeper implications. It suggests something about our culture. What can we learn about our culture from the Dancing Man?

dancing man 2First of all, before I begin to explore the question, ‘What can we learn about our culture from the Dancing Man?’ I need to preface our discussion. I am not indifferent toward the suffering of other people. Public humiliation can be a taxing event in one’s life. If the Dancing Man really was publicly shamed for being overweight and dancing (as the images seem to narrate), then he deserves a measure of sympathy. Everybody deserves sympathy. Nobody wants to be made fun of in public and nobody wants to feel like they are alone. But, again, there is more latitude to this. So, what can we learn about our culture from the Dancing Man?

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Hurt Feels Are Everything To Us

When we consider the issues of the world, one of the central questions that we ask is how it makes people feel. If we neglect that question, there is somebody there to remind us that we are forgetting it. When there is a terrorist attack, the national reaction is not to ask what should be done to stop terrorism. It is to ensure that we are reminded that there are peaceful Muslims in the world. If radicalism comes into the public eye, the public steers its’ sight to the “millions of peaceful Muslim citizens.” We are much more inclined to have compassion for a person than to truly love them. Love means that we tell them hard truths and encourage them to endure something difficult because it is ultimately better for them. That is why so many people advocate for same-sex marriage. Rather than considering the myriad of social and physical consequences, people concern themselves with the emotional impact. The decisions that we make and the things that we allow ourselves to get worked up over are very much based on emotion.

dancing-man-435Perhaps that is why relativism has seen such a growth. People are more likely to embrace the philosophy that ‘If it works for you, who am I to object?’ Only when we know what emotions a person is enduring and have experienced those same emotions can we really weigh in. That is why so many pro-abortion advocates will object that men cannot provide any insight into abortion, because they have not experienced the emotional trauma that comes with unwanted pregnancy. Only when you experience this range of emotion and feelings can you truly have insight.

How does this relate to the Dancing Man? What can we learn about our culture from the Dancing Man? Well, the Dancing Man, too, felt bad. He had a few negative emotions. He put is head down because he was ashamed (so the story goes) and there was a wave of sympathy. People became so inflamed with compassion for the Dancing Man because hurt feelings are everything to our culture. Again, I think that people deserve sympathy and I am sure that the Dancing Man is a fine individual. But he is also an adult. He does not need to be coddled. Even if he did feel a little bad, so what? Sometimes negative emotions are a good thing. A few negative emotions can inspire an individual to change their life. Perhaps the Dancing Man began to reflect on his image and decided that he needed to lose weight.

This means that the Dancing Man does not need to be coddled. Maybe he needs those negative emotions. Maybe he needs to face hard truths to motivate him to change his life. (I do not know the Dancing Man, but I just pointing out possibilities). What can we learn about our culture from the Dancing Man? We learn that people are much more likely to pursue an easy solution. We would rather be compassionate than be loving. Compassion has its’ place. But people do not need to be coddled. They need to be told the truth. Unfortunately, truth does not seem to have any place in our culture. Feelings are the ultimate arbiter of truth and the final judge. That is what I learn about our culture from the Dancing Man.

Time And Money

It is interesting how quickly emotional content will go viral and encourage people to waste their money and time. Years ago, several people were shown a few videos of child soldiers in Africa, under the reign of Joseph Kony. They were encouraged to spread awareness. Awareness, they argued, was the key to stopping the tyrant. This process led to millions of dollars in profits. People purchased bracelets, t-shirts, videos, and encouraged others to do likewise. It was all because they watched an emotional video. People are inclined to take action when they are emotional. Emotions are meant to inspired action. Content developers know this and they take advantage of it. So a call to action will complement these videos of the atrocities of Joseph Kony, and people accept that call to action. They spend their money. They are presented with a real problem that inspired emotions and then succumb to a fake solution. This tactic has also been employed by presidential candidates such as Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.

In the case of the Dancing Man, a GoFundMe account was set up. They raised over $34,000 to fund a dance party and satisfy the shamed man. Again, people deserve compassion. But there are much more worthy causes that could use an extra $34,000. That money could have been dedicated to pro-life pregnancy center, given to a homeless shelter or used to fund some other charity. Instead, it was given to a party because the Dancing Man had one passing moment where he felt bad. Of course, I do not blame the Dancing Man for this egregious waste of money and time. I blame everybody who contributed to this pseudo-cause.

What can we learn about our culture from the Dancing Man? We learn that while people have the resources to donate to charity, to make sacrifices for the needy, they do not. They are too busy wasting their money on causes that do not matter. Our culture is more inclined to spend money when they are feeling emotional. Emotions do not mean that you are donating to a righteous cause. Think before you give your money. Stop wasting your resources. Give to causes that actually matter. You are putting bandaids on boo-boos when there are critical injuries.

What Can We Learn About Our Culture From The Dancing Man?

There are enough people who have good intentions out there. There are a lot of people who want to do the right thing. But they have no idea what the right thing is. They have no idea how to discern what the right thing is and they do not even want to. They are willing to follow their unguided emotions. When they feel offended, the offender is wrong by default. Hard truths are not truths at all. We learn from the Dancing Man that people have good intentions (the intention to help somebody) but they are totally misdirected and guided by their emotions. Look, it is not enough to have good intentions. If you want to help people, do not go looking for the guy who put his head down. He is an adult. Look for people who are truly struggling. Donate or volunteer for the women’s center Care Net. Help somebody who is hungry or cold or widowed or orphaned.

If you enjoyed this article and want to read similar content, check out my series on Moral Questions And Social Issues.

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If Christianity Were True, Would You Become A Christian?

if christianity were true, would you become a christian?As we are assessing competing views of reality, many of us boast that our conception of the world is the correct one. Everybody will struggle until they adopt our frame of reference. Even pluralists (who believe that every view is of equal merit, depending on your personal needs) believe that they are correct about pluralism and that others should abandon their frame of reference in favor of pluralism. The truth is relevant. No matter how many relativists tell us that truth changes based on one’s preferences, we generally know better. The truth is independent of our opinions. As Christians and atheist (or Muslims or Buddhists or Sikhs or Scientologists) debate, we are contesting that our frame of reference corresponds to reality. Christians are testifying that Jesus Christ is the sovereign Lord, the Creator of the universe, and forgiveness of sins comes through trust in his promises. We believe that this is true. You might believe that something else is true. Suppose for a moment that the Christians are right. If Christianity were true, would you become a Christian?

if christianity were true, would you become a christian?Of course, this question could be reformulated regarding any proposition at all. You might hastily fire back, “If atheism were true, would you become an atheist?” I think that the rational man should comport his views to that which is true. The reason that the question is posed in this way is because many of my readers are apostates of Christianity. Christianity is the prevailing religion in the United States, and it is common for people to backslide. This happens for many different reasons.

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This Question Will Help You Assess Your Biases

People find it difficult to admit that they have biases. They do not like the idea that something is impairing their judgment and preventing them from thinking rationally. But the truth is that everybody has biases. Everybody has emotional reasons for their behavior of which they are often unaware. While some atheists may contest that they are void of this burden, they are not. Everybody believes what they want. Everybody has dispositions based on their personal experiences. Neither atheists nor Christians objectively analyze the evidence. We all have inclinations. The Christian may be inclined to keep their tradition, while the atheist may be inclined to reject their long-held tradition. If you convince yourself that you have no biases, it is because you are blind to them. Your goal should be to recognize your biases so that you can see how they influence you.

if christianiy were true would you become a christian 4As you ask the question, “if Christianity were true, would you become a Christian?” underlying motivations may begin to emerge. You will begin to assess the degree to which you are concerned with what is true. If you are tempted to answer, “No, I would not become a Christian,” then you need to ask yourself why that is. The question may be rephrased, ‘Do you want Christianity to be true?’ If not, why not? Think about that for a moment and ask yourself how your desires may be affecting your judgment.

That should not be taken as an insult. It is natural. Our desires impact our judgment. There may be days that you know rationally that you should work out and lose weight. But you have different desires. You have the desire to eat a donut. Your desires are impacting your judgment. This occurs much more often than we realize. As we begin to identify when it happens, we will then be able to combat it. So, if Christianity were true, would you become a Christian? That is a question worth considering. It will help you to assess your biases.

Answer Your Own Objections

Without pointing the finger or assigning blame, I think many objections that people have to Christianity assume their conclusion. This is true in many disciplines. People mount arguments without completely thinking through them or realizing how they came to their conclusion. Christians are often guilty of the same thing. Christians will mount objections to Islam or atheism that assume their conclusion. Similarly, many objections to Christianity actually assume that Christianity is not true. I do not think that this is a fair way to assess an issue. So when I ask you, ‘If Christianity were true, would you become a Christian?’ there are several important implications that will disarm many of the common objections that people have to Christianity.

First, atheists will sometimes mount arguments against the Bible on the basis of some perceived evil in God’s actions. They are suggesting that if God had really ordered the slaying of some people or if he would send somebody to Hell, he would be malevolent. Unfortunately, the atheist is assuming their conclusion. This comes out when you begin to apply the question, ‘If Christianity were true, would you become a Christian?’ For if Christianity were true, this means that God exists. God is a being who is perfectly holy, just and righteous. When he acts, we know that he is acting in righteousness. When we do not understand his actions, we simply do not have enough information. This is the Christian assumption. So when we say that Christianity is true, we mean that God has perfectly good reasons for allowing evil or bringing about some event that was harmful to individuals. If you suggest that God was evil, you are saying that he had evil intent, which is an assumption that departs from the Christian worldview. But if Christianity were true, then this problem would quickly be resolved.

Second, the problem of miraculous stories in the Bible would be resolved. Atheists object that the Bible recounts things that would not happen in a naturalistic world. If God did not exist, a donkey could not start talking. Jonah could not survive in the belly of a whale. Jesus Christ could not rise from the dead. The virgin birth would be impossible. If you assume that God does not exist, these are all powerful disproofs of the biblical narrative. However, again, apply our question. If Christianity were true, would you become a Christian? For if Christianity were true, then God exists. If God exists, then a miraculous story is not difficult to explain. The person mounting this argument has assumed their conclusion.

If you are trying to assess some of your arguments, then think about it like this. Would your argument still work if Christianity were true? If the answer is no, then your arguments might assume that Christianity is not true in an effort to prove that Christianity is not true. This is fallacious.

Nobody Would Become A Christian

I anticipate that many people may object that any person of any religion could have written this article up to this point (just with a few words here or there changed). I am pointing out a few common epistemological problems. That changes here. I would like to make a proposition that members of most other religions would never make. Nobody would ever become a Christian. I could mount an irrefutable argument and the onlookers would be unmoved. I submit that the bias that people have always favors their sin and flees from anything that prevents them from sinning. That is not to say that this is in the forefront of your mind. It is subconscious.

It is just what people do. People prefer self-indulgence. They prefer to do what feels good rather than what is righteous. They prefer to redefine what is righteous so that their conscious is not burdening them anymore. Perhaps that is why so many people adopt systems of relative morality. Assessing this state of human depravity, the Bible tells us that, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23). Paul tells us that nobody is good. We are repulsed by God by our very nature (Ephesians 2:3). It is something like if I were to give you the choice between a plate of cookies and a plate of liver and onions. It is like if I gave you the choice between a night of pizza and football or a night at work. Most people would choose that which is easier, that which feels good and that they are inclined toward. Our desires are inclined toward sin and away from God.

You have probably heard the Christian resolution to this problem before. Paul wrote, “The wage of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 6:23). This means two things. First, we owe a debt. We have accumulated nothing but death. That is what we have earned because we are guilty sinners. Second, (and this is the Good News) Jesus Christ took our place. The God-Man died on the cross, under the wrath of the Father (Isaiah 53:10). We are guilty, and he paid our fine on our behalf. Our unrighteousness was nailed to the cross so that his righteousness could be given to us. Three days later, he rose from the dead, providing a model for our resurrection and a hope for the eternal life that he gives freely to those who believe (John 3:16, Romans 4:5).

I know what you are thinking. You have heard it all before, and it is foolish. How could one man die for our sins? How could God die? I know that this is your reaction because the word of God tells me that this is your reaction. Paul wrote in 1st Corinthians 1:18, “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” If Christianity were true, would you become a Christian? Think for a moment. If it were true, then your objections would have good answers. You may have never heard them, but they are there. Search this blog. Send me an e-mail. I will answer.

If Christianity were true, would you become a Christian? Tell me in the comment section below. Interact with what I have said here. If you want to read similar content, check out my series Arguments For Atheists To Deal With.

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Is The Minimal Facts Argument Impious?

mini 1More people who identify themselves as Christians throughout the world are becoming far more inclined toward liberal theology. They are disassociating themselves with the Bible, perhaps in an effort to have a seat at the proverbial table, to have the respect of intellectuals. They want men such as Bart Ehrman and other liberal theologians to nod in approval of their intellect and beliefs. In fact, Bart Ehrman said in his book How Jesus Became God that he respects the form of Christianity that does not use the Bible. Sometimes, presuppositional apologists accuse classical apologists of rendering an argument that is just a few short steps away from a liberal view of the Bible. Presuppositional apologists such as Dr. James White will suggest that the Minimal Facts argument for the resurrection of Jesus is impious. Is he correct? Is the Minimal Facts argument impious?

mini 2Some readers may be wondering what the Minimal Facts argument is. It is an attempt to show via standard historical procedures that Jesus of Nazareth really did rise from the dead. It asks what one can establish about Jesus on the basis of the historical data. What events surrounding his life does the evidence point to? Then, one measures the resurrection hypothesis against competing naturalistic hypotheses. But, where does the apologist acquire his or her historical information? The best sources that descend from the first century are the gospel narratives. However, if one is to analyze the New Testament as a historian, they need to treat them as a collection of human documents and discern what they can prove that happened. Dr. White (along with many other presuppositionalists) think that this is impious. The Bible is God-breathed. It is not merely a collection of historical documents. Do they have a point? Is that Minimal Facts argument impious?

Everybody Explores Possible Alternatives

One of the great features of being human is our capacity for critical thought. Everything that we learn does not have to be the result of a process of trial and error. We can consider what might happen in certain circumstances. We can plan ahead and consider possible consequences. This is a heuristic device. It does not mean that these possible alternatives are true. A presuppositionalist might say, “Well, if X argument were answered to my satisfaction, I would become a classical apologist.” But that is just a scenario meant to illustrate the point that they were making. Similarly, one may ask an atheist, “If Christianity were true, would you become a Christian?” Obviously, Christianity is true. But this question is meant to make the atheist reflect upon their own biases. It is a heuristic device.

This is similar to how the apologist will use the Minimal Facts argument. Men such as Dr. Gary Habermas and Dr. William Lane Craig do not think that the Bible is merely a collection of historical documents. They believe, like Dr. White, that it is God-breathed. However, if it were not God-breathed, and if it were just a collection of ancient documents, what could be gleaned from it? The Minimal Facts argument makes that assessment. So, is the Minimal Facts argument impious? It is certainly not. It is just an assessment of a possible alternative.

Interestingly, men such as Dr. White will make this assessment when they are in dialogue with Muslim apologists. When you are in a debate with a Muslim about the Qur’an, it is not helpful to just appeal to the Bible as a divinely inspired document. They would just reply by appealing to the Qur’an as a divinely inspired document. The discussion would reach a stalemate. The question that needs to be asked is, “How do we know that these are or are not divinely inspired documents?” But that is pretty close to the Minimal Facts argument. Now, lest anyone accuse me of the tu quoque fallacy, I am not saying that because the presuppositionalists use a similar argument, that it is therefore valid. This article is aimed at presuppositionalists and people who have been influenced by presuppositional thought. So I am just pointing out that we all take this approach to apologetics in different circumstances. The classical apologist is just a little more consistent.

It Assumes That God Acts In History

The doctrine of naturalism is one of the key indicators of liberal scholarship. If one looks at the historical data, they need to assume that God is not the cause of any phenomenon at all. Accordingly, one cannot suggest that miracles are a possibility. Bart Ehrman has argued that since a miracle is such an unlikely event, that the historian must rule it out by fiat (as historians only deal in probabilities). This seems to be just a few short steps away from suggesting that God does not act in history at all, that everything has happened naturally and that one only discerns the existence of God by their personal experience. This would eliminate the doctrine of biblical inspiration. This accusation is similar to what proponents of the Minimal Facts argument will endure. Is that argument justified? Is the Minimal Facts argument impious?

Well, during his debate with Bart Ehrman, William Lane Craig defended the Minimal Facts argument and did not succumb to Ehrman’s argument. Dr. Craig pointed out that there were two areas of historical criteria that need to be considered (I pointed this out in my article Can A Historian Use God As An Explanation?). First, there is the intrinsic possibility of an event. Miracles are intrinsically improbable. However, Dr. Ehrman ignored the second half of the probability calculus. An intrinsically improbable event may be the best explanation if there is sufficient background evidence to establish it. So, with the four minimal facts that Dr. Craig presented, God’s raising Jesus from the dead becomes a probable event. (If you are preparing to object out of your distaste for probabilistic arguments, check out my article Do Classical Apologetics Postulate A Probabilistic God?)

All of this goes to say that the Minimal Facts argument is not an exercise in liberal scholarship. Everything that I have just outlined about the probability calculus is part of the argument. God’s acting in history is necessary to the Minimal Facts argument. If God did not act in history, the argument would instantly collapse by default. Is the Minimal Facts argument impious? Not at all. It stands against the tide of pervading scholarship and even depicts the conservative position as a more reasonable alternative (which summarizes Dr. Craig’s reputation quite well).

A Historian In Their Personal Life

A historian may sometimes treat the Bible a collection of ancient documents, and nothing more. They may attempt to discern what one can prove historically. But that endeavor does indicate that they do not believe that some event actually took place. If I mount a historical argument that there really were guards at the tomb of Jesus, that does not mean that my belief in the guards at the tomb hinge upon the argument. I already have reasons for believing that. Similarly, if I make an argument that Ephesians 1 teaches the doctrine of unconditional election, my belief in unconditional election does not hinge upon that passage. There are other passages worth considering.

In the same way, the historian may make an argument that the historical Jesus really did say and do certain things. They may develop a portrait the historical Jesus on the basis of the historical principles of investigation. However, they will have a much wider portrait in their own personal life. They may personally know that Jesus said everything that is recorded in the gospels. But they do not know it as a historian. They know it as a Christian. That is not to say that their historical pursuits are not in submission to the Lordship of Christ. They are serving Christ via their historical investigation by establishing that the traditions that the church has always affirmed really are true. So, is the Minimal Facts argument impious? It would be if the historian actually thought that the Bible was uninspired. But the classical apologists who I have followed and listed in this post do believe in inspiration and inerrancy.

If you enjoyed my exploration of the question ‘is the Minimal Factors argument impious?’ and want to read similar content, check out my article What Presuppositionalists Can Learn From Classical Apologists

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What Presuppositionalists Can Learn From Classical Apologetics

presup 1It is easy to create divisions. Anybody can foster a sectarian state of mind. It is quite natural for people to think that they are members of an elite class. This is particularly prevalent in religious thought. People who believe in certain religious claims are inclined to think that they are special, wiser, or in some way greater than those who do not believe those religious claims. Unfortunately, Christians are often guilty of the sectarian mind. While some divisions are necessary, some are not necessary. The division between presuppositional apologists and classical apologists is wholly unnecessary. One needs only begin to ask what presuppositionalists can learn from classical apologetics.

presup 2It would be prudent to briefly summarize these two positions before proceeding. Classical apologetics looks at the philosophical and scientific evidence and infers the existence of God as a probabilistic conclusion. Presuppositional apologetics suggests that one must presuppose the Christian worldview to make sense of logical reasoning or to make any truth claims at all. When presuppositionalists engage with classical apologists or evidentialists, it is often framed in the context of a debate. Those impious evidentialists are putting God to the test and granting the nonbeliever the authority to stand in judgment over God. As I pointed out in my article Do Classical Apologetics Postulate A Probabilistic God? our arguments are on trial. God is not on trial. Presuppositionalism and classical apologetics have of an overlap than many people do not realize. Many should begin to realize what presuppositionalists can learn from classical apologetics.

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Assume God To Make Sense of The Evidence

Presuppositionalists will often refuse to provide evidence for the existence of God. Appealing to Romans 1:20, they will suggest that everybody already knows that God exists. For that reason, providing evidence for the unbeliever would be something like a fool’s errand. It is a waste of time. They already believe. The duty of the presuppositionalist, then, is to help them to recognize that they already believe. This will often involve the transcendental argument for the existence of God, which suggests that one cannot know anything to be true unless they assume the Christian worldview. So, the presuppositionalist will challenge the unbeliever to name a truth that they know with certainty. If and when the unbeliever fails, the presuppositionalist points out that they do know things with certainty. They are essentially pointing out an epistemological flaw in atheism. They are suggesting that one must abandon atheism to consistently use their reasoning capacity.

presup 4But a similar approach could be taken to classical apologetics. While many classical apologetics are not too fond of the transcendental argument, one could still mount a presuppositional form of evidentialism. One could render a presuppositional interpretation of the contingency argument for the existence of God. The contingency argument points out that the existence of anything contingent requires the existence of God. I mounted this argument in my article Why Does Anything At All Exist? This is perhaps the most potent argument for the existence of God. The presuppositionalist’s mouth is probably watering as they wish that they could use such an argument.

presup 5Well, I think that it is available to them. Arguments such as the contingency argument is what presuppositionalists can learn from classical apologetics. They would just formulate it in a similar way to the Transcendental Argument. If the nonbeliever is to make sense of the universe, they need to presuppose that God exists. Wielding the transcendental argument, you may strip the atheists of their reasoning. But wielding the contingency argument, you strip them of the universe. They need a universe more than they need their reasoning. In fact, you could put a presuppositional bend to many of the arguments from natural theology. You could argue that if you are to make sense of the fine-tuning, consciousness, the historical events surrounding the death of Jesus, or any other fingerprints of design, the unbeliever must presuppose the existence of God. This will substantially contribute to the presuppositional arsenal. That is what presuppositionalists can learn from classical apologetics.

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We Already Share Philosophical Arguments

The moral argument is one of the signature arguments that classical apologists will use when they make their case that God exists. But it is a little different from arguments related to natural theology. Unlike the Kalam Cosmological Argument, the fine-tuning argument, et cetera, the premises in this argument do not draw any support from scientific data. It is a philosophical argument. It calls people to recognize that there are objective moral truths upon which we based our lives. From there, the nonbeliever is asked to consider the ontological foundation for their moral values and duties. Dr. William Lane Craig renders this argument syllogistically, meaning that it has a series of steps concluding in the existence of God. He renders it as follows: 1 – If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist. 2 – Objective moral values and duties do exist. 3 – Therefore, God exists.

Presuppositionalists make the same argument. But the way that they render it is different. Rather than concluding that God exists, they will assume that God exists and challenge anybody with a rival worldview to make sense of moral values and duties. It is similar to the Transcendental Argument in this way. You will probably note that the presuppositionalists’ moral argument is strikingly similar to the classical apologists’ moral argument. You would be right to think that. It is literally the same argument. It is just worded a little differently. Classical apologists use syllogisms, while presuppositionalists use presuppositions. It is a distinction that could not matter less. In fact, I usually prefer to present it much like a presuppositionalist! If we already share one philosophical argument, why can we not share others? Why not use the Ontological Argument? There is an entire arsenal of scientific and philosophical arguments that could be reformulated quite easily to have a presuppositional bend. That is what presuppositionalists can learn from classical apologetics.

You Do Not Need To Assume Your Conclusion

When discussing the issue of presuppositional apologetics, the issue of circular reasoning often emerges. The presuppositionalist is frequently accused of assuming their conclusion. Of course, this objection is a little misguided, because the presuppositionalist is not using a syllogistic argument. But there is a relevant point hiding somewhere. After all, there is a syllogism in every argument, whether explicit or implicit. The presuppositional syllogism usually involves the assumption of the existence of God and the truth of the biblical data. They will concede this point. Many presuppositionalists will agree that they are guilty of circular reasoning. However, they will suggest that sometimes, circular reasoning is a valid form of argumentation, citing the distinction between vicious and virtuous circular reasoning.

Whether this distinction is valid is irrelevant for our purposes. This distinction creates a stopping point in the argument. The argument is significantly weaker when one must concede that they are engaging in circular reasoning. This is what presuppositionalists can learn from classical apologetics. You could make the same argument without assuming your conclusion, and then the discussion could proceed further. You could make intellectual progress. If you must use the transcendental argument, you could formulate it syllogistically, so that it concludes that God exists. It could look something like this: “1 – If God does not exist, our reasoning faculties would not be functional. 2 – Our reasoning faculties are functional. 3 – Therefore, God exists.” This swiftly avoids the charge of circular reasoning and strengthens the argument. What presuppositionalists can learn from classical apologetics is how to mount the same argument without worrying about being charged with reasoning in a circle.

Plantinga’s Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism

Since we have seen that presuppositionalists are keen to use philosophical arguments (such as the moral argument), there should not be any reason that they would be disinclined toward the Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism (EAAN). This argument does not require you to believe in evolution. Rather, it draws philosophical implications from both naturalism and the Theory of Evolution and concludes that if they are both true, one’s cognitive faculties would not be functional. This is because on the Theory of Evolution, the human brain evolved for survival rather than to grasp truth. A man may think that he want to eat because the food tastes good, or sleep with a woman because he likes the way she looks, but the truth is that he wants these things as survival necessities. He does not need to know the truth to survive. For that reason, argues Plantinga, there is no reason to anticipate that our cognitive faculties are functional if both naturalism and evolution are true.

In fact, with natural determinism in mind, everything that one does is just the product of a previous natural cause. One does not reason to his conclusions, but is just genetically programmed to come to them. Human beings are just machines for propagating DNA. Everything that we do, whether pursue a woman or something to eat is the result of genetic programming. Even if we think that we are reasoning to our conclusions, we are really just obeying our survival instincts. In this way, if naturalism were true, one could never reason to it.

This might strike the presuppositionalist as having a few similarities with the Transcendental Argument for God’s existence. It yields a similar conclusion, and it is much more defensible. It does not require obscure and esoteric discussions of epistemology. Further, if you are concerned that it is not technically presuppositional, then you can just reformulate it. A few minor tweaks will leave you with an argument that says that one must assume the existence of God to make sense of one’s cognitive faculties. You could even employ the atheists’ favorite weapon: the Theory of Evolution (and you could do it without conceding that it is true). Although, it is noteworthy that if you make this tweak, you will significantly weaken Plantinga’s argument. But it is still an upgrade from the Transcendental Argument. This is what presuppositionalists can learn from classical apologetics.

If you want to read similar content, see my article Against Presuppositional Apologetics.

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Are Pentecostal Tongues Biblical?

tongues 1Non-Pentecostal Christians who visit a Pentecostal church will usually be very confused by their practice and behavior. Their church services are not solemn, and they leave little room for quiet contemplation. The parish is encouraged to shout with joy, dance, and run laps around the room. As the shouting commences, it quite often trails off into incomprehensible speech that sounds something like a zombie’s favorite song. This phenomenon is otherwise known as glossolalia, or speaking in tongues. Some Pentecostals use tongues as a measurement of spiritual maturity or an advanced spiritual state. God shows favor by granting tongues to some of his people. In more extreme sects, it is thought that tongues are a necessary characteristic of salvation (I explored this idea in my article Are Tongues Necessary For Salvation?) What are we to make of this? Are Pentecostal tongues biblical?

tongues 2Whatever impression one may have of ecstatic speech, it is difficult to avoid the concept in the New Testament. If you open the book of Acts, you will see that sometimes when people received the Holy Spirit, they began to speak with other tongues. Many Christians will maintain their resistance to the practice of Pentecostal tongues by suggesting that the apostolic gifts, including tongues, ceased with the death of the last apostle. While that may be the case, that is not the premise of this article. Also, that would still leave us with the uncomfortable conclusion that the early church spoke in what they regarded as the language of the angels. If that is true, then it is true. God has performed other miracles in the Bible. But is it the case? Are Pentecostal tongues biblical?

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Acts 2 Shows People Learning Other Human Languages

If you were to ask a Pentecostal to explain their belief in the existence of tongues, they would likely say that it is the model provided throughout the book of Acts. Supremely, it is found at the birth of the Christian church, at Pentecost. The Holy Spirit fell upon the people, and they were baptized in the Spirit. As evidence of this baptism, they began to speak with other tongues. This is undeniable. However, I would be so bold as to suggest that these tongues were not other-worldly. They were distinct and recognizable human languages, given for the preaching of the gospel to all nations.

tongues 4The inclusion of the Gentiles into the plan of salvation was a major theme in the New Testament. While Christianity is primarily a Gentile religion today, it began as a Jewish sect. These Jews had a lot of nationalistic pride. Gentiles were not allowed in. That is why Paul said that it required courage for Isaiah to preach the future inclusion of the Gentiles (Romans 10:20). The church received these new languages as part of that narrative. They are preaching the gospel to all nations (Matthew 28:19). If they are going to do that, they will need to learn some new dialects.

tongues 5This interpretation enjoys the support of many great saints throughout church history. As Saint Augustine said, “In the first days that the Holy Spirit fell upon the believers, and they spoke in tongues that they hadn’t learned, as the Spirit gave them to speak. These signs were appropriate for the time. For it was necessary that the Holy Spirit be signified thus in all tongues, because the gospel of God was going to traverse all tongues throughout the earth.”

tongues 6This is not just speculative. Acts 2 specifically makes this point. In verses 5-11, people from different regions receive the gift of tongues. The text specifies (in verse 11), “We hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” One may be inclined to suggest that these people were speaking in an ecstatic language, and the onlookers understood all of them in their own native language. But that seems more like an interpretive maneuver than anything else. It is not derived from the text. Second, even if you are not inclined to concede the argument, it must be conceded that both interpretations are valid. It is perfectly valid to interpret the tongues Acts 2:5-11 as referring to other human languages. Are Pentecostal tongues biblical? Minimally, this passage shuts down the argument for ecstatic speech from Acts 2. This means that the primary text supporting Pentecostal tongues is ambiguous at best.

Explaining 1st Corinthians 14

As the practice of tongues spread throughout the early church, there were several problems. People began to speak out of order. There were several people speaking in tongues in the church at one time, such that it was not even edifying. So, Paul wrote in his first letter to the Corinthians that they need to be more organized about how they speak in tongues. But throughout that discourse, he wrote a few things that seem indicative of Pentecostal tongues. He wrote in verse 2, “For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to people but to God. Indeed, no one understands them; they utter mysteries by the Spirit.”

There were several other times that he seemed to indicate that he could not understand what he was saying while speaking in tongues. The congregation at large could not understand it. But that does not necessitate that they were speaking in incomprehensible speech or some angelic language. It could just be that they were speaking in another human language that they did not understand. If the parishioners were speaking in a known human language that they did not understand, it is difficult to see how different chapter 14 would be.

Explaining Romans 8:26

Similarly, the Bible speaks of the Holy Spirit interacting with Christians. He empowers us and comforts us through difficult trials. Pentecostals believe that he guides our prayerful petitions by speaking through us. In support of this doctrine, they will often appeal to Romans 8:26. Paul wrote, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.”

However, it seems like one would only conclude that this was a reference to ecstatic speech if they brought that presupposition to the text. There are better ways to interpret this passage. Often, during difficult times, one may not know how they should pray or what they should say. During those lamentations, our prayers may seem foolish and timid. But, Paul comforts his reader by informing them that the Holy Spirit will translate our prayers into the will of God. When we do not know what to pray, we should just say what is on our heart, and the Spirit will bring a better petition to throne of God. After all, the text says that this intercession is a wordless groan. Tongues are composed of words. Are Pentecostal tongues biblical? It is left without any support in Acts 2, 1st Corinthians 14, or Romans 8:26.

Linguistic Analysis

Have you ever heard somebody speaking in tongues? If you have never visited a Pentecostal church, it is quite an experience. There are times in which it may seem funny and others wherein it is just depressing. Sometimes when the parishioners begin speaking in tongues, it becomes so obvious that it is nothing but gibberish. You do not need a professional linguist to analyze it. They are often just screeching. They might say, “KAKAKAKA.” That is not meant to be an amusing exaggeration. Visit a Pentecostal church, and you will hear something similar. It is just not a language.

Languages have certain characteristics. One can break it down and analyze it. It is something that is real. That is the basis of communication. If there is not a consistent and discernible pattern, then it cannot be seen as a language. You would need to call it something else, like “expressions.”

When linguists analyze the practice of speaking in tongues, their conclusions are not surprising. Professor William Samarin of the University of Toronto wrote that upon analyzing recordings of people speaking in tongues, he gathered that they were all “strings of syllables, made up of sounds taken from among all of those that the speaker knows, put together more or less haphazardly but which nevertheless emerge as word-like and sentence-like units because of realistic language and melody.” He goes on say, “Glossolalia is not a supernatural phenomenon. Anybody can produce it.” (There are even atheists who can still speak in tongues after deconversion!) The Encyclopedia of Psychology and Religion as well as the Cambridge Companion to Science and Religion report similar findings.

Are Pentecostal tongues biblical? If they were, they would be real. They would not be receptive to such easy falsification. If they were biblical, they would not sound like a cluster of consonants. The only way to diffuse this objection is to stop referring to the phenomenon as tongues. Stop calling it a language. Call it an expression.

“But I have experienced it!”

Upon explaining the lack of biblical warrant and the linguistic obscenity that is the glossolalia, many Pentecostals are inclined to point to their own personal experience. They will suggest that they have experienced it. How in the world can you tell somebody that tongues are not real if they have spoken in tongues? Well, that is not quite what is being asserted. Glossolalia certainly is real. But it is not from God, and there is no persuasive biblical warrant for this doctrine.

You are not the only person who has experienced glossolalia. It is a common phenomenon among different religions. New Age religions, Pagans, Hindus, and religions throughout history speak with tongues. It is a common psychological occurrence that often manifests itself in religious practice. Accordingly, I am not denying that tongues existence. I am denying that it is a biblical practice. I do not think that it is demonic. It is probably just something psychological. That is why even non-believers can still speak in tongues. They just need to “turn it on.”

Are Pentecostal Tongues Biblical

I understand that this is an issue that is deeply personal for many people. For that reason, it is important to point out that the gospel does not hinge on this issue. There are many born again Christians who engage in Pentecostal tongues. But this is unfortunate. As Christians, we should be people who seek after true. Our experiences and traditions should not guide our interpretation of the biblical data.

Sometimes the passages relating to tongues can be quite compelling. After all, it says that they spoke in tongues right there in text. But what they meant by tongues and what you mean by tongues are different. Your interpretation has been formed by your tradition. This is an easy mistake to make. You have been taught about tongues for your entire life. It never even occurred to you to ask if Paul was referring to another human language. It never even occurred to you that every single prooftext of tongues in the Bible is fundamentally ambiguous.

Now, I encourage you to analyze the biblical data. Read about Dr. Sam Waldron’s Cascade Argument. I encourage you to do these things because Pentecostals and non-Pentecostals have fundamentally incompatible worship services. We may accept one another as brethren, but we cannot worship together. This ecclesiastical difference has created disunity in the body. I ask that you restore unity by abandoning the practice of tongues. Do not worry about speaking in tongues. Focus instead on righteousness and truth.

If you want to read more about this, see my articles Are Tongues Necessary For Salvation? and Should We Speak Out Loud In Tongues?

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William Lane Craig Vs James White: An Analysis

white craig 1Theologians and scholars usually attract kindred spirits. Since Dr. James White is a reformed theologian, his fans would likewise consider themselves part of the reformed tradition. Unfortunately, the non-reformed usually do not enjoy the work of Dr. White, except when they want to conjure up a few words of criticism. They will be more inclined to listen to Dr. William Lane Craig. Both of these men have a lot to offer and have dedicated their lives to serving Christ and his people. But what they offer is distinctly different. Dr. White has found himself opposing and criticizing Dr. Craig on several occasions (receiving nothing but silence from Dr. Craig and his ministry). Since these men have so many fans and not enough overlap in their fan base, it might be helpful to offer a critical comparison. Perhaps when fans read William Lane Craig Vs James White: An Analysis, they will begin to understand what their nemesis has to offer.

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I have found myself defending Dr. Craig from Dr. White’s fans and vice versa. I am one of the few with overlapping fanship. I learn a lot from both of these men, and I think that everybody who learns from one should learn from the other as well. They both generate a lot of helpful content on a regular basis. If you sat down and started listening Dr. White’s Dividing Line or Dr. Craig’s Defenders Class, you would be confronted with a wealth of theological, historical and philosophical information. As I present William Lane Craig Vs James White: An Analysis, I hope you begin to understand what you stand to gain from these Christian teachers.

Learn About A Broad Range of Topics

As we share the gospel with the world, we will be confronted with a host of different points of view. Denial of the gospel comes in a variety of different forms. People conceal their love of sin behind different dogmatisms and traditions. When we share the gospel with these people, we need to be able to understand how to interact with them. Both of these ministries attempt to equip struggling Christians with real answers to difficult questions.

If you were to tune in to Dr. Craig’s Defenders class, you would find that he thoroughly covers a range of issues pertaining to the Christian faith. These presentations have enough latitude to provide a foundation for future education. However, while he will cover these issues in his Sunday school class, Dr. Craig has limited his debates to a few areas of specialization, mainly pertaining to the truth of the central claims of the Christian faith. He is an expert in the arguments for the existence of God and the resurrection of Jesus. These are the areas in which he chooses to focus his ministry. I appreciate this emphasis immensely. Many people credit the strengthening of their faith (and even the prevention of apostasy) to Dr. Craig’s ministry.

While we appreciate everything that Dr. Craig has contributed, Dr. White offers something else. He recognizes that if you are going to defend the Christian faith, you need to defend doctrine. Dr. Craig believes in justification by faith alone and expounds upon the doctrine in his Defenders class, but he does not take the debate to dissidents. Dr. White does. He has had several debates with Roman Catholics about justification and related issues. They serve as an excellent resource for people who want to hear both sides. As we walk through William Lane Craig Vs James White: An Analysis, we recognize that both of these men contribute something valuable pertaining to their specialization.

Scholarship

When we say that somebody is a theologian or a philosopher, we mean that they are experts in these disciplines. They establish themselves as experts by earning accredited degrees. Of course, one can be an expert without a degree. A bachelor’s degree in a topic such as theology or philosophy is usually only enough to show you how much you do not know. If you want to be considered an expert, you need to earn a doctorate. When people listen to a man who has a doctorate in the topics of which he is speaking, there is an aura of legitimacy.

That is why people know to take William Lane Craig seriously when he steps onto a university campus. He is breaking the caricature of the uneducated Christian who is just dogmatically telling people to have faith and accept what he is saying. He showing people that it is possible to be both a Christian and an academic. Dr. Craig demonstrates that Christians do not need to be stupid. He is often the first encounter that young people have with intelligent Christians who actually have good answers when he attends these debates. There is no reason that we should not think that God does not sovereignly generate this newfound openness in the hearts of his elect so that they would receive the gospel. In other words, Dr. Craig’s doctorates in theology and philosophy, as well as his status as a Professor of Philosophy at the Talbot School of Theology and Houston Baptist University establish his legitimacy and provides an inroad to a culture that appreciates an educated man.

Similarly, Dr. White is esteemed as a Professor of Systematic Theology and biblical languages. He has received a doctorate in theology. While that doctorate is unaccredited, he is nonetheless an expert. But as we walk through William Lane Craig Vs James White: An Analysis, our task is to compare these two gentlemen. Therefore, it must be noted that Dr. Craig has the education and body of work that would establish him as an expert in theology and philosophy. Dr. White’s status as an expert is yielded only from his body of work.

Fluency In Different Topics

As we engage with the culture, it becomes patently obvious that it is not enough for a theologian to have a familiarization with theology. Theology is our foundation, and it is the queen of the sciences. But as we share the gospel with the culture, other areas of study and specialization become necessary. For example, if you are debating the illegitimacy of same-sex marriage in a public venue, you should understand both the relevant biblical data and the societal impact. Your audience will not appreciate if you are just reciting verses from the Bible. Similarly, if you are debating an issue that overlaps with science, it would be helpful if you were fluent in areas of science.

Dr. White has earned an accredited bachelor’s in biology. When he discusses issues such as evolution, he knows what he is talking about. This is in contrast with many Christians who will bring a few one-liners to an academic debate, only to embarrass themselves. Similarly, Dr. Craig is a scientifically literate philosopher. He has been published in peer-reviewed journals on topics relating to science and philosophy. Anybody who watched his debate with Sean Carroll can see that he has a firm handle on physics. If you have watched his debate with Francisco Ayala, you learned that he has a handle on biology. Dr. Craig can offer scholarly and informed critiques of the work of experts in their own area of expertise.

Calvinism And Arminianism

I believe that soteriology is important. While Pelagians such as Kerrigan Skelly may say things like, “Does God really care about soteriology?” I still find myself confronted by what Paul said in Galatians. “O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?” (Galatians 3:1). “You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.” (Galatians 5:4). As I pointed out in my article A Critique of Arminian Soteriology, synergism is the foundation of sacramentalism.

Unfortunately, many evangelicals embrace justification by faith alone firmly, while still holding to synergism. They believe that salvation is a cooperative effort, ultimately left in the hands of man. Dr. White is one of my favorite living defenders of monergism. He is a Calvinist without compromise, holding to the confessions of faith uttered by the Protestant Reformation. He makes no compromises to the papists. Significantly, his defense of Calvinist thought is driven by and founded in Scripture.

On the other hand, Dr. Craig is an Arminian. This is one of the few areas with which I cannot agree with Dr. Craig. I am uncomfortable with comments that he has made, such as, “Calvinism seems to impugn the goodness of God.” It seems just a few short steps away from the red-eyed “God is evil” objections that I answered in my article How Job Answers The Central Objection To Calvinism. Dr. White wins this match in William Lane Craig Vs James White: An Analysis.

A Man of Philosophy

Philosophy undergirds every discipline in which we engage. A scientist makes a host of philosophical assumptions. There are second-order questions that an expert in any discipline needs to ask. When they ask these questions, they are engaging in philosophical discourse. Many people characterize philosophy as relating only to life’s big questions, such as “Is there purpose in life? Does God exist?” But philosophy transcends these simple questions. Philosophy spreads to every discipline. That is why professional philosophers such as Dr. Craig can interact with so many different fields. It is almost like being a linguist and therefore being able to interact with so many different languages. One can certainly learn languages without training as a linguist, but it is significantly easier with that training.

There is another common misunderstanding about the nature of philosophical thought. Dr. White has unfortunately represented this misunderstanding. He has mischaracterized the philosophical theologian as somebody who has “a fundamental lack of trust in God’s word.” For the philosophical theologian will answer questions relating to God’s word that are not strictly derived from God’s word. The philosophical theologian will ask (just as an example), “Is God omnitemporal (existing at all times in eternity past) or atemporal (existing without time in eternity past)?” The misunderstanding should be obvious. The Bible does not answer this question. It tells us only that God has existed for eternity past. But it is not a lack of trust in God’s word to ask of the best explanation for that truth. It is also not infallible knowledge or doctrine. It is just something for philosophers to ponder. Scripture is the only rule of faith for the Christian church. Philosophical theology did not fall down from heaven. But it is still a valid discourse.

Dr. Craig’s embrace of philosophical theology has left him open to resolve difficult questions in ways that are simply not available to Dr. White. In the long controversy related to the alleged tension between divine sovereignty and human freedom, Dr. Craig is free to say that God employs his middle knowledge to actualize a libertarian anthropology. But since Dr. White has acquired such a distaste for philosophical theology, that explanation is just not available to him. In fact, he has raised a number of poor philosophical objections and has called on Dr. Craig to debate him. In all candor, Dr. White is something like a student challenging a professor in this area.

(However, I appreciate that Dr. White would likely prevail in an exegetical debate about the issues pertaining to Arminianism and Calvinism. But in a philosophical discussion about the objections that he has raised, he would simply be out of his element.)

Focusing On The Gospel In Debates

When these men enter into an academic debate, they have the same goal. They want people to hear the gospel and become disciples of Christ, as well as embolden Christians. Their approach to this is a little different, and these differences have unique benefits and drawbacks. When Dr. Craig is engaged in an academic debate, he is portraying belief in God and the resurrection of Jesus as a rational alternative for thinking men and women to consider. The hearts of university students may soften under the sovereign drawing and irresistible grace of God upon hearing Dr. Craig’s presentations.

When he engages in these debates, he tries to remain within the confines and strictures of an academic debate. He labors to avoid making any missteps that might turn the audience away. Sometimes, the result leaves him vulnerable to criticism. During his debate with John Shelby Spong, a liberal who denies the existence of a personal God, denies that the Bible is the word of God and denies that Jesus rose bodily from the dead, a student asked him a question. He asked, “Do you think your opponent is a real Christian?” This is a central issue. If he is a real Christian, then university students can be free to choose to deny the resurrection if they would like. His answer should have been an unshakable “No, he is not.” But he recognized that if he said that, Spong would have scored a few debate points by calling him intolerant. So Dr. Craig dodged the question by saying that this was not the topic of the debate.

I can say confidently that Dr. White would not have made that misstep. He would have answered the question and probably would have anticipated the accusation of intolerance. When Dr. White focuses on the gospel, he overtly preaches the gospel and answers questions with no room for compromise. He pulls no punches. This is true when he is in a debate with atheists, Muslims, or even John Shelby Spong.

William Lane Craig Vs James White: An Analysis

Many faithful Christians have learned a lot from both of these men and their ministries. While we may disagree with both of them on certain points, that does not mean that we should not learn from them or listen to them. We live in a culture in which people feel as though they need to be protected from opposing opinions. Liberals need to shout down speakers who they feel are too conservative. They just cannot handle hearing somebody with whom they disagree. If William Lane Craig starts to speak about Molinism, we need to either plug our ears or look for everything that is wrong with his presentation. This state of mind is why men such as Leighton Flowers can get away with reviewing some of Dr. White’s arguments without actually engaging with the core of what he said. His followers did not listen to what Dr. White said. They protected themselves from it.

While you may need to listen to some things with which you disagree, you will still learn a lot from both of these men. They contribute a lot that the other does not. Dr. Craig has areas of specialization that Dr. White does not, and vice versa. Perhaps you will learn something about the opposing position. If you are an Arminian and a fan of Dr. Craig, then perhaps you should listen to Dr. White for his presentations about Calvinism. If you stop looking for all of the reasons that he is wrong, you might learn something. Similarly, if you stop looking for all of the reasons that William Lane Craig is wrong about Molinism, you might learn something. You might even become both a Calvinist and a Molinist!

One other thing. If you are a fan of Dr. Craig, you may be inclined to say that this post is just an attack on him. If you are a fan of Dr. White, you might say that I am just attacking him. I am doing neither. These are probably my two favorite Christian ministries. I am expressing that these ministries have strengths and weaknesses. As a Christian, you should feel free to explore and learn from both.

If you want to read related content, see my article Does William Lane Craig Have An Orthodox Christology?

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Do Classical Apologetics Postulate A Probabilistic God?

trial 1As Christians, our marching orders are found in Matthew 28:19. We are commanded to go into every nation, preaching the gospel and baptizing converts. God has commissioned his people to relay his plan of salvation to the world. However, there is a divide among Christians about the best way that one can accomplish this task. God has ordained that some people would respond to the gospel via different methods. Some respond to the love of the church. Some respond to evidence. But as we discuss the evidence, it becomes clear that these arguments are probabilistic and uncertain. This leads many to object that we are preaching about a God who probably exists, who might save, and that it is all uncertain. Is that the case? Do classical apologetics postulate a probabilistic God?

trial 2This objection is primarily raised by disciples of Dr. Cornelius Van Till, after whom this breed of apologetics (also known as presuppositional apologetics) has been named. They believe that the proper and exclusive mode of Christian apologetics is to point out that even non-believers assume the existence of God and the truth of Christian theology. Since they focus so much on how atheists “know” what is true (the study of epistemology), the flaw that they see in classical apologetics is similar. How do classical apologists “know” what is true? They do not truly know, do they? After all, all of the arguments for classical apologetics are probabilistic and uncertain. Do classical apologetics postulate a probabilistic God?

Is God On Trial?

Sometimes when Christians do apologetics, they will use the illustration of the courtroom. This is evident in the 2014 film, God’s Not Dead. The main character is tasked with presenting evidence for the existence of God before his 101 philosophy class. During his prologue, he said something like, “God is on trial. I am the defense attorney. The professor is the prosecutor. You are the jury.” Then, he proceeded to present his arguments. This imagery is disturbing and has invoked no small critique from presuppositional apologists. They point out that the non-believer does not get to stand in judgment over God. They do not get to decide whether God exists. God judges them and holds them accountable for their non-belief.

That is why I reject this imagery. I reject the illustration of the courtroom. The classical apologist is not maintaining that God is on trial and that the non-believer gets to judge him. God exists independently of our arguments. Our arguments are on trial. God is not. These arguments did not fall down from Heaven. You are free to disagree with them if you think they are unsound. When these arguments reach the conclusion, “Therefore, God exists,” they are probabilistic conclusions. But the existence of God is not linked with the conclusion. God exists even if the argument fails. Do classical apologetics postulate a probabilistic God? No, it is the evidence that is probabilistic.

Can Other Traditions Use The Same Arguments?

Muslims will sometimes use similar arguments to prove that God exists. They may tie it in with arguments related to the Qur’an or the prophethood of Muhammad. Presuppositional apologists may sometimes see this as a demerit of wielding the evidence for the existence of God. After all, if we convince somebody to convert from atheism is deism, they still do not believe the gospel. They are still unsaved and unconverted.

This is a worthy point that every classical apologist needs to consider. It is not enough to just speak to an unbeliever about the evidence. They need to hear the gospel. But that is not to say that we cannot use evidence. Sometimes, there are intellectual barriers that may prevent a person from coming to believe. God may sovereignly draw somebody into regeneration and saving faith when those intellectual barriers are removed. There is no harm in discussing the evidence. After all, as Christians, we are committed to the truth that God created the Heavens and the earth.

Do classical apologetics postulate a probabilistic God? I should not think so. While we have evidence that God is the Creator, that does not mean that he is only the Creator. He has other roles, such as Savior. It is insufficient to exclusively discuss the evidence, as other religious traditions could use the same evidence. But that should not prevent us from exploring that option, so long as the gospel is in sight.

Treating The Bible As A Historic Document

Another mode of Christian apologetics is to argue from the historicity of the biblical narrative. One might argue that Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead, as a matter of history. When they mount this argument, they would likely treat the Bible as a historic document, like any other historic document. It is not treated as inerrant or infallible or inspired. It is just a collection of documents that need to be dated, established as credible, and we need to discern what is historically reliable. Presuppositional apologists will sometimes object that this is impious. It prevents people from putting their trust in God’s word.

This concern may be a little misguided. One can treat the Bible as a historic document while simultaneously believing, as a matter of faith, that it is inerrant. The question that they need to ask is “What can we prove is historically reliable?” Even if you cannot prove that a particular account or event is reliable, you are still committed to the truth that it happened on the basis of your faith.

This point came out in the debate between Bart Ehrman and Justin Bass. Dr. Ehrman accused Dr. Bass of having a historical bias because he assumed that the Bible was God’s inerrant word. However, a historian can assess, for example, that a particular passage meets the criteria of dissimilarity without assuming that it is inspired. Similarly, the historian can recognize that a passage does not meet that or any other criteria, and still believe that it is inspired. Do classical apologetics postulate a probabilistic God? Not at all. The historian is perfectly capable of assessing the Bible as a historical document, determining what probably happened (from a historian’s perspective) while maintaining his or her believe in the inerrancy of Scripture.

Witnessing To A Muslim

Islam and Christianity both make claims about Jesus Christ. Both have documents that they regard as inspired. Now, we could both just assume that our holy text is true, and just consign ourselves to talking past each other and making no progress at all. But that seems like a rather fruitless endeavor. Even presuppositional apologists recognize this. When they discuss the issues with Muslims, they will sound very much like classical apologists. They will use probabilistic evidence. Dr. James White is willing to debate topics such as Is The Bible Corrupted? with Islamic apologists. If he entered into that debate and just declare that the Bible was God’s inerrant word, there would not have been any discussion at all.

When Dr. White (or any presuppositionalist) engages with a Muslim, they will appeal to probabilistic arguments. That does not mean that they believe in a probabilistic God. It means that their arguments are probabilistic. Their arguments are subject to error. But their faith is not subject to error. Do classical apologetics postulate a probabilistic God? No more than presuppositional apologetics do.

Do Classical Apologetics Postulate A Probabilistic God?

As we share the gospel with different people, we recognize that they respond to different things. God has ordained that some backslidden Christians would just respond to a declarative and authoritative preaching of the gospel. In contrast, some people respond to logical arguments. Muslims are more likely to respond to historical arguments. When an individual comes to faith, this does not occur in a vacuum. God irresistibly draws his elect to faith and softens their heart.

If you want to read some of my treatments of the arguments for the existence of God, please see my Evidence For God series!

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Is Church History A Good Argument For Young Earth Creationism?

ch 1Many of the debates among professing Christians have cycled through their courses several times throughout the centuries. There are records of theologians who had the same debate fifteen hundred years ago as we have today. The objections to Calvinism, the deity of Christ, the trinity, and most other theological topics have largely not changed. As we preach the gospel to new generations, we have the same conversations as our brethren who came before. This can be helpful, because we can appeal to their answers to these objections and learn how they dealt with heresy when it arose. But the creation controversy does not have a long and rich history. (While there were minor traces of it throughout history, there is nothing comparable to the dialogue surrounding the trinity or other central issues.) Young earth creationists will tell us that theirs has been the default position for two thousand years. So is church church a good argument for young earth creationism?

ch 2Many old earth creationists have felt the force of this argument. If our interpretation of Genesis were exclusively influenced by the Bible, then it should run parallel to the interpretation of the great church scholars throughout history. But it does not. How do we make sense of this reality?

ch 3

They Were Not Informed By History

Anybody who has taken a 101 class about Christian theology or biblical interpretation knows about what is known as the historical-grammatical method. When one interprets the biblical data, he or she needs to take into account two factors; the historical context and the grammatical context. The historical context is the situation in which a particular text was written. When Paul wrote to the Corinthians about eating food that was sacrificed to idols, to what was he referring? Why did he speak about the length of hair? Questions such as these can be informed by the historical context. This means that as more historical data comes to light, our interpretation of the Bible may change.

ch 4With the discoveries of the data that came out of the Ancient Near East, we gained insight into the historical context in which Genesis (and many of the books of the Bible) was written. This is insight that the great theologians throughout history did not possess. If they knew that there were parallel stories to Genesis, they might have come to the same conclusions as the old earth creationists. If they knew that Genesis fit into Ancient Near Eastern cosmology (along with everything that entailed), their opinions might have been a little different. Is church history a good argument for young earth creationism? It would only be a good argument if the same historical data persisted throughout the lifetime of church history. But it has not.

They Were Not Informed By Science

Scientific facts inform our worldview. When something is directly in front of the rational man, undeniably evident, he cannot allow himself to deny it. It must be implemented into his paradigm. We know that the earth is round. Any biblical evidence that suggests that the earth is flat will usually be interpreted as a metaphor. We know that one does not think and feel emotions with organs such as the kidney or the heart. These passages must be reinterpreted. The literal interpretation does not even get a hearing. We have determined what they mean based on our scientific view of the world. When data arises, it cannot be ignored.

Throughout church history, there have been many great men of God who believed that the earth was six thousand years based on their interpretation of the Bible. But they did not have the scientific data. Despite a few outliers, the overwhelming consensus of the scientific community is that the earth is very old. Just as theologians do not believe that one thinks with their kidney, they should not believe that the earth is young. If theologians throughout church history had been confronted by contemporary science, they would not have been young earth creationists. Is church history a good argument for young earth creationism? I should not think so. It would only be a good argument if the same scientific evidence had been present.

Not All Were Young Earth Creationists

While the debate was not as prominent or as intense, there were some old earth creationists throughout church history. Some thought that Genesis was not literal. Saint Augustine thought that it was impossible to discern the nature of the days in the first creation account. We can even see some of the same arguments that we have today in the church fathers. Old earth creationists will often argue that the creation of the sun indicated that the first three days could not be twenty-four hours. Men such as Philo, Augustine, and Origen shared this insight. They were not infallible. They erred. But one cannot say that the church unanimously thought that the days in Genesis One were 24 hour periods.

Similarly, just as day-age creationists believe that there is a little bit of flexibility in the definition of the word “day,” the church fathers had similar speculations. Just like Dr. Hugh Ross, Philo believed that Genesis 2:4 established that the word “day” can be used in a number of different ways. Also like Dr. Ross, Origen and Augustine believed that there was no closure to the seventh day, citing texts such as Hebrews 4:1-11. Is church history a good argument for young earth creationism? If we take men such as Augustine as any representation of church history, then certainly not.

Were They Just Compromisers?

One need not agree with the church fathers about everything. I certainly do not. I do not even agree with the day-age interpretation that these men flirted with. I am not even convinced that they were totally devoted to it. It was just theological musing. They were trying to discern the manner in which God created the universe. Why is it legitimate theological discourse when one of the earth church fathers conducts it, but it is illegitimate when Dr. Hugh Ross conducts it? Why is he a compromiser (and worse), while Augustine is revered as a Saint?

When you start calling people compromisers, all you have done is assess the state of their heart. It is not a compromise to take an alternative interpretation of the biblical data. We could refer to anybody with whom we have a disagreement as a compromiser. Anybody could be guilty of holding their tradition as a greater authority that God’s word. We do not need to introduce that possibility every time somebody disagrees. It has become no more than an insult. Why not just call them an idiot?

Thanks for reading. If my perspective interests you, take a look at my series on the age of the earth.

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A Brief Critique of Prevenient Grace & Response To CerebralFaith

prevenient 1When we are explaining the gospel message, there are a few considerations that we want to outline. The one that is relevant to our discussion is the question of human depravity. We want individuals to understand the state of humanity. We want them to understand their own sin and their own depravity so that they can see the mercy of Christ. When contemplating human sin, we will testify that the Bible teaches that we are so evil that we cannot turn to God in their own resources (1 Corinthians 2:14). We have all fallen short and need God’s grace (Romans 3:23). From there, we conclude that one must first be born again and enabled to turn to God in righteousness. However, some object that there is another possibility. People such as Mr. Evan Minton of the CerebralFaith blog will suggest that God is gently wooing all men, providing some grace so that they can turn to him in repentance. This is known as prevenient grace. In this article, I would like to provide a brief critique of prevenient grace & response to CerebralFaith.

prevenient 2In defense of the doctrine of prevenient grace, Evan used two arguments. The first was inductive. He suggested that the Bible teaches four basic truths. From all of these truths, it follows logically that prevenient grace must exist. The second argument that he used was exegetical. He argued that one can discern the doctrine of prevenient grace by reading the biblical text. Third, he provided some answers to a few arguments that people will often use for irresistible grace (the doctrine that God chooses only some and irresistibly draws them to himself).

prevenient 3

Four Points And A Non-Sequitur

Evan argued that if all four of these points succeed, the doctrine of prevenient grace prevails. These four points are [1] Men are totally depraved and cannot repent without the aid of grace; [2] God wants all people to be saved; [3] Jesus died on the cross for all people; [4] Not all people will be saved. Some will end up in Hell for eternity. (Note: for our purposes, [1] and [4] are non-controversial and so no rebuttal will be provided). If you take all of these are premises in a logical argument, the alleged conclusion that follows is, to use Evan’s words, “God’s grace is resistible.”

prevenient 4The glaring flaw in this argument is that the conclusion does not even follow from the premises. Even if I grant both [2] and [3], we could still maintain that prevenient grace does not exist. There would need to be an additional step in the argument that Evan has not yet revealed.

As I begin to illustrate this point, let me use Evan’s argument. He writes, “How could God want a person saved and not send him grace, knowing that he couldn’t turn to Him without such grace? That would be like a man wanting a woman to marry him but doesn’t even propose.” But if that man knew infallibly that his beloved would say no, then one could hardly blame him for withholding the proposal. Similarly, God knows who would decline his offer. Why should he be compelled to reach out to someone that he knows will not answer?

Second, it may be the case that God has more than one set of desires. Perhaps he wants all people to be saved, but he has a greater desire in mind. This would resemble human psyche quite a bit as well. Just as a man might want to lose weight and get in shape, he also wants to spend more time with his family, and there are just not enough hours in the day. People often have conflicting desires. It is logically possible for God to want everybody to be saved, but have a greater desire that his justice and his wrath are put on display for the sake of his glorification. For these two reasons, Evan’s entire first argument is logically invalid. The conclusion does not follow from the premises. But we shall consider the premises briefly.

1 – Total Depravity
I promised that I would not provide a rebuttal of total depravity, and I shall not. We both believe in this doctrine. As a demonstration of this, I shall use Evan’s own words to represent my position. He writes, “It seems clear that humans are inherently sinful creatures. We have an inclination to do evil, we have no goodness in us in our natural state (Romans 7:18), we are hostile to God, unwilling and unable to submit to His laws (Romans 8:7-8), and we cannot come to Christ unless the Father draws us (John 6:44, John 6:65).” Well said!

The question that confronts Mr. Minton is in what sense these classifications even apply to mankind. Does it even make sense to say that mankind is totally depraved and unable to turn to God? If God has provided this prevenient grace to mankind so as to fundamentally alter our state of mind and enable us to choose him, then in what sense are we hostile to God, unable to submit to his laws? These categories just cannot be sensibly attributed to us. Interestingly, I pointed this out in my article Do We Have The Free Will To Choose Salvation? Evan responded to this very article, but did not interact with that point. That’s odd, isn’t it?

2 – God Wants All People To Be Saved
3 – Jesus Died For All

Evan decided that he was going to conjoin points [2] and [3] because he thinks that they presuppose one another. He thinks that if is [2] is true, then [3] is true and vice versa. I think that is a bit simplistic and they should have been separated to be argued for independently. As I pointed out, it may be that God wants everybody to be saved, but knows that they would not respond to salvation. In this scenario, Christ might not die for the sins of all people, but only for the sins of those who he knew in advance would accept his plan of salvation. Second, it may be that Christ died for all people in a different sense than he died for his elect. Perhaps he died in a victus christi sense for those who are not his people, and he died in a substitutionary sense for those who are not his people. These are just speculations, but they are possible and demonstrate that these points should have been separated because they do not presuppose one another.

John 3:16
In an effort to argue for [2/3], Evan pointed to John 3:16, wherein it is said that “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that those who believe in him shall never perish but have eternal life.” Evan asks, “Who is part of the world?” He lists, “Hitler, ISIS, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, etc etc” and says “They are part of the world,” and hastily concludes that Christ must have died for them. He writes, “I think every single person I’ve interacted with today was a part of this world.” My dog is part of the world too. This chair that I am sitting on is part of the world. Sin is part of the world. Evan’s simplistic argument is quite easily reduced to absurdity, unless you think that Simba (the dog) is going to be redeemed.

John 3:16 is not saying that Christ died for every individual molecule nor every individual person. That is to compartmentalize this verse. It is to read it with western and modern eyes. The atonement is about much more than individual salvation. It is about the redemption of the world. This entire world will be made new and restored to its’ original state. We are part of that narrative. But we are not the entire narrative. God loved his world. Out of his love for the world, he sent his only begotten Son. For whom did he send his Son? The text says that he sent the Son for “…everyone who believes.”

2 Peter 3:9: “God is not willing that any should perish, but for all to come to repentance.”
In his book Chosen But Free, Dr. Norm Geisler cited this verse at least 200 times. It served almost as an exclamation point, despite that he did not engage with any meaningful exegesis of the text or counterpoints that anybody raise. Evan at least briefly (though not compellingly) answered a few of the common responses.

First, I hark back to the point that I made earlier in this article. God may want all individuals to be saved despite that he wants something else more. Second, as Dr. James White pointed out in his book (responding to Dr Geisler) The Potter’s Freedom the context of this passage makes Evan’s interpretation implausible. St. Peter writes, “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.” The question that he is answering is, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised?” (v. 4).

Why has the Lord tarried? The answer is that he is taking all of the time that he needs for all people to come into repentance. Are all people going to repent? Of course not. So to whom is it referring? It probably means all people that God knows will repent. He is waiting for all of his elect to repent, and then he will return. This usage of the passage is a perfect demonstration of why one needs to read the entire context rather than half of a verse.

All People
Also, Evan used a few other verses. I will not cite them because they all basically made the point. They all say that Christ died for “all people.” Calvinists contend that “All people” often means “All people groups.” Evan replied to this by saying that it was ad hoc. For something to be ad hoc, it would need to be contrived specifically to avoid a conclusion. But far from being ad hoc, the interpretation is derived specifically from the text.

The New Testament narrative needs to be considered because it often fades into the background during this discussion. People groups were much more significant to the New Testament writers than they are to us. The fact that the gospel was being spread to all people was monumental. The Jews were God’s chosen people, and Gentiles were not allowed in. So the New Testament writers emphasized over and over again that the gospel was spreading to all people. When this phrase is put in its’ proper context, it reads much more naturally than the interpretation that Arminians force onto it.

Consider 1 Corinthians 9:18-23. Paul writes (v. 22), “I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some.” Yet in earlier verses, it is clear that he is talking about breaking the divide between Jews and Gentiles. We see the same thing in Titus 2:11, which reads, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people.” Almost every time the New Testament says “All people” it means “all people groups.” This is even true of the counter-example that Evan used. In Romans 3:23, it says that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. In the context, Paul is explaining that the Jews are just as guilty as the Gentiles. But, the context of the passage makes it applicable to every individual (just keep reading).

So, to bring all of this together, we have seen that Evan’s argument was marked logically invalid, as the conclusion did not follow from the premises. Further, we have not seen any good reason to believe [2] or [3].

The Bible

This section will be significantly shorter than the last one, because I covered most of the proof-texts that he used in the last section. He used several passages that appealed to words such as “all people” and “the world.” But there were at least two that are independent of this and are worth addressing.

Acts 7:51 – “You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did.”
Since irresistible grace is the doctrine that God’s grace cannot be resisted, then this verse should be very troubling for the Calvinist, right? After all, it says “You are always resisting the Holy Spirit.” There are two things worth considering. First, this is not a salvation text. Stephen is not saying that God is trying to save these men, and they are resisting his salvation. He is saying that they slew the Messiah, just as their ancestors did. The context is important.

Second, other relevant texts that speak about God’s grace in salvation will take precedent because they directly touch on this issue. Passages such as Romans 9 will take precedent on the basis that one is to interpret clear passages in light of unclear passages. Since this is a historical narrative, wherein much of the dialogue is cut out, it is less clear than Paul’s didactic letters.

Joshua 24:14 – “But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve.”
Calvinists do not deny that people have a choice. Everybody has a choice. If I put a plate of cookies and a plate of liver and onions in front of Evan, he would have a choice. He would be able to choose the liver and onions. But he never would. He would choose the cookies every single time. Liver and onions repulse him.

Similarly, for the one who has an unregenerate heart, God repulses them. They have a choice. They can make an honest, libertarian choice. But they will never choose God because they hate him. So this verse might be a compelling prooftext for libertarian freedom, but it is not a compelling prooftext for prevenient grace. (If you are wondering what I am talking about, read my article What Is Reformed Molinism?)

Conclusion

What Evan presented was a fairly standard treatment of the doctrine of prevenient grace. He did go slightly beyond what most Arminians do as he tried to interact with some of the counterpoints. But by and large, his arguments were not very compelling. The thinking Christian would be unjustified to read Evan’s treatment and come away believing in the doctrine of prevenient grace.

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How Our View of Sex Creates An Abortion Culture

a culture 1While the typical liberal who is thoroughly invested in liberal convictions will be pro-choice regarding the issue of abortion, there are a lot of people across the political spectrum who recognize this deeply offensive and appalling practice for what it is. Anybody who takes a look at an ultrasound can see an unborn child for who it is. Anybody with an inkling of a conscience who is willing to step away from the heat of the debates and the arguments and the rhetoric for a few consecutive moments and think for themselves will recognize that if the fetus is human, then to kill it is homicide. In a flash of insight, somebody may ask themselves, “What have we done? How did we get to this point?” The answer is not as simple as it may seem. Abortion did not just erupt out of a vacuum. Abortion emerges out of a culture of open and free sexuality, where sexuality is embraced and people are told that they can and should sleep with anybody that they would like. This is how our view of sex creates an abortion culture – it utterly changes the morals of the people, so that they give in a little at a time. Before long, nobody knows what happened or how it happened.

a culture 2Many people do not realize how all of these issues are deeply interconnected. It is not enough to just abolish abortion. While it would be a great victory for a ban on abortion, and we count it as a victory every time a single unborn child is pulled from the clutches of abortion, every time a mother changes her heart and favors life, every time an abortion clinic shuts down, it is not enough. It is not enough to annul the practice of abortion, because it will always come back when we are in a culture like this one. We need to understand how our view of sex creates an abortion culture. We need to understand how we contribute to abortion. Culture needs to change, and it starts with principled Christians rising up, understanding the issues, understanding how our view of sex creates an abortion culture, and standing for righteousness with every opportunity that we have.

a culture 3

Sex Before Marriage


Sexuality is what bonds a man and a woman together (Mark 10:8). It is the consummation of a marriage. But in our culture, sex before marriage has become so thoroughly normalized that people have no idea why it is so important. Anybody who does not engage in and endorse sex before marriage is putting arbitrary and archaic restraints upon themselves. The question to consider is, what sort of culture does this create? How does it alter our perception of sexuality? How does it alter our perception of starting a family and having children?

a culture 4When you have sex without a lifelong commitment, you are not trying to start a family with this person. You are not interested in having a child, and if you do have a child by accident, it will be seen as a burden. In the event that somebody does get pregnant, you are not in a position to have this child. That is why there are so many issues of father abandonment. Worthless men have sex with women to whom they are not committed. Then they leave. Sex without a lifelong commitment makes children into a burden. That is how our view of sex creates an abortion culture.

When sexuality is disconnected from marriage and disconnected to a deep and lifelong commitment, the abortionist philosophy is enhanced. Unfortunately, every day in our culture, it is enhanced further. Open sexuality is constantly vindicated in Hollywood, the media, and in public perception while character and righteousness are stomped out and portrayed as wacky, arbitrary, and constraining. But a bit of personal character in every individual across the United States has served as a safeguard against the abortionist culture.

Birth Control


The opposition to birth control is often something against which people sneer. Even many Christians do not understand why anybody would oppose birth control. Birth control is seen as a good, preventing STDs and unwanted pregnancies in marriages who are just not ready to have children yet. Perhaps a family does not want to have a dozen children, so they will use birth control. Many of our fellow Christians will assure us that the Bible is silent about it, and so it is something that we should have the freedom to decide on our own. Many faithful and devoted Christians have taken this position because they do not understand the underlying issues or the sort of culture they are supporting.

When a couple decides to use birth control, they are saying something about what a pregnancy is. They are saying something about what a baby is. I think that a baby is a gift. Jesus said that a new mother will be filled with joy when she gives birth (John 16:21). When you use birth control, you are testifying that a baby is not a gift. A baby is a burden. A baby is something that needs to be prevented. While you are not actually taking the life of an unborn child, there is just one small step from that form of birth control to abortion. Abortion is seen as a form of birth control. A potential child is not a blessing. It is not a gift. It does not fill a woman with joy. It is a dreadful curse. If you have a child while you are on birth control, you are upset and angry. You have to suffer this burden. That is the perception of potential children that birth control creates. That is how our view of sex creates an abortion culture.

Divorce


Today you are with him. Tomorrow you may be with someone else. These old commitments that people make at their wedding have been reduced down from vows that a person takes seriously and invests themselves in to just words that one recites. They are remnants of a culture that has faded into irrelevancy. But nobody seriously thinks that marriage is for life, right? Nobody really thinks that you are going to make a lifelong commitment to this person, do they? If you have a few problems, you will move onto someone else. That is normal. A marriage is not so much a marriage as much as it is a boyfriend or a girlfriend that you live with. But this means that your vows are conditional. Your marriage is conditional. Your commitment is conditional.

This marriage also comes with children that you have had together. If you are not sure if you and your spouse are going to be together a year from now, how can you be secure in the stability and future of your children? There are so many single mothers out there. How can you be sure that you are not going to be one of them? Abortion serves as a safeguard or a preventative measure. With no commitments, there is no stability for children and women feel like they need abortion to be available to them. That is how our view of sex creates an abortion culture. When people feel like they can just shift through sexual partners when they are bored, the children that they leave behind are left in compromising positions.

The LGBT Movement


What is sexuality? Throughout the last several decades, this is a question that our society has been redefining. Sexuality is constantly viewed in a different perspective. Men such as Dr. Lawrence Krauss will suggest that a brother and a sister should allowed to mate if they are consenting. Anybody who is interested in having sex with somebody else should be free to do it, so long as both parties are consenting. When you adopt this perspective, sexuality is no longer about having children. It is no longer about raising a family. It is no longer about love and commitment. It is about having a good time.

This does not only apply to people who are involved in an LGBT relationship. It applies to anybody within the cultural milieu wherein LGBT philosophy is embraced and practiced. When people just have sex with anybody that they want to because it feels good, then sex is disconnected from children. When sex is disconnected from children, a baby will be seen as a foreign invader (as many in the pro-choice movement have chosen to characterize it). Now, I anticipate that some will object, “But what about male/female couples who cannot procreate?” They are irrelevant. They do not alter the public perception of sexuality or make it into merely something that feels good. The LGBT movement does.

Of course, one might also suggest that the LGBT movement is about love rather than sex. Well, even if we grant that for charity (which I do not for a moment), it does not matter. It has still altered the public perception. Sex is not about having children and raising a family. It is about a good time. When that is the focus of sexuality, a baby is a disruption. A baby spoils the party. That supports the abortionist philosophy.

How Our View of Sex Creates An Abortion Culture


All of these issues are interconnected. If we want to do something about abortion, we need stand up for more than the pro-life movement. While the pro-life movement is important, so are all of these other issues. We need to retain Christian principles and be just as passionate about all of them as we are about abortion. When we surrender and when we are afraid to speak out, we are ignoring the silent but desperate pleas of the unborn as they are ripped out of their mother’s womb with a clamp, piece by piece, and sold on the black market. Silence about any of these issues is not an option, no matter how much criticism or backlash we may receive.

Beyond that, if we are going to stand for something, we have to do more than say a few words. It is not enough to wear the t-shirt. We need to live in personal righteousness and conduct ourselves properly. If you are having sex outside of marriage, then you are supporting the abortionist philosophy. You are creating a culture in which sex is disconnected from having babies and abortion is empowered. Our conduct is just as important as our words. If you are going to fight for the pro-life movement with your words, then represent the pro-life movement with your behavior and your conduct and your deeds.

“The day is coming when God, through Christ Jesus, will judge everyone’s secret life.” Romans 2:16

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Biblical Ways To Deal With Breakups

breakup 1Breakups can be difficult. It is a brand of pain with which everybody has been confronted at some point in life. This person in whom you have put all of your trust and confidence has left you. They no longer want anything to do with you because of a mistake that you made or because the circumstances do not allow you to be together at this particular point in your lives. This can be difficult. When people are confronted with this pain, they often flee to unhealthy ways of dealing with it. But when a Christian is confronted with pain, they should actively seek out biblical ways to deal with breakups.

breakup 2The way that we behave during times of adversity is how we may measure our maturity. Anybody can behave maturely when everything is going well. Anybody can be a good Christian when they are not confronted with any struggles. It is easy to say, “I will die for the name of Christ” when nobody is threatening to kill you. It is easy to claim to want to live in righteousness when there are no temptations. It is easy to be mature when emotions are not overwhelming you. What sort of person are you going to be when you are confronted with pain? Are you going to find biblical ways to deal with breakups? I would like to survey a few of them. (When I say “biblical,” I am taking it to mean “in a way that corresponds with Christian wisdom and morality, rather than something that is explicitly derived form the text. The Bible does not say much about breaking up.)

Know When You Are Shielding Pain In Temptation


There are traps everywhere. It can be very easy to give into temptation when you need a few moments of relief. You may be very strongly inclined to turn to those old habits in which you used to take comfort. It may have taken you years to overcome them. But you overcame them, because you knew that they were wrong. Today, they are there and they are powerful. I understand that. But the reason that you abandoned them was because you realized that they do not provide real relief.

Perhaps you struggled with alcohol addiction, left it behind some time ago, and now the temptation is there for you to find that old friend. Perhaps you were addicted to pornography, sex, drugs, cigarettes, and you really want to just pick up that old habit. Well, you need to just take a step back and think about what you are doing. You are not helping anything. You are not resolving your pain. You are shielding your pain. You are making your problems worse. After you smoke that cigarette, you are going to be confronted with more guilt, disappointment, anger, and everything is going to be worse. But if you remain strong even in times of temptation, trusting in the sanctification of the Holy Spirit, you will be overcome with righteousness.

Righteousness does not come with an emotional high. It does not get you stoned or drunk. It is about your character. What kind of person are you going to be? Are you a child of God? Then rely on Christ. Paul said in Philippians 4:8-9, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. He went on to say (v. 12-13), “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”

Express Your Pain In Healthy Ways


You have a lot of negative emotion during a breakup. Many people think that the way they need to deal with it is to just ignore it. They need to consume their minds in other things and forget about their emotion. That approach is not healthy and is often ineffective. Their powerful emotions will often overwhelm any other thoughts or activities. After periods of suppression, it will come out and be unbearable.

Rather, you should find healthy ways to express yourself. If you are a creative person, write a song or a poem about the emotion that you are feeling. Do not do it to impress anyone. Do not write a song that you can send to your ex in the hope that they will be wooed and take you back. Write a song so that you can express everything that is in your heart. If you cannot write songs or poetry, then just sit down and write. Open a Word document and just write out your thoughts. Express your emotions. Rationalize them. Ask yourself, “Why am I feeling this way? Why am I tempted by this?” Invest yourself in logical thought. When you think about your breakup, think with your mind rather than your emotions.

Honor Their Request


If your ex has gotten to a point wherein they ask you to stop communicating with them, then do not try to override their decision. Do not continually petition them to change their mind. That will probably be more likely to push them away than to draw them to you. If they want you to leave them alone, they probably have their reasons for that. You should honor that out of respect for them. Do not approach, call, message them or e-mail them anymore. Just stop for a little while. If they want to contact you, then they will.

You might think that you just have so much to say. The truth is, though, that they probably do not need to know all of these things. They are probably more like whining and crying than rational thoughts. Even if they are rational thoughts, your ex does not need to hear them. If they want to hear them, then they will ask you. If you need to express them, then as I said, employ biblical ways to deal with breakups and find a healthy way to express your emotions. Write them out. You do not need to share them.

Get Out Of Bed


I do not know what sort of situation you are in. But sometimes in the midst of a breakup, people will be inclined to just stay in bed all day, dwelling on their misery and thinking about their ex, wishing that everything would change. That impulse to just stay in bed can be powerful. When you think about eating, you might think something like, “Why? What is the point?” Perhaps you feel like you have to force feed. If you are just laying in bed all day, dwelling on your negative emotions, you are going to drown yourself in negative emotions. So get up. Even if it takes every ounce of strength that you have, you should get up. Go to work or to school. Conduct your normal routine.

Perhaps you should add something new to your routine. There are some things that have helped a lot of people to overcome depression and negative emotions. Many people will take up exercising. If you are out of shape, then now is as great of time as ever to take up jogging. If you really do not feel up to jogging, then work your way up to it. You can do something. Go to the gym. Take up a hobby. Work on a project that you have been putting off.

The Body of Christ


It can be tempting to just ignore everyone and cut yourself off from the outside world. You feel as though you just want to be alone. By doing so, you are cutting yourself off from the source of comfort that God has ordained. God has decided that the church would be akin to a family. Of his disciples, Jesus said, “Behold my mother and my brethren!” (Matthew 12:49-50). The body of Christ is supposed to be there for you to lean on in difficult times.

They are there for you to express what you are feeling. They can also help you to analyze the situation logically rather than thinking with your emotions. If you relay your struggles to them, they can help you to work through your negative emotions by providing their insight. Since they are not experiencing the same negative emotion, they will have a helpful perspective and will be able to tell you what they would do or have done in a similar situation.

Many people who are struggling with a breakup are afraid of seeming like they are whining too much. While that line is certainly there (if you are intentionally just trying to get attention), if you are struggling, the body of Christ is there for you. This sort of pain often leads people to take comfort in things that they ought not. It often leads to sinful behavior. The body of Christ will serve as a guardian from that.

Rely On Prayer & God’s Sovereignty


I know what you are thinking when you read this headline. That is the same piece of advice that everybody gives you when you are going through a difficult time. Everybody tells you that God has a wonderful plan, that you should trust him and that you just need to pray more. I understand that you are overloaded with cliched advice. I have no interested in giving it to you.

Instead, I am calling you to think about what you are looking for. You are looking for love. You are looking for comfort. You are looking for a relationship. But you have spent so much time thinking that you will find their ultimate satisfaction here, on earth, in humans. But we only possess glimpses of them, and we often falter. We are borrowing comfort, love, and relationships. They ultimately come forth from God’s character. God is love, (1 John 4:8), he is comfort (John 14:16), and he has existed in perfect love and unity in a trinitarian relationship for all eternity.

All of these features that we seek after are borrowed from God. He is the archetype. He is the one from whom they are drawn. When our human relationships fail, it should cause us to incline ourselves to the perfect unity of the holy Trinity that has existed for all eternity. Then remember that God crushed his only Son on the cross for our sake. Imagine the words of despair as the Son, who has existed forever with the Father (John 17:5), as Jesus cried out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). He died in our place, suffering the death that we deserve (Romans 3:21-25) and three days later, he rose again. If you want to see a perfect relationship, a perfect heartbreak and a perfect Savior, look to the cross.

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Why Do People Who You Love Have To Leave?

leave 1We live in a world that is full of despair, pain and suffering. Every day, there are tragedies across the world that take the lives of loved ones. People die unexpectedly. Sometimes the day after a wedding, when the bride and groom are looking forward to their lives together, one is tragically taken. When a family seems stronger than ever, an unexpected flood overwhelms one’s home and somebody dies. The only remnants of their death is a report on the news that says, “One dead” and they are hastily forgotten. Family members, children, parents, and loved ones die. In this instance, somebody who one loves is taken from them by the forces of the universe. But sometimes, somebody who you love willingly walks away from you and decides that they no longer want you in their life. Why does that happen? Why do people who you love have to leave?

leave 2While this sort of pain does not always parallel the death of a loved one, it can often be unbearable. This deep commitment that you made to an individual has become ingrained in your DNA. It is part of who you are. They are part of you and you are part of them. When they leave, they take part of your identity with them. You are no longer you. You do not know who you are. After making a commitment to them, you never thought that it would come to this point. But this person who you loved felt that they needed to leave. Why does this happen?

We Live In A Fallen World


This is the nature of the world that we live in. There is suffering and misery. You make commitments to people, stronger commitments that you have ever made in your entire life, and they just leave. Vehicles break down. Machines malfunction. People leave.

Often the reason that they leave will come down to this world’s plague, namely, the problem of sin. That is not say that the person who leaves is behaving sinfully. Rather, it is to say that the plague of sin is ultimately what caused them to leave. Perhaps they have some emotional struggle that was formed by their past. The sin of others caused them to be in this state wherein they needed to leave. Perhaps your sin caused them to leave. The problem of sin contaminates everything in this world.

Sin often creates circumstances that are not ideal for the flourishing of human beings. The long history of sin throughout the generations has yielded a society, a world, and a state of being that often causes people to leave. That is why there are so many struggles in relationships. Even when people have a successful and long marriage, they often report that their relationship was not without its’ struggles. People leave because that is the nature of the world in which we inhabit. Leaving is more natural than staying. That is why it takes so much strength and courage for loved ones to stay together.

God Is In Control


The question of sovereignty is hotly debated among Christians. But most of us can agree with this fundamental and necessary principle: God is in control of human affairs. He governs what is going on and he has a plan for this world. When bad things happen, we can trust in God’s wisdom that it was not all for naught (Genesis 50:20, Isaiah 45:7). There is a purpose for the pain that is in this world. There is a purpose for this person who you love leaving.

That is not an attempt to lead you to some cliched answer, like, “God has a plan for your life,” or “He will use this pain to strengthen you.” While that may be the case, that is not the point that I am making. Rather, I am suggesting that God has an ultimate purpose for the pain that you are enduring. He has an ultimate purpose for this person who you love leaving you. God has ordered the world in such a way.

When somebody looks at the surface of this reality, it may cause them to throw up their fists in anger with God. While I understand this impulse, it is quite misguided, for God is the locus of all righteousness and truth. We cannot say that he has made a misstep or even that he has wronged us. It should be a comfort to us that no matter what happens, God reigns, enthroned, as King of The Universe. This means that, truly, everything is going to be okay.

God Created A Contrast With The Cross


Perhaps you made a mistake that is just irreconcilable. While you may have your love one’s forgiveness, they will never again be with you. You may not even regard that as a fault of theirs, as you can understand where they are coming from. People often leave because they cannot bear what you have done to them. Perhaps God allows for that because he has created this perfect contrast with the cross of Christ. While people who you love and are committed to will leave you, God’s forgiveness and mercy persist. He has granted believers the free gift of eternal life (Romans 6:23).

Consider this for a moment as I establish this point. God saw our deep and constant betrayals. He saw how often we abused this world that he has given us. He saw that when he gave us a hammer to help our neighbor with their home, we turned around and used it to murder our neighbor. God would be just to leave this world, condemn it to Hell, and never look back. He could do that, and nobody could ask, “What have you done?” because it would be just punishment. But God did not do that. Take a breath, and you will know that God has not done that as he has not brought his wrath upon you.

Instead, he became a man, and his name was Jesus Christ. He departed from his eternal glory in heaven and took on the humiliation of being a man (Philippians 2:5-8). It is something like a king becoming a peasant, willingly, for the sake of his people. But this King is Lord of the universe. When he became a man, he taught how to live in true righteousness, from the inside out. His central message was, “You shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart, strength, soul and mind” and “You should love your neighbor as yourself” and he was murdered by the state.

When he was murdered, all of the wrath that we deserve was poured out upon him (Romans 3:21). He suffered in our place. It was as though he committed our sins. Now, he asks that we put our trust in his promises (Romans 4:5), as he makes us new creatures (2 Corinthians 5:17), literally new, born again, possessing the free gift of eternal life (John 3:16).

Here is the contrast. His promises never fail. He never grows weary of us. When we are faithless, he is faithful (2 Timothy 3:13). There is nothing in the created order, neither things present nor things to come, that can separate us from the love that God has in Christ (Romans 8:38-39). Why did God create a world in which those who we love leave us? Perhaps he wanted to create this perfect contrast – the cross of Jesus Christ, wherein we know that we can trust in him and he will never leave or forsake us.

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Why Do So Many Christian Leaders Support Ted Cruz?

cruz 1While it may not play very well into the contemporary narrative, the evangelical vote is potent in the United States. There is still a bastion of hope in that there are so many people who have a vision of the United States that departs from liberalism and secularism and abortionism. The evangelical vote is heavily vied for among all of the Republican candidates, such that men like Donald Trump, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz will all put their faith on display, hoping it will hoist them to victory. Most strict conservative voters are split between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, with Cruz dominating the evangelical vote, with more than 200 pastors, scholars, and faith leaders claiming support for the Senator. Among them are men such as Dr. Michael Brown, a respected and beloved scholar in the evangelical community. The question is, why do so many Christian leaders support Ted Cruz?

cruz 2His fight against abortion.
As Christians and as people of conscience, we are deeply concerned about abortion. We seem to be living in a culture that believes that they can close their eyes and forget that the person that they are hacking to pieces is an actual human being. We live in a world where human life is reduced to extrinsic features of an individual, such as their geographic location or whether they are a convenience or an inconvenience to you. We live in a world where somebody can be a biological human being and we still justify their slaughter for selfish reasons. We expect Christians and the church to be bastions of righteousness in the face of this treacherous evil.

But out of the mouth of men like Donald Trump, the GOP frontrunner, we hear the same pro-choice rhetoric that we would expect to hear from Nancy Pelosi. Even out of the mouth of Jeb Bush and Chris Christie were endorsements of abortion in cases of rape. Conservative candidates are supposed to stand for something. So when men such as Ted Cruz (with a staunch record of fighting against abortion and defending life) rise up, Christian leaders take notice. Why do so many Christian leaders support Ted Cruz? He is one of the only candidates who will make no concessions or apologies for the pro-life movement.

He is actually a conservative.
We are so tired of Republicans who make concessions to liberalism. In an effort to garner votes among liberals, to suggest that they are not that radical after all, they will shift their views so as to be more appeasing to the general crowd. That is why Donald Trump can seize the independent vote in New Hampshire but not the evangelical vote in Iowa. Conservatives are just not willing to come out to vote for moderates.

This means that moderate conservatives cannot win a General Election. Conservatives are often not willing to come out and vote for the lesser evil. They do not want Obamacare. They do not want socialism. In 2008, the GOP chose McCain, and in 2012, it nominated Romney, both of whom are moderate conservatives and the conservative voters just would not come out. Conservatives want someone who will stand unashamedly for conservative principles. They want someone who is principled. Why do so many Christian leaders support Ted Cruz? They support him for the very reason that so many liberals say that he could never win an election. He is a conservative who would labor aggressively to install conservative policies.

His staunch conservative record.
One of the frustrations that the American people have with politicians is that they are not transparent. We do not know anything about them. We just have to hear their words and listen to their vision and hope that they are telling the truth. Dr. Frank Turek even once said in jest that an “honest politician” is a contradiction in terms. Ted Cruz has spent his campaign challenging that negative stigma. He implored the people of Iowa, “Don’t listen to what any politician says. Don’t listen to what I say.” He called them instead to look at what they have accomplished and how they have spent their life.

In that same speech, describing what he would do on his first day in office, he said that he would open an investigation into Planned Parenthood and prosecute any and all criminal offenders. When the Senate passed a bill to defund Planned Parenthood, Obama vetoed it. But if and when Senate passed the same bill to a President Cruz, he would not veto it. We can be sure of that because he has spent his career fighting against abortion. His TX H2B bill has already closed half of the abortion clinics in the state of Texas. Why do so many Christian leaders support Ted Cruz? They support him because we can know that a President Cruz would aggressively pursue conservative policies as he has done throughout the course of his political career.

A fundamentally different strategy to defeating ISIS.
We live in a day that Americans do not feel safe. They feel like they could walk down the street, go to a wedding party, to the movie theater and be attacked by terrorists. Police officers could be murdered in the street by terrorists. We are a nation at war, and we are facing a threat that is simply unparalleled in American history. We are confronted with unconventional warfare tactics and war crimes such as pretending to be civilians. Yet our nation has taken passive national security measures. Rather than destroying the enemy, we “contain” them. We say things like, “They are the JV team” which was quickly countered by the Paris attacks. Many of us recognize that this passive approach to national security is fundamentally flawed and cannot win a war.

Ted Cruz has expressed an aggressive approach to national security. Acknowledging and confronting the problem of passivity, he said, “I will utterly destroy ISIS.” Powerfully, he promised, “We will find out if the sand can glow” and “We will carpet-bomb them.” Liberal candidates have taken these clips out of context and generated attacks on Ted Cruz. They have implied that he would just bomb innocent civilians and waged massive war in the middle east like a power hungry tyrant. But what he was expressing was a fundamentally different strategy to defeating ISIS. Why do so many Christian leaders support Ted Cruz? We are a nation at war and have a President who will not admit it and who will not speak the name of our enemy. Ted Cruz will.

He is now the only GOP nominee who can defeat Trump.
There are a lot of other candidates in the race who I have respect for. Marco Rubio is a great candidate and a principled conservative. But there has never been a single election in the history of the GOP wherein a candidate did not win either Iowa or New Hampshire and went on to become the nominee. It has never happened. Cruz won Iowa and Trump won New Hampshire. This means that he can boast that he is the only candidate currently in the race who has a proven capacity to defeat Donald Trump. We may like Rubio a lot, and perhaps in eight or four years he will be the candidate. But Trump is too great of an obstacle, and with the climate of the nation, the polls and the trajectory of this race, Ted Cruz is the only candidate who stands a chance against Trump.

He brings out conservatives who do not usually vote.
There was a record turnout at the Iowa caucus. Ted Cruz garnered more votes than any other candidate in caucus history. This means that he is bringing out voters that the polls are not accounting for. Conservatives see in him a man of principle with a strong voice, a powerful message and who can win the election, and they come out to vote for him. They will stay home for McCain and Romney, but come out to Ted Cruz.

Why do so many Christian leaders support Ted Cruz? They see in him a man who is much like they are. He is uncompromising in conservatism where the rest of the party slowly makes concessions to the democrats to win over voters. He might not be perfect, and like anyone else, you might not agree with him about every line. But we can be assured of one thing. He will aggressively fight against abortion and ISIS. For that reason, many Christian leaders and scholars lend support to Ted Cruz. At ThereforeGodExists, we lend support to Senator Cruz as well.

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The Pros And Cons of Being A Christian Introvert

introvert 1In the early church, one monk named Anthony finally agreed to return to the Christian community, on the condition that people do not visit him very often. This was an introvert who had thoroughly accustomed himself to life in the monastery and to being alone. He was content with being alone, studying the Scripture and seeking God. He was not burdened by pestering interruptions from people quizzing him with questions like, “What are you up to?” “What are you studying today?” “Is something wrong? You seem sad.” He was a Christian introvert. Many people have this sort of personality, and they can sympathize with Anthony’s sentiment, but that does not mean that they dislike people or are lonely. It is not a personality flaw. It is not a departure from standard human behavior. It is a different form of human behavior. It is a different personality type, of which we should not be ashamed. But our different personality types will have both positive and negative overlaps with Christian practice and discipleship. The pros and cons of being a Christian introvert are somewhat different from the pros and cons of being a secular introvert. But they are present and worth consideration. introvert 2

The Pros.

1 – Introverts are good listeners and are usually not just waiting for their turn to talk. Have you ever been talking to someone and you realize that they do not really care what you have to say? You are being expressive, relaying difficult struggles that you are having, and they are just using you as an outlet for their unquenchable thirst for conversation. This is particularly troubling among Christians and ministers because we are supposed to be there to support one another. We are supposed to listen to the problems and the struggles of our fellow man. When somebody has something to express, we need to be able to sit quietly and listen to what they have to say, to digest it, and to produce sound biblical advice and wisdom. Introverts are uniquely wired to be quiet and well-suited to have one-on-one conversations. While they may not want to circulate through the room and mingle with everybody, they do have something to contribute. Often, since they do not spread themselves so thin, what they produce is sound wisdom and biblical advice that comes as a result of thought, quiet time, and listening to other people. introvert 3

2 – They are content to stay inside studying. An introvert is somebody who derives their energy from being alone. They lose energy in groups of people. This means that they will spend their spare time by themselves. They will be content to read books and to learn more so as to serve the body of Christ with their knowledge. In this way, while an introvert may be less likely to enjoy crowds of people, they may make good preachers just because of the knowledge that they have from the time that they spend studying. Studying is not something that is forced on them. It is a hobby. It is something that they enjoy doing. Communicating with people about their pet guinea pigs’ dietary habits, just because you have to talk to someone – anyone – about anything, is what the introvert would view as a waste of time. Asking people how their day was is not edifying. Studying is. Since the introvert is more likely to spend their time studying, they can use their knowledge to serve the body of Christ.

3 – They are self-aware. Do people every come to you, and they just keep talking, inviting you to social events, trying to persuade you to commit to things, laboring to squeeze every drop of small talk out of you as they wrap their hands around your vocal cords, holding their parched tongue underneath until they hear you say, “I’m fine, how are you?” People often do not understand different personality types and assume that everyone else is just like they are. In Christian circles, when a new person comes to visit your church, some people want to interact with everybody. They want to get to know everybody. They want to immediately make new friends and quickly merge into the social groups. Others do not want that. Others do not want to share their life story. They do not want to tell you how they found this church and when they moved to the town and what they do, and they do not want to hear you talking about it. Since the Christian introvert is one of those very people, he will be in tune with his personality and approach. He will recognize when he is overbearing and will know how to approach people without the taint of annoyance.

The Cons.

1 – People think that you do not like them. Sometimes introverts think they are smiling at something that somebody said, but if they could look at their face, they realize that they appear to be frowning. Sometimes they really do enjoy what somebody is saying and even enjoy the company of another person, but their personality type drives them to be more socially awkward and desire to get away. But this personality type will lead people who are otherwise perfectly pleasant and likable to believe that the introvert dislikes them. Now, of course, this is not a problem that is unique to Christian introverts, but it is prominent enough among all introverts that we should recognize it. Introverts do not dislike you. They have a different personality type that deters them from small talk and social interaction. But they might think that you are perfectly pleasant.

With the popularization of the Myers-Briggs, people are becoming more aware of different personality types. However, still, there are a number of people who are confused when encountering somebody who is not just like they are. So introverts will often hear things like, “Are you okay? What’s wrong? Why aren’t you saying anything?” What if the introvert started going around asking extroverts, “Are you okay? You seem to be talking an awfully lot. I am worried that you might have ADHD or that you might have been drugged.”

2 – It is difficult to get involved in the Christian community. 1 Corinthians 12 tells us that the body of Christ and every member are interdependent on one another. We are to exercise love and faith toward each other and care for each other. We cannot isolate ourselves and think that we will be fine on our own. We need to regularly congregate and be a family. But this is a struggle for the introvert. The introvert might not want to have a social quota imposed on them. They would rather be alone. They would rather not rely on other people and have a constant flow of people popping in and out of their home, and constantly popping in and out of others’ homes. Yet we are supposed to be dependent upon other people. With that in mind, I think that sometimes introverts allow themselves to withdraw too far into their alone time. They can become obsessed with being alone. Like the monk who insists that Christians not visit him very often, they are just a bit too introverted. That is not to say that they need to change their personality type. It is just to say that they really need to force themselves to congregate with the body of Christ and to recognize what is be gained by community.

3 – Fulfilling the Great Commission. Sometimes it may seem as though the marching orders for the Christian do not comport very well with the introverted inclinations. The introvert is someone who wants to be alone, to not be around people, to not seek people out. But, the Great Commission is to go into all the world, to preach the gospel to all nations, to make disciples, to baptize people in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). But the introvert just wants to be left alone and certainly does not want to go around meeting new people. However, Christianity is filled with things that the natural man just does not want to do. The natural man does not want to pray, pursue righteousness, et cetera. That is not to say that being an introvert is sinful activity. But when it manifests itself in ways that conflict with Christian duties, that is sinful. Also, it should be pointed out that evangelism and discipleship are not necessarily being like Ray Comfort, going around and talking to everyone that you meet. It could be a one-on-one friendship instead.

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Is Young Earth Creationism Dangerous?

danger 1Many old earth creationists and theistic evolutionists are tempted to suggest that ones’ belief about the age of the earth does not really matter. It is just a secondary doctrinal issue about which the orthodox Christians are free to adopt the stance that they would like. While I can sympathize with this sentiment (as it is mainly a response to young earth creationist elitism) I also think that there is another angle to consider. It would be better for the body of Christ if all young earth creationists renounced their interpretations and succumbed to vulnerability to the influx of knowledge and information. In this article, I explore the question, “is young earth creationism dangerous?” I maintain that because of the contemporary prevalence of modern science and reason, the dogmatic young earth creationist positions are Christianity’s weakest points. They open the door for a scathing critique of the Christian worldview.

danger 2Young earth creationism plays into the secularists hands. The church has always stood as a bastion of morality and righteousness. It would guard the secular world against sin that it so desperately wanted to justify. When the secular forces stormed the proverbial ground and took the land, handily sweeping the minds of the masses, it also launched some attacks on the church. Since the church is trying to guard us against certain misdeeds that we desperately want to commit, we need to discredit them. The easiest way to discredit the church is to pit it against science. It is religion versus science and science versus faith. The implication is obvious. One must choose one or the other. Since the natural world yields that which is true, people are apt to choose science.

danger 3The eminent scientists throughout the ages who have been faithful Christians stand opposed to this narrative. Georges Lemaître proposed the theory of the expanding universe. The history of science is permeated with faithful thinkers who saw their science as an expansion of their knowledge of God. But the young earth creationist movement casts a shadow over that rich history. They indulge in the secularists narrative. When the secularist says that one must either choose religion or science, the young earth creationist will choose religion. When they are told to choose between faith and reason, the young earth creationist will choose faith. Is young earth creationism dangerous? It obliterates the history of science in the contemporary mind and pits science against faith. It accepts, and does not combat, the atheistic narrative.

danger 4It creates an anti-scientific precedent. Why are so many Christians so opposed to anything that comes out of modern science? In response to a grand scientific discovery, one can hear the loud cry of Christian voices reminding us of how many mistakes science has made in the past, and that we cannot put our trust in the scientific method because it has let us down so many times. Well, that is something like saying that because we have misapplied or misused biblical hermeneutics so many times, that therefore we should not read or trust in the Bible. I am sure that we have all encountered people who were like that.

danger 5Unfortunately for the young earth creationists, the success of scientific naturalism vastly outweighs the errors. The scientific achievements of the last century have been remarkable. I am typing this in the privacy of my apartment. Without physically speaking to anybody, handing out pamphlets, putting up signs, preaching to a crowd, thousands of people are going to read what I have to say. And what did I do? I just wrote it. That is a testimony to the success of scientific naturalism. Therefore, when the young earth creationists begin their bouts of anti-scientific rhetoric, they open themselves up to easy falsification. Anybody can instantly perceive the success of scientific naturalism. Is young earth creationism dangerous? Of course it is. By creating an anti-scientific precedent, it makes Christians look foolish and opens them up to easy falsification.

danger 6Young earth creationism brings unnecessary cultural barriers. How do people view the Christian faith? Is it a rational option for thinking men and women? Is it something worth serious thought and reflection? Or is it easily dismissed as it goes against the tide of the most basic and general survey of knowledge that we have acquired? If a religious person told you that all animals do not share DNA, or that the earth did not spin, or that the sun revolves around the earth, you would dismiss what they were saying and consequently, their entire religious system with it. They are adhering to an old mythology. An invitation to accept their dogma would strike you as bizarre, creepy, and even amusing. That is what young earth creationism does to Christianity. It reduces it down to the level of the old mythology.

Further, since the general populous is just not savvy to Christian theology and the creation controversy, many do not know what the Bible says. So most people just assume that the young earth creationists are the ones who are taking it literally and the rest of us are not concerned with the biblical data as much as we are concerned with science. But this would be to ignore the vast archive of great men throughout church history who were old earth creationists. Saint Augustine, one of the fathers and developers of Christian thought, wrote that it may be impossible to discern what sort of days these were in Genesis 1. Many of the other church fathers were quite receptive to this sort of interpretation. Young earth creationism is a modern phenomenon that has plagued the culture and the perception that people have of Christianity. Is young earth creationism dangerous? Well, it has reduced Christianity and the Bible to just an old myth in the eyes of the culture.

Of course, I hastily admit that there will always be barriers to preaching the gospel. People will always resist it because they have a hard and stubborn heart that is disinclined to follow God’s commandments (Ephesians 2:3). God must regenerate the human heart first, and he often uses human means to soften a heart (1 Corinthians 3:6). He could use the preaching of the evangelist to soften the heart of the sinner. He could use rational argumentation to bring an atheist to faith. For some reason, God has chosen to use a synergistic method to bring people to faith. If we say that God just draws whoever he will and therefore we need not worry about the barriers, we decline into definitional hyper-Calvinism. It would be like saying, “Everything is predestined anyone, so you may as well live however you want because you cannot change anything.” So I would not be keen to say that just because God draws whoever he will that therefore the cultural barriers do not matter. They do matter.

It does not apply the historical-grammatical method of interpretation. When I took my first semester majoring in theology, I learned what is known as the historical-grammatical method of biblical interpretation. This means that when interpreting a text, one must ask [1] what is the cultural context? and [2] what is the literary context? Young earth creationists do not ask [1] when interpreting Genesis 1. They only ask [2] and since they think that their literary interpretation is robust, they think that no further question needs to be asked. However, by ignoring [1], they are shunning the most standard method of biblical interpretation and not allowing the author to speak. When we read a text, we are reading something that came out of a specific culture and the original audience would have understood it in a certain way. The original audience would not have adopted the understanding that young earth creationists have.

Throughout church history, we have not had much data about the Ancient Near East (the era in which Genesis was written). But when discoveries were made, then we began to establish a context for Genesis. In his book The Lost World of Genesis One Dr. John Walton pointed out that the creation texts are written in the context of ancient near eastern cosmology and are concerned with functional rather than material creation. So the author of Genesis is not so interested in telling us about how things are brought into existence, but rather with how they begin to function for the incoming human stewards. Dr. Walton used the illustration of a university. One could build the structures that compose the campus (the material creation). But unless you have students and professors and a staff (functional creation), you do not have a university. This is the sort of creation with which the ancient near east was concerned, and it is likely what Genesis One is concerned with as well. This is the cultural context, and young earth creationism shrugs it off. Is young earth creationism dangerous? It does not allow for a plain, straightforward reading of scripture in its’ historical and literary context.

It creates a form of elitism. Anyone who has encountered just a couple of young earth creationists knows what I mean. Many think that they are a superior class of Christians. The old earth creationists are not as faithful to the Bible as they are. They are compromisers and Scripture-twisters. They have uprooted the foundation of biblical history and allowed modern science to fit in where it does not belong. Many young earth creationists are often slanderous. As I pointed out in my article It’s An Attack On The (Adopted) Son: Ken Ham Maligns Brethren many young earth creationists are willing to sacrifice other people, their reputation and challenge their faith for the sake of their cause. He accused Dr. Hugh Ross of loving the praise of men more than the praise of God. Often when a Christian rises up and declares that he believes in an old earth, the young earth creationists are there to point the finger at them, to call them nasty names and to just maintain a mean-spirited disposition. Is young earth creationism dangerous? It certainly is. On top of all of the embarrassment, anti-intellectualism and scripture-twisting, it cultivates a divisive disposition.

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A Critique Of Hugh Ross’s Interpretation Of Genesis 1

ross 1Why render a critique of Hugh Ross’s interpretation of Genesis 1? After all, I have a lot of respect for Dr. Hugh Ross. He stands as a model for scientific education being applied to Christian apologetics. I also think that some aspects of his interpretation are biblically viable. I can understand how he came to his conclusions. In fact, I was persuaded by his day-age model until certain problems pointed out by men such as Dr. John Walton began to resinate with me. I own and have read both editions of his book A Matter of Days and I very much appreciate the effort to wash out the bad taste that young earth creationism leaves in the mouth of many. I am also sympathetic with the complaint of poor treatment from young earth creationists, as I pointed out in my article It’s An Attack On The Adopted Son: Ken Ham Maligns Brethren. I also heavily emphasized the need for Christians to treat each other well in my recently published book The Open Minded Christian: How To Engage Charitably With Fellow Sinners. However, with all of that in mind, the reason that I render a critique of Hugh Ross’s interpretation of Genesis 1 is simply that I think it has a few weaknesses.

ross 2It does not apply the historical-grammatical method. When engaging in biblical interpretation, we need to ask the questions [1] what is literary context? and [2] what is the cultural context? By discerning, for example, that Paul is writing a letter to a church, if we historically investigate what problems that church was dealing with, then we may have a better grasp of the theme of the letter and what he was trying to communicate to his audience. Similarly, the historical context of a certain passage of the gospels will illuminate the text. Likewise, the historical context of the book of Genesis illuminates the text and helps us to understand what the author was trying to relay to his audience.

ross 3In the last few centuries, we have learned much about the Ancient Near East and the sort of literature that this era produced. Dr. John Walton argued in his book The Lost World of Genesis 1 (citing multiple examples from the literature of the Ancient Near East) that the people of that era held to a particular cosmology and a way in which they interpreted creation events. That is not to say that Genesis 1 borrowed from the Pagan myths (as atheists will sometimes indulge in this rash oversimplification), but rather it relayed the common wisdom of the day. Just as we recognize that the earth is round, one would not accuse one contemporary author of borrowing from another just because they both pointed out that the earth was round. Consider the Leviathan (Job 41:1; Psalm 74:14, 104:26; Isaiah 27:1). He is a mythological beast that the people actually feared. Yet God says in the Bible that he has destroyed this beast. God is communicating with people in a way that they understand. Sort of like if a father pretends to beat up the monster in their child’s closet.

ross 4In the book of Genesis, we see what is known as ancient near eastern cosmology – an outdated view of the world that includes a flat earth, a firmament, et cetera. Further, Genesis 1 expresses a functional creation account rather than a material creation account. In the ancient world, things were thought to be created when they were functional, not when the material stuff is assembled. For example, one could build a university, but it is not truly a university just because you have the building and the campus. You need professors and students and staff. It truly exists when it is functional. This is what we see in Genesis 1. God is making the world functional for his human creatures to take stewardship over it. That is why it says that the earth is without form and void, and why God is hovering over the surface of the deep. He is bringing functionality. So, how does this relate to a critique of Hugh Ross’s interpretation of Genesis 1? Well, Dr. Ross treats Genesis 1 as though it comported with contemporary science, and this is just to ignore the historical context, which is a basic and essential element of biblical hermeneutics.

41GOJy03JKL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_How would the original audience have understood this? One of the questions that freshman theology students learn to ask is what message the author is intending to convey to his audience and how the audience would have understood his message. If we are drawing out an interpretation that the original audience would not have perceived, then it is probably an incorrect interpretation. This is a pretty basic element of hermeneutics as well, and Dr. Ross still maintains, as he pointed out in his debate with Mr. Kent Hovind on the John Ankerberg Show, the Holy Spirit reveals things that the original audience would not have picked up on. He is revealing scientific truths, unknown to the audience and even Moses himself (assuming Moses is the author), intended only to be a proof to future generations, thousands of years after the pen touched the paper.

This approach to hermeneutics seems rather chaotic and reckless. If we are going to read scientific data into the biblical text and make it fit where the text is teaching ancient cosmology, we could do that with any ancient document. One could read science into Marduk’s creation account and look for parallels in contemporary astronomy and earth science. But by doing so, we are not asking what the original audience would have understood about this account. We are saying that we can develop new interpretations that the original audience never heard of. But just think of the people that do that sort of thing with the Bible to conjure up with wild heresies. Of course, Dr. Ross repudiates heresy, and is only introducing modern science to the text, not some new revelation. Nonetheless, I write a critique of Hugh Ross’s interpretation of Genesis 1 precisely because he employs an invalid hermeneutic.

The words “days” and “make” and “earth” in Genesis. I do think that Dr. Ross has a few good points regarding the days. He makes the argument that the days in this chapter are epochs; long but finite periods of time. Yet, he is still taking the text literally because there are multiple definitions of the word “day” and one of those definitions is “a long but finite period of time.” Similarly, Dr. Ross defends his interpretation of the creation account by pointing out that there are multiple definitions of the words “make” and “earth.” But as Dr. Walton pointed out in a critique of Hugh Ross’s interpretation of Genesis 1 in his book, just because a word has multiple definitions, that does not mean that we can choose any that we would like, as though it were buffet of definitions. It means that we have to allow the context to determine the definition.

He is assuming that the Bible is teaching science. Think again of the Leviathan. What point is God trying to communicate in telling his people that he has destroyed the dreaded reptile? He is telling them that they can trust in him. He is more powerful than the forces of this world and anything that they might fear. He is the Creator of all things and all things are under his subjection and control. But what scientific truths can we draw from this text regarding the Leviathan? Well, if we were assuming that he was teaching scientific truths, the meaning of the author would be lost on us and we would think that it was scientific nonsense. Again, God is communicating to people in their own language. He is allowing his people to use phenomenal language.

However, in assuming that the Bible is teaching science, Dr. Ross seems to be guilty of the same misstep that a paleontologist would be if he were looking for the remains of an ancient Leviathan. The Bible does not teach scientific truths to its’ readers. It expresses no interest in communicating that sort of thing. The Bible teaches us about God. It teaches theology, not science. It teaches that God is powerful, sovereign, and so we need not fear the Pagan gods – it does not teach that the Pagan gods exist. It does not teach that the Leviathan exists. It does not teach science.

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7 Misunderstandings Muslims Have of Christianity

muslim 1It can be difficult for us to represent other religions properly (as I pointed out in my book The Open Minded Christian: How To Engage Charitably With Fellow Sinners). If a Christian pastor were representing Islamic thought, and I did not know or recognize this man as a reputable source, I would assume that he would do a poor job. I would be suspicious that his presentation would be full of misrepresentations, and then his audience would walk away from the presentation thinking that they had heard an accurate representation of Islam. When they encountered Muslims, they would bring up these misrepresentations, and the two parties would be talking past each other because the Christian was representing a view that the Muslim did not believe in. Similarly, Muslims can sometimes be equally as guilty of this. To help my Christian readers to see the perspective that they bring to the conversation and to provide understanding for my Muslims readers, I would like to point out 7 misunderstandings Muslims have of Christianity.

muslim 21 – “How could God die?” The center of the Christian faith is that God became a man in the person of Jesus Christ, and he died. Since Muslims deny that Jesus was God (believing that he was a great prophet), they will object that Jesus could not have been God, because Jesus died, and God could not die. So, how could God die? Well, when the Christian says that God died, we do not mean that God passed out of existence. Death is a characteristic of biological organisms. Chairs do not die. Dogs die. Human beings die. This means that when we say that God died, we mean that God became a man and died a human death.

muslim 3But that does not mean that God passed out of existence. It means that God endured a human death. Just think of mortality of human beings and the afterlife that both Christians and Muslims alike believe in. When we die, our souls or spirits separate from our body until the final resurrection at the end of the world. Since human beings are innately eternal creatures, who will either have their abode with God or separated from his presence (2 Thessalonians 1:9), an equally daunting question could be “How could a human being die? A human being has an eternal soul. How could he die?” But we are not saying that the human being passed out of existence. We are saying that he died a human death. Similarly, God died a human death. Hopefully this resolves or shed a bit of light on this one of the 7 misunderstandings Muslims have of Christianity.

muslim 42 – “God does not need the cross. He can just forgive.” God is holy. We are sinners. God cannot have injustice in his sight. We are unjust. God cannot and will not stand for lawlessness. We are lawless. That is why we need redemption. We stand separated from a holy God. The second person of the Trinity, God the Son, took on a human nature and lived in impeccable moral repute. When he was murdered, he absorbed the penalty that we deserve for our sin (Romans 3:21-25). He died in our place, for the sins of his people (Isaiah 53:10). All of the crimes that we committed were reckoned to Christ’s account, and the Father punished him for them (Colossians 2:14). Jesus died in our place, for our sins, and three days later, he rose from the dead. God provided a perfect sacrifice for our sins.

muslim 5Muslims will charge that this atonement is superfluous. God does not need to provide a perfect sacrifice. He does not need to die for our sins. He is God, and he can just forgive people as he pleases. Well, I am reminded of what is known as Euthyphro’s Dilemma. Is some action righteous because God decreed that it was so, or did God decree that it was righteous because he recognized the inherent righteousness of a certain act? Can God arbitrarily declare something that is unrighteous, to be righteous? The reason that God cannot just forgive is because he is perfectly righteous – he is righteousness and he cannot stand sin in his right. If he were to just forgive, arbitrarily, he would impugn his righteousness. It is not that he has to obey rules. It is that he is a righteous judge and he will not wink at sin. Just as a court judge could not arbitrarily let a guilty man go, so also God cannot arbitrarily let a guilty sinner go. His justice must be enacted. That is why the cross is necessary.

muslim 63 – “Jesus never said, ‘I am God. Worship me.'” As I pointed out, Muslims do not believe that Jesus is God, and believe that it would have been blasphemy for him to claim to be God. So they will grant the four gospels and say that Jesus never said, ‘I am God. Worship me.’ First, we need to allow for literary artistry and allow the authors of the gospel to speak and communicate their message. The authors of the gospels often wanted you to read them and think, “Who is this man?” So they would grant subtle hints, where Jesus would attribute actions of God in the Old Testament to himself (Matthew 11:5). They would grant a portrayal of the disciples worshipping this divine figure, the Son (Matthew 14:33). After all of these questions and hints, they would end the narrative, just before the crucifixion, with Jesus’ claim before the Sanhedrin, where he claimed, “I am, and you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming with the clouds of Heaven” to which the High Priest rips his garment and accuses Jesus of blasphemy. So this is one of 7 misunderstandings Muslims have of Christianity. While he never said, ‘I am God. Worship me’ he uttered equally potent phrases.

Second, if Jesus never claimed to be God, and if he was truly an Islamic prophet, then his message was instantly corrupted by the almighty apostle Paul and the following Christian voices. While God sent this prophet to teach the world to follow Islam, his plan backfired, because immediately after his prophet died, everybody started revering him as God and developing these feign traditions, leaving literally no trace of the true prophet until 700 years later. Is that the most plausible account of the life of Jesus? Do we have to believe that God’s message was stomped out?

4 – “The gospel of John is too old to be trusted.” You will notice that when pointing out where Jesus claimed to be God, I did not appeal to the gospel of John, and why not? The most obvious references are there. Jesus said that he and the Father are one (John 10:30) and when you have seen him, you have seen the Father (John 14:9). These seem obvious. John is clearly not asking “Who is this man?” He made a point to tell you in plain words who this man is. So why not use it? Many Muslims will deny that John’s gospel is authoritative. It was written too late to be an accurate account of the life of Jesus.

Well, the reason that the gospel of John is dated so late is that the literary style seems to be influenced by gnosticism (not to say that it is a gnostic writing, obviously). But the Dead Sea Scrolls had writings that adopted the literary style which we find in the Gospel of John. That would indicate that we do not necessarily need a late date to account for this literary style. Second, the longer speeches that are recorded in the gospel of John may be indicative that this is the true voice of Jesus. In the synoptics, he would just tell a parable, a pithy saying. They are abridged. But in the gospel of John, we have a larger treatment of what Jesus said. This could be accounted for by the fact that it was written by an eye-witness who wanted to capture the true voice of Jesus. Therefore suggesting that the gospel of John is unreliable seems to be one of the 7 misunderstandings Muslims have of Christianity.

5 – “Jesus did not die on the cross. Somebody died in his place.” All of the evidence coming out of the first century invariably suggests that Jesus died on the cross. First, the crucifixion was embarrassing to the disciples of Jesus. It was something that they needed to explain, because ‘Cursed is the man who dies on a tree’ (Galatians 3:13). It is not a story that somebody would invent. That is why the atheist New Testament scholar, Dr. Gerd Ludemann wrote, “Jesus’ death, as a consequence of crucifixion, is historically undeniable.” Yet Muslims deny it and suggest that somebody else died in his place.

Now, when dealing with a historical hypothesis, we need to recognize that much of what is said is highly probabilistic. We cannot expect absolute certainty. It is inductive. This means that there will always be away to circumvent the evidence. We can always conjure up alternative stories. But if they are not derived from the historical evidence, they are ad hoc and contrived. When the Muslim hypothesizes that somebody was crucified in the place of Jesus, they are not drawing this from the evidence coming out of the first century. It is an ad hoc, contrived, historical hypothesis that is meant to circumvent the evidence. Therefore to say that Jesus did not really die by crucifixion is one of 7 misunderstandings that Muslims have of Christianity.

Further (and this touches a bit on the philosophical implications of Islamic theology), Muslim theologians throughout the centuries have supposed that God made it appear to everybody that Jesus died by crucifixion by putting somebody else in his place and putting Jesus’ face on that man. However, this would seem to indicate that God tricked people into becoming Christians. But what sort of plan is this? I think that Muslims should rethink their hypothesis regarding the death of Jesus. Even Qur’an leaves the door open. It reads, “And because of their saying: We [the Jews] slew the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, Allah’s messenger – they slew him not nor crucified him, but it appeared so unto them.” Of course, nobody believes that the Jews slew the Messiah. The Romans did. So even believing the Qur’an, on could believe in the crucifixion.

6 – “Paul corrupted Jesus’ message by implementing this doctrine of ‘faith alone.'” Justification by faith alone is the doctrine that by believing in the promises of God, the same promise that he made to Abraham, believing that they are applied to us, putting our trust in him that he will be faithful to fulfill those promises on the basis Christ crucified – we are justified before God. We stand before him as though we had never sinned. Romans 3-5 firmly establishes this doctrine in Christian thought, as Paul tells us, “To the one who does not work, but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness.” (Romans 4:5). To this, Muslims object that Jesus did not teach this doctrine of faith alone. This is a Pauline corruption. For Jesus taught that we ought to keep the Law (Matthew 5:17).

Well, Paul taught that we ought to keep the Law as well (Romans 7:12). But he did not teach that keeping the Law was a mechanism for justification, and neither did Jesus. Jesus and Paul agreed that we need to keep the Law. They agreed that we need to live righteous lives, and they agreed that justification comes by faith alone. As I pointed out in my article, Did Jesus Teach Salvation By Faith Alone?, he taught the impossibility of keeping the commandments. When he encountered the rich young ruler (Mark 10:17-27), he told him that if he wanted to see life, he needed to keep the commandments. But, when he listed the daunting commandments, the man realized that he could not measure up. So, Jesus said that it was so hard to enter the kingdom of heaven. It is harder than a camel going through the eye of a needle. This astonished the disciples, and they asked, “Who then can be saved?” to which Jesus replied, “By man it is impossible. But with God, all things are possible.” Jesus taught that in and of our own resources, we could not earn salvation. We need to trust in God’s mercy, and that is how we attain it. So one of 7 misunderstandings that Muslims have of Christianity is to suggest that Jesus did not teach justification by faith alone.

7 – “Western ethics represent Christianity.” While many western Muslims find themselves assimilating with western values and culture, they still recognize the immorality and selfish gain that is inherent in our culture. Since these are Christian nations, they will blame Christianity for this corruption. However, I would argue that nations would be corrupt no matter what religion is implemented. Just think of the Old Testament. God personally established this religion (Judaism) and it was always corrupted by the wicked hearts of men (Jeremiah 17:9). That is what Jesus was correcting. Further, a bankrupt moral system in the west can be paralleled by what we see in the middle east in the terror groups waging war in the Islamic majority nations. This goes to suggest that men are evil enough on their own and they will wield any resource available to them to express the evil in their hearts.

Second, Christianity teaches that we need to live a righteous lifestyle. Paul says that everybody will be judged, that righteous people will be with God (Romans 2:6-8). He writes in Romans 6:2, “We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” Paul combatted the very objections to Christianity that we hear today. If justification is by faith alone, does that mean that we can sin freely? Of course not, argues Paul. We have been born again. We have been made new. We have been granted new life by the power of God. The corruption of western ethics does not represent Christianity. This seems to be one of 7 misunderstandings Muslims have of Christianity.

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7 Slogans Atheists Should Not Use

atheist 1Atheists love slogans and soundbites. Of course, there is nothing wrong with using one to relay a complicated truth to a wide audience. People do that regularly and a skilled educator knows how to do that effectively. However, this becomes a problem when a slogan is not true. People just recite it because it sounds good. They do not have any knowledge beyond that particular slogan, but they like the way it sounds and so they propagate it without considering whether it is true. The result is often embarrassment. When relaying a line that evades the best available scholarship and persisting in using that line, it embarrasses their movement. I think there are at least 7 slogans atheists should not use. It disseminates misinformation and an educated person will think that atheism is quite superficial.

atheist 2“There is no evidence that God exists.” While it would be helpful to the atheist cause if there were no evidence for the existence of God, it is quite embarrassing when atheists utter this line precisely because of the abundance of evidence for God. This may be rooted in a misunderstanding of what evidence is. Evidence is not absolute proof. It is not an end to all discussion. There could be evidence that a certain proposition is true even if that proposition turned out to be false. There could be evidence for the existence of God even if God did not exist. If the existence of God is more probable given a piece of data, then that is evidence of his existence. For example, the fine-tuning of the universe is evidence of the existence of God. This is not because it is knock-down argument. It is just because the existence of God is more probable than it would have been if there were no fine-tuning. There are several other lines of evidence that make it more likely that God exists than it would have been if these lines of evidence were not present. Therefore, this is one of 7 slogans atheists should not use. It is just a misunderstanding of the nature of evidence.

“It is impossible to prove a universal negative.” Atheist philosophers have struggled for centuries to prove that God does not exist. But nobody has been able to come up with a convincing argument. So they will retreat to the position that it is impossible to prove a negative. The statement “There is no God” is a universal negative, and therefore it is just impossible to prove it. The problem is that it is trivially easy to prove a universal negative. Some (not all) universal negatives can be proven. Consider the universal negative, “There are no square circles.” Since it has properties that are self-contradictory, it follows that it does not exist. Consider also the universal negative, “There are no Europeans residing on Mars.” We can prove that because we have access to the necessary data. Further, every positive claim is the inverse of a negative claim. For somebody to say, “Mars is empty” is a positive claim and yet contains the propositional content that we find in “There are no Europeans residing on Mars.” The fact that it is so trivially easy to prove a universal negative is why it is one of 7 slogans atheists should not use.

“As we learn more science, there is less room for God.” Science is often thought of as an enemy of faith, for with scientific pursuit, we explain what people previously employed God to explain. Whether the organic world, the tides, claps of thunder; people have historically explained these things by appealing to the divine. Since science explains them, presumably, we no longer have any need for divine explanations. Well, this is to conflate different types of causality. It is to conflate agent causality with a mechanism. A pot of water boiling on the stove can be explained scientifically, but the fact that science reveals that explanation does not negate the need for somebody to put it there. Often certain phenomenon have more than one explanation. Scientific explanation is the mechanism while God is the personal agent. When somebody says that God is being crowded out by science, they are assuming that God is the mechanism. Therefore, because it conflates these types of causality, this is one of 7 slogans atheists should not use.

“We are all born atheists.” What is atheism? Many atheists tell us that it is a lack of belief in the existence of God. It is not necessarily a stance that somebody takes. It is a neglect to take a stance. It is just to say, “I do not believe in God” but that is not to hold the belief “There is no God.” Accordingly, even babies, cats, and chairs turn out to be atheists because they lack a belief in God. So, then, atheists will suggest that atheism is just the default state of humanity. Let’s grant that. So what? Everybody is born ignorant. Babies are born lacking a belief in physical objects. They are born lacking a belief in minds. They do not believe that their parents exist. Babies do not have the cognitive faculties to acknowledge beliefs about much of anything. Isn’t it a little strange that to justify their atheism, they have to appeal to babies? Imagine a 45 year old man was living with his parents, did not have a job, did not pay rent, did not buy his own food and was totally dependent. Then he came to you and said, “Everybody was born like this. I am just returning to the default state of humanity. Since it appeals to babies as a justification, this is one of the 7 slogans atheists should not use.

“Science is the only way of knowing truth.” The natural world is rationally intelligible. We may learn about it and investigate it and yield facts and data. This data that we yield from the natural world would be scientific discovery. Sometimes, atheists will tell us that scientific discovery is the only way that somebody could know what is true. But what about the principle “Science is the only way of knowing truth”? Is that a scientific principle yielded by mixing chemicals, or found under a rock in an archeological dig, or under a microscope? What breed of science is the principle “Science is the only way of knowing truth”? This is not a scientific statement. It is a philosophical statement. It is a statement about science, not scientific data. Therefore, if it is true, it would also be false. It is self-defeating. So that is why this is one of 7 slogans atheists should not use.

“If you need religion to keep you from being a bad person, you are already a bad person.” CS Lewis said that his argument against the existence of God was that that there was so much evil in the world. But, he continues, where did he get this idea of good and evil? One does not say that a line is crooked unless they have some idea of what straight is. Evil can only exist if there is a transcendent standard of morality. When Christians recite this argument, atheists will misunderstand it. They think the Christian is saying, “If you are not religious, then you personally have no standard of morality and you are an evil person.” But that is not the argument. The argument is that if God did not exist, then there would be no transcendent standard of morality. But, argues the Christian, since God does exist, there is a standard of morality and atheists often try to live by it. The atheist has mistaken epistemology – how we come to know morality – with ontology – whether morality exists. So this fundamental misunderstanding is one of 7 slogans atheists should not use.

“How can you believe in talking snakes?” I think we can sympathize with this one. There are some things in the Bible that seem difficult to believe. As Christians, we believe things that are unbelievable. They are literally miraculous, and we do not see miracles every day. But when the Bible records miracles, should we be surprised? After all, it is the Bible. The Bible assumes the existence of God. Atheists do not share that assumption. So when the Bible makes claims related to the existence of God, it will not comport with their perception of the world. Just imagine you turned off the electricity in your home. When you went inside, you tried to turn the heater on, but complained that it was not working. You have removed the power source and then wondered why the power was not working. Similarly, atheists remove the divine power source from the Bible and then complain that there are miracles. Of course there are miracles. It’s the Bible.

To prove that I am balanced in my criticisms, also read my article7 Slogans Christians Need To Stop Using

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