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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7 Slogans Christians Need To Stop Using

slogans 1Many of our intellectual pursuits are shallow. People are more interested in being entertained and clinging to catchy one-liners and slogans that seem to summarize what they think, as opposed to rigorous thought complimented by thorough research. Of course, there is nothing wrong with slogans. Sometimes a slogan is a good way to communicate complicated truths to an audience in a simple way. But there are some slogans that sound good, but are not quite right. Everyone is guilty of this, and many of us find it frustrating when Christians are. For they are using these catchy slogans to relay the Christian faith in a way that seems to misrepresent it. Christians are often the very people who do a disservice to their own faith by reciting these 7 slogans Christians need to stop using.

slogans 2“Try Jesus.” Is Jesus a pair of Dockers? Is he a flavor of ice cream that we have to sell to people? People will often invite others to accept the propositions of Christianity just because it is the best decision that one can make. If one lists and weighs all of the reasons to become a Christian, one will find that the Christian faith succeeds and therefore you should “Try Jesus.” Jesus is depicted as a decision that somebody makes rather than a perfect Savior. It is not that they are confronted by the reality of their sin or their depravity before a holy and righteous God. It is not that they recognize their need for redemption and that sin needs to be dealt with. It is not that they see the sweetness of the cross, the death of Christ, for our sins, in our place (Romans 3:21-25). The gospel is the power of God to those who believe (Romans 1:16) and it is not being preached. In its’ place is an invitation to make a decision. Try Jesus. He will work for you. This is one of 7 slogans Christians need to stop using. In its’ place, they need to preach the gospel.

slogans 3“The Lord told me…” It used to be that when people said that God has revealed something to them, we may appropriately ask which chapter and verse they found it in. With the rise of Pentecostalism and the charismatic movement, everybody seems to be their own walking Bible. We can all provide revelation from God and there is nobody to discern between us or say that one person is wrong. For if I say that one person is wrong, I combat the very epistemology that I use to come to the conclusions that I reach. The issue is not so much that they happen to be charismatic and I do not agree with that. It is rather that preaching a false prophecy is offensive. If you say “God told me something” when God did not tell you anything, that is offensive. You are convoking authority to your words under a guise of divinity.

slogans 4Just imagine if I lied about something that you said. I put words in your mouth to gain the trust and respect of your friends. Suppose I said that somebody in a position of authority, a politician, a president, a monarch, told me something when in fact they did not. I was garnering the respect and attention of the people under false pretenses. How much more severe is it when people say that they have a message from God? As he said in Jeremiah 23:20-21, “The anger of the LORD will not turn back until He has performed and carried out the purposes of His heart; In the last days you will clearly understand it. I did not send these prophets, But they ran. I did not speak to them, But they prophesied.” This is one of 7 slogans Christians need to stop using. It is dishonoring to God and selfish – unless you are referring to the Bible.

slogans 5“Jesus is my homeboy.” Imagine that you lowered your social status. You exchanged your car and your home for something cheap. You sold all of your possessions, gave the money to the poor, and become homeless yourself out of your self-sacrifice for others. You condescended down to the lowest level for other people. Then people from your high school saw you, a homeless person, dirty, unworthy, and made fun of you and hit you. This would be your humiliation. But suppose somebody of a higher repute were to condescend to that level. Suppose Bill Clinton was a homeless man with no possessions or anything to eat. Suppose a powerful pope was thrown into a dungeon, instantly stripped of his glamor, riches, wealth, and power (as has happened throughout church history when rival popes would seize the throne). This would be their humiliation. But suppose God himself condescended down and became a homeless man to give everything that he had to his people. Jesus said in Luke 9:58, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” God was a homeless man who was later murdered by the state so that those who murdered him and those just like them could have everything that he has. That is the humiliation of Jesus Christ.

slogans 6When you call him your homeboy, you are not expressing this humiliation. He certainly was humiliated. He was a man, endured temptations and trials and suffering. He was hungry. But that is not what you are expressing what you call him your homeboy or your boyfriend. You are expressing a tone of disrespect. Jesus is not your homeboy. He is the Lord of Glory, the King of Glory, the sovereign God who died for your sins. He loves you and calls you friend, but do not presume to treat Jesus Christ as an equal. He is your Lord and Judge, before whom you will stand to give an account of every idle word. Do you want to be the one who misconstrued his humiliation so as to make him an equal to you?

“I declare revival…” When somebody says that they want revival, I think of manifest conviction of sin across the masses. I think of abortion being aborted as a civil practice because we have realized our crimes against humanity. I think of people seeing the depth of their sin and realizing that it is unmatched by the depth of God’s mercy and grace and love. I think of people meditating on the life and person of Jesus of Nazareth, what he said and did and what he accomplished when he was murdered. Floods of people repenting of their sin and putting their faith in Jesus. That is revival. Revival is when the whole nation is stirred over their sin. Our depravity is on display. The role of the Holy Spirit is to convict the world of sin (John 16:8). And it lasts. It is not just a wave of emotion, a few songs, a loud preacher, a conference, and chills running down your spine. This is not revival.

True revival would uproot our ministries and reveal how judgmental, mean, and sinful we have been. True revival would tear us to pieces. True revival is also something that we cannot manufacture. It is not something that we can declare. It is something that comes under the sovereign hand of God. God will declare revival and you will only recognize it retroactively. You can never usher in a revival. You are not God’s master. This is one of 7 slogans Christians need to stop using.

“I love Jesus, but hate religion.” Have you ever noticed that the people who say this sort of thing are often trying to justify their sin and keep away from religious congregations that will convict them of sin? It seems to just be a maneuver to preserve the elements of faith that you like without actually following Christ’s commands or living anything like he did. Christ was the most religious person in human history. He was the greatest devotee and our model of religious worship. He was a Jew who kept the Torah, kept the Law of Moses perfectly (Romans 10:4). If you are going to say that you are a follower of Jesus, then why would you depart from such a fundamental and central aspect of his ministry? He was a religious devotee. And he established a church. He established a body of believers, all of whom are meant to be interdependent on one another and ultimately dependent on Christ (1 Corinthians 12). As James 1:27 says, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being.”

“You can’t argue people into Heaven.” As a Christian apologist, this is one that I encounter frequently. If I try to outline evidence for God, people will suggest that I am stifling the gospel and that I need to just preach the gospel. Well, there is certainly an element of trust hidden in there. We truly cannot argue someone into Heaven. They are not going to accept my arguments. They are enemies of God (Ephesians 1:2) and have a wicked, rebellious heart (Jeremiah 17:9). But that is also to overlook the synergistic mechanisms that God employs. He uses man to soften the hearts of unbelievers. Why is it that we were not hoisted into Heaven immediately when we were saved? Why doesn’t God just save people without using us? He chooses to use us and he chooses to soften the heart of man in a variety of different ways, often using evidence and arguments. This is one of 7 slogans Christians need to stop using.

“Justification is a process.” Just think about that for a moment. Justification is when we are made right with God. We are declared righteous in his sight. It is as though we had never sinned. (This is in contrast with the sort of justification that we see in James 2:24, where justification is more like vindication.) How could justification be a process? How would that work? Would one be a little justified now, and a little more justified tomorrow? Does that even make sense? If you stand before God guilty, then you are not justified. One is either justified or unjustified. But they cannot be both. The only recourse that one could make would be to say that God is adding up everything that you do, and at the end of your life, he will weigh it and if it is good enough, you will be justified. But even that would not be a process of justification. It would be a process leading to justification.

Resolving this quagmire, Paul the apostle 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). God [1] justifies the ungodly and [2] faith is credited as righteousness. He said in the previous chapter, “For we maintain that a person is justified by faith…” (Romans 3:28). Try to stay with me here: but if a person is justified by faith, this means that the person who has faith is justified. Hence, justification is not a process. It comes by faith in Jesus Christ, by putting your trust in his atonement and his promises.

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When You Should Fire Your Youth Pastor

youth 1What makes a church? What factors go into the decision for an individual to choose a particular church? People often look for an outlet for their children, perhaps to keep their teenagers out of trouble, make nice friends, and to provide them with biblical and spiritual insight. So, one might find a church that has a thriving, active youth ministry. Unfortunately, youth ministry does not seem to be output the same number of Christians that were input. Three out of every four young people leave the church either during high school or in their early years of college. But the purpose of youth ministry is to foster a maturing and a growing faith in the adolescence. Unfortunately, youth ministry seems to just be a step that hoists one into atheism, secularism, and liberalism. That is when you should fire your youth pastor.

youth2I am not using some sort of metaphorical exaggeration. I literally think that youth pastors who are guilty of the crimes that I outline in this blog should be fired. At the very least, if they are guilty of these things, they should be instructed in how to approach youth ministry, their job description should be radically and fundamentally altered and they should be examined. If they are reluctant or do not understand why these changes are important, then I think they should be fired. We need youth ministers who will foster a growing faith and teach young people to be disciples of Jesus Christ. If they are not doing that, well, that is when you should fire your youth pastor.

youth 3If he is just an entertainer, that is when you should fire your youth pastor. Parents want their children to have an active schedule of extra-curricular activities. They do not want them to be inside, glued to the television or video game console, getting involved in drugs, or causing trouble. So, they will enroll them in some sort of youth program at the church, and a few times every week, they will meet and learn spiritual disciplines, hopefully in a fun and interactive way. But many youth pastors depart from this model. This is when you should fire your youth pastor.

youth4The duty of the youth minister is to relay theologically rich concepts about God and our duty to him in ways that the youth can understand. They are to help young people understand God, to answer difficult questions and to help to develop a foundation in biblical truth. But many youth ministers would rather play games, take the group out bowling, do something fun, and that will be the extent of their activities. Of course, there is nothing wrong with bowling. There may be some days that you want to take them and do something that is religiously neutral. That is fine. But when that became the full extent of their activities, that is when you should fire your youth pastor. He is just an entertainer. He is playing games.

His lessons are extremely shallow. Teenagers do not enjoy learning. They have enough of that in school, and when they are away from school, they just want to be entertained. With the advent of technology and in the age of information, we want things instantly, and anything for which we must exert mental energy is not worth pursuing. So in an effort to mold his lessons to fit the students’ expectations, the youth pastor will develop theologically shallow lessons. Rather than challenging the students, teaching them about God, and bringing them to learn biblical principles, the youth pastor is relaying personal anecdotes, stories about a time that prayer worked for him, and lessons that can be summarized in a pithy one-liner, like, “You should pray more.” This is when you should fire your youth pastor.

After all, what are the students going to do with that when they go home? The youth pastor is not guiding them to understand the illumination of God’s word so that the students may meditate upon it. He is not teaching them theology. He is not teaching them to revere God and his word. The students are not getting anything out of this sort of lesson. They are just told that they need to pray more. Their mind is not being expanded. Rather than adjusting his lessons to their liking, the youth minister needs to bring his students to adjust their mind to his lessons. This will challenge them to think critically about faith and about God. As Charles Spurgeon said, “Nothing will so enlarge the intellect, nothing so magnify the whole soul of man, as a devout, earnest, continued investigation of the great subject of the Deity.”

He does not teach theology or apologetics. Why is it that so many young people are leaving the church? One could argue that one reasons is that they do not think there is any intellectual depth. There is nothing to think about. There is no reason to think that Christianity is true. It is not presented a subtle, nuanced theology for which there are good reasons to believe it. They are presented with Bible stories and just told that they need to pray more. So they will find any objection that a worldly person raises to be compelling. However, one of the most potent defenses of apostasy is to just understand what you believe. If one has a robust understanding of their faith, they are not going to fall away from it. But in the case of youth ministry, I am afraid that they just do not provide this sort of thing. They will provide cliches, such as “Jesus died for your sins,” but these present themselves as vain platitudes. What does it even mean? The students have no idea. Why did Jesus pray, if he was God? Was he just praying to himself? These are the sort of objections that ex-Christians will raise! If you do not believe me, then talk to an atheist. They will say this sort of thing, despite that they are ex-Christians who had attended youth groups for their entire lives. Theology matters, doctrine matters, and robust presentations of Christianity matter. If your youth pastor does not understand, then this is when you should fire your youth pastor. Seriously. Fire him.

Further, the youth pastor needs to have a handle on Christian apologetics. He needs to be able to explain to his students why the Christian faith is true. How can we maintain biblical inerrancy? What about all of the manuscripts and their contradictions? Did Jesus even exist? How can we really know that he performed any miracles? And what evidence is there that God exists? Answering these questions is a vital practice. In my opinion, when a youth pastor is being interviewed, the head pastor should ask him these questions to see if he has a good handle on Christian apologetics. They should see not only if he has a degree and has some ministerial experience, but if he has a good handle on the apologetic content, or if he is at least willing to learn. If he does not, that is when you should fire your youth pastor. He is sending young Christians to high school and college unarmed and unarmored.

He does not preach the gospel or discipleship. How can I be saved? Most youth ministers will say, “Believe in Jesus,” and that is good. However, is belief the only aspect to justification? I just have to give mental assent to a few propositions? Is that really what it is all about? What about being born again, without which, nobody will see the kingdom of God (John 3:5)? What about the death of Christ, in our place, for our sins, and his resurrection from the dead? What about salvation by faith alone (Romans 4:5). This harks back to and overlaps with a robust treatment of theology, but it is central. If he does not preach or understand the gospel, then this is when you should fire your youth pastor.

Further, what about discipleship? There are a lot of people who are told that Jesus died for them, and now that they believe, they are saved. Well, salvation is certainly is by faith alone. But the person who has this saving faith has also been born again. This means that they have been made new by the power of God (2 Corinthians 5:17). They are new creatures, the old man is dead. They are disciples of Jesus, following him, laboring to represent him and to live in righteousness. Is there an emphasis on righteousness and discipleship in your youth pastors’ ministry? If not, then this is when you should fire your youth pastor.

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Could God Have Used Evolution?

evolution 1The intersection of science and faith has produced no small amount of controversy. It is at this intersection that people find it prudent to either depart from faith or depart from science, and both of these alternatives have devastating implications for the body of Christ. For if we depart from science, we assumed a stance of anti-intellectualism and rail against a methodology that has produced fruitful yieldings, such as medicine, industry and technology. Yet this is what we find in discussions about the age of the earth and evolution among Christians. Christians are not keen toward evolution. This may be because it uproots the old apologetic about how we can explain biological diversity. It may be because they were traditionally taught to deny evolution. However there are some traditions that are not based in scripture but are clung to as if they were. I would like to suggest that this is on of them. Could God have used evolution? He most certainly could have.

evolution 2God can do anything that he would like to do. I am afraid that Christians too often restrain God based on our expectations of him. We may suggest that he could never act in a certain way just because we cannot make sense of his actions. We may say that he could never allow some evil thing to occur because we cannot understand what the greater good would be. Similarly, we may suggest that God could not use evolution because it is not what we would expect of him. Well, is not God free to create as wishes? Are we really going to limit God and say that there is no possible world in which he created via the processes of evolution? Could God use evolution? Well just consider the creation of a new child and the stages of life that it goes through, from an embryo to an adult. If we believe that God guides this process and creates in this way, then why is it so difficult to believe that God could create all life in this way?

evolution 3Is evolution too cruel of a process? Genesis 1 tells us that after God created the heavens and the earth, he looked over it and said that it was very good. However, the evolutionary model will have animals eating each other. Evolution is based on surviving in harsh conditions and adapting to those conditions. It struggles forward, being pushed on the cart of death with broken wheels. The world will be full of death. A young earth creationist would point out that their model has all death and suffering after sin. Death and suffering are a consequence of the sin of man. But, they object, on the evolutionary model, death and suffering and inherent to this world. Since God said that the world was good, and he would not create via a cruel process, we should recognize that evolution is an unacceptable model that makes God appear to be cruel.

evolution 4But when God said that the world was ‘very good,’ what did he mean? There was a functional ecosystem and the natural world teaming with life and the roots of humanity present. It was very good. But did God mean that it was perfect? The Bible does not use that word. Perhaps it was not his ideal world. After all, why would he separate Adam and Eve by putting them in the Garden of Eden, unless the world was a cruel place? Further, even if death does come before sin, did God not know that Adam and Eve were going to sin? Of course he did. As I pointed out in my article Did Animals Die Before The Fall? the universe knew we were coming. God created a fallen world for fallen creatures. It was full of death and suffering because he knew that we would sin. But until that time came, he set Adam and Eve aside in the Garden of Eden.

Is evolution too wasteful? Natural selection occurs by a series of trial and error. It adapts to the environment slowly by a long and rigorous process. Creatures will die because of harsh conditions implanted in their genes, and their memory, and a slight adaptation results to make them more likely to survive. Different environments will yield different animals. But why would God choose to create in this manner? It is quite inefficient. As an omnipotent deity, God could create everything ex nihilo instantly in just a nanosecond. He does not even need six days. 144 hours is a long time as well for God. He could have done it immediately. Why would he take so long, then? Why take six days? Why spend billions of years developing these creatures? Is he not wasting time and resources?

Well, as Dr. William Lane Craig pointed out, one can only be wasteful if they have limited time or limited resources. But God suffers neither of these burdens. He is not in danger of running out of time or using all of his resources. He has unlimited time to do with the universe as he pleases. I am afraid that we tend to think of God as too much like an engineer, as though he were just trying to get the job done. Perhaps he is more like an artist who enjoys painting a canvas. Could God use evolution? If we stop thinking of God as an engineer who is chiefly concerned with efficiency, then there is no conflict with evolution.

Why is God covering his tracks? I think that one of the most significant problems that people have with the Theory of Evolution is that it seems to lend to metaphysical naturalism. After all, if all of life could occur by natural processes, then God would seem to just be covering his tracks, hiding his divine intervention. Where is he? Why can we not see the hand of God in the universe? Why is he going to such lengths to hide himself by creating processes such as evolution? Well first, as I pointed out in my series Evidence For God, he did not hide himself. He provided evidence for his existence in the natural world, and supremely in the incarnation when the Son came to die for our sins and rise from the dead. So God did not cover his tracks.

Further, the mind boggles as I try to consider whether there is a significant difference between God covering his tracks by using evolution to create life, and God covering his tracks by allowing the universe to be governed by natural laws. When we see a miracle, it is something incredible because it is so rare. When the hand of God reaches down to intervene in the earth, it is amazing. But, it did not have to be like that. Everything could be a miracle. God could routinely perform miracles and routinely interact with us. One could ask, why does he cover his tracks? (I answered this question in my article Why Is God Invisible?) Well, any answer that you give will also be applicable to why God would cover his tracks when he created life. Could God have used evolution? He could have. He could have hidden his tracks just as he did by allowing our universe to be governed by natural laws.

What about Genesis 1-3? Genesis 1-3 is the first account in the Bible of the creation of the world. Young earth creationists interpret this passage as describing literal 24 hour days over a period of one week, and they insist that this is the only interpretation that is not a retreat caused by modern science. However, Saint Augustine said, “What kind of days these were [in Genesis 1] is extremely difficult, or perhaps impossible for us to discern.” It seems that Augustine was quite receptive to the modern interpretation of Genesis, and even articulated some views that looked something like evolution. Serious students of theology do not need to hold to a literal or young earth interpretation of this chapter. As I pointed out in my article Where Does The Bible Say That The Earth Is 6000 Years Old? there are a number of plausible interpretations of the creation week and we are not restricted to a 144 hour reading of the text.

Second, what about Adam? If Adam was the first man, how is it that evolution could have occurred? Well, this makes two assumptions, first that Adam was a literal historical figure, and second that he was the first man. The Bible never says that Adam was the first man. It may be the Adam was brought forth in an act of special creation, from the dust of the ground after the homosapien kind that pre-existed on the earth, and then he would be the first homosapien to be endowed with the image of God. This would also resolve bizarre questions regarding Cain finding his wife. Where did he find her? Perhaps he went into the other villages.

However, one may object to this that it seems to compromise the doctrine of original sin. For if we are not all children of Adam, then from where did we receive our sinful nature? Well, as I pointed out in my article Do Adam And Eve Disprove Original Sin? this objection would not reflect a robust understand of what original sin is. For we are all under the Federal Headship of Adam. When Adam fell, God judged the entire human race with him. As 1st Corinthians 15:22 says, “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.” To that, we might object that it is not really fair for God to judge us for Adam’s sin. But God knew that Adam could properly represent the entire human race, and there is no human being who would have been more righteous than he was. Could God have used evolution? There does not seem to be any good objection stemming from the creation week, the historical man, Adam, nor the doctrine of original sin.

Why did Jesus say, ‘In the beginning, God made them male and female…” (Matthew 19:4) Genesis actually quoted Genesis 1, joining the first verse “in the beginning” with the text concerning the creation of man. The young earth creationists will usually argue that since Jesus seemed to take this text literally and offered a practical application, then we should as well. First, a theistic evolutionist is free to take this text literally depending on which interpretive model of Genesis 1 they adopt. Second, we all believe that in the beginning, God made them male and female. Could God have used evolution? He could have, and he would have created male and female “in the beginning.”

The only thing that the young earth creationist would be reduced to saying that is that since Jesus connected “in the beginning” with this text, that this demonstrates that mankind must have been created quite soon after the initial creation in Genesis 1:1, which would create problems for the evolutionary paradigm. Well, that’s quite a relative argument. One person could think that the “beginning” was the first day or the first millisecond. The next person could think that the beginning was the first creation week. When does God think that the beginning is? Apparently he thinks that the creation of man occurred at the beginning, but I do not see any way to say that because it was the beginning that therefore it must have been 144 hours later. What if earth’s life continues for a billon more years? Would it not then be right to call the origin of life in an evolutionary timeframe, ‘the beginning’? What if it was 3 billion years ago? Perhaps Jesus just meant that when God was creating the universe, he created both male and female. He was teaching about marriage, not biology.

Perhaps looking for science in the Bible is to ask the wrong questions. I can be quite fond on certain forms of concordism on some days. I enjoy listening to Dr. Hugh Ross explain how the days in Genesis 1 represent long periods of times, to each of which he attributes certain scientific phenomenon. It is very interesting and he provides a very plausible model and answers the difficult questions. However, it may also be plausible to think that the Bible does not answer, or attempt to answer, scientific questions. It is not a discourse in scientific inquiry. It is theological. When we read the Bible, we are looking for answers to questions like, “Who is God? What does he want from me? Who is the Son? Why did he die on the cross? How can I be saved” This is the sort of question that the Bible answers. It does not answer questions about isotopes, the synthesis of chemicals, the structure of an atom, how energy is converted to mass, or the age of the earth. Could God have used evolution? The Bible just does not answer that question.

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Christians Need The Trinity

trinity 1How many angels can dance on the head of a pin? I am not aware of any theologian who has investigated this matter, and unless there is some discourse in philosophical theology of which I am bereft, this is probably not a question that we can answer with our intellectual or theological resources, and there probably is no answer. As CS Lewis pointed out, many of our great theological questions are likely nonsense, as if to ask, ‘How many hours are in a mile? Is yellow square or round?’ When somebody (or even someone claiming to be a Christian) hears bickering about the trinity, they may be inclined to see it as our laboring to answer a nonsense question. After all, how could one really know? The trinity states that there is one God who is eternally present in three persons – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. How could we really know if that were true? And does it really matter if we hold in the depth of our mind this theologically precise concept? Does it really matter? Well, throughout the generations, the church has recognize the centrality of the doctrine of the trinity. Christians need the trinity.

trinity 2However, I can sympathize with the person who struggles with this. Perhaps they have a non-trinitarian friend, and they seem like they are a faithful Christian. Do we really need to do anything other than believe in Jesus and try to serve him? Do we need to have the correct list of beliefs? The trinity is so abstract as to be almost irrelevant, right? How can we really suggest that everyone must believe it? How can we say that Christians need the trinity? Well I would like to labor the point that Christians need the trinity because it makes sense of the biblical and philosophical data and it is the only possible model that ascribes much honor to God, while the other models dishonor him.

trinity 3The trinity is the only model that honors the Son. Throughout the Old Testament, we read of accounts of the sins that God’s people committed against him. They intermingled with the Pagan nations and adopted their religious practices and rituals. They worshipped other deities besides God. But imagine that one of their crimes was to say that this deity, YHWH, was not the one true God. He was merely a powerful entity, not the supreme Creator of the cosmos, but just one among a pantheon of gods. He is a powerful being, like an angel, but not God. Would this be to honor God? Would such a belief be rightly considered orthodox? How can people steal the glory that is due only to God and give it to others? As God said in Isaiah 42:8, “I will not give my glory to anyone else.” When people say that the Son, Jesus, is not God, they are guilty of precisely this crime. They are like the people who say that YHWH is just an angel, a powerful entity, one of many gods to be feared and to butter up.

trinity 4As I pointed out in my article, Was There A Time When The Son Was Not? there are multiple lines of biblical data confirming the deity of the Son. Jesus is God. For somebody to deny the doctrine of the trinity is to dishonor Jesus. It is to fail to honor him in exactly the same way that you honor the Father. As he said in John 5:22-23, the Father has entrusted judgment to the Son so that “all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.” How do we honor the Father? We honor him as God. If one fails to honor the Son in exactly the same way, they dishonor not only the Son but also the Father. This is why Christians need the trinity. It is the only model that honors the Son.

It makes sense of the relationship between Jesus and the Father. If you are theologically savvy, you might have noticed a glaring objection to my last subsection. There is another model that honors Jesus as God and is non-trinitarian. It is known as Oneness Pentecostalism. This is the view that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are just modes that God takes on. They are manifestations of the same person. Hence, Jesus is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and so is God. Does this not preserve the honor that is due to the Son? Well, first, it does not, because a Oneness Pentecostal would deny that the Son is God. They believe that the divine nature is the Father and the human nature is the Son. The Son is not deity and is not honored as the Father is. Hence, this model does not honor the Son and collapses as being a dishonor to God under John 5:22-23.

Further, this model makes no sense of the relationship between Jesus and the Father. As I pointed out in my article Does John 17 Teach Oneness Or Trinity? if Jesus is both the Father and the Son, then the intense prayer and the reliance upon God that we see, the perfect model of obedience is just an illusion. For when we have one person praying to another, the instantly accessible reality is that there are two persons present. If Jesus is praying to the Father, one can hardly be blamed for thinking that Jesus is not the Father. If I refer to a conversation that I had with a man named Bill, you would instantly gather than there were two distinct people present for this conversation, namely, Bill and I. Christians need the trinity because it makes sense of the relationship. If Jesus is both the Father and the Son, then he is wearing a disguises, he is putting on a show, he is fooling us. Christians need the trinity because the relationship between the Father and the Son is genuine.

It is the only model that honors the Holy Spirit. If somebody were developing their model of who God is, they would be struck with the question of the Holy Spirit. Even if they were to say that Jesus was not God, where would that leave the Holy Spirit? One cannot just say that the Father is the Holy Spirit, because the Father sends the Holy Spirit (John 14:26). Would they be inclined to say that there is one God who is eternally present in two persons – the Father and the Holy Spirit? I should not think so. That would be binitarianism and would leave them quite vulnerable to trinitarianism. So instead, the person who denies the trinity will usually postulate that the Holy Spirit is an impersonal force – it is the power and activity of God. It is an extension of God, but it is not God and it is not personal. The Holy Spirit, then, is a what, rather than a who.

But just think of how this dishonors God. As Dr. John Walton pointed out in his book The Lost World of Genesis the reason that we see God creating the heavenly host in a chronological order, with everything outlined, is precisely because Pagan traditions taught that all of these objects were gods. So the Bible exposed them as being inanimate objects because there is one God who created the heavens and the earth. It is a dishonor to them. The one who says that the Holy Spirit is an impersonal force does the very same thing. Further, to say that one sins against an impersonal force is to talk nonsense. It is like if I find a piece of paper with a list of rules. If there is no personal force behind it, then it has no authority. If I discover that a monarch wrote that list of rules, then it has authority. One can only sin against a person. Since people sinned against the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:3, Mark 3:28-30), it follows that the Holy Spirit must be a person. The only model that retains this reality is the doctrine of the trinity. Christians need the trinity lest they dishonor the Holy Spirit by comparing him to a mute, dumb, deaf, blind idol.

The trinity makes sense of God’s love. There is a sub-discipline within philosophical theology known as perfect being theology which posits that we can learn about the Deity by discerning which attributes a perfect being would have, for God is the greatest conceivable being. God could not be stupid or impotent because these do not comport with what the greatest conceivable being would be. But similarly, the greatest conceivable being would also be all-loving by his very nature, for it is obviously better to be loving than unloving. As Jesus said in Matthew 5:43-48, as a reflection of the Father’s perfection, he is loving. As 1 John 4:8 tells us, God is love. This means it is part of God’s fundamental nature to love. If he were not love, he would not be God. But then the question arises: before God made his creatures, who did he love?

One cannot say that God did not love anyone for all of eternity, because then he would not be essentially loving. We are also not permitted to say that God created humanity as an expression of his love, because that would entail that human beings were metaphysically necessary, that God was contingent upon his creation. Rather, it must be the case that God exists as more than one person. As Richard Swinburne pointed out in his book Was Jesus God? the Father must have begotten Christ – from eternity – so that they could love each other. But also, the Son must have begotten the Holy Spirit, because, argues Swinburne, as an expression of love, you would want to share your love with someone else. Since there is no other reason for other persons to be begotten, the Holy Trinity exists as a necessary expression of God’s love.

However, the idea of the Father creating the Son and the Son creating the Holy Spirit should not been seen as chronological. There was never a time wherein the Son or the Holy Spirit did not exist. Rather, the Son emanates from the Father in the same way that rays emanate from the sun. God has created the Son and the Spirit from eternity. The Father’s existence entails and necessitates the existence of the Son and the Holy Spirit. The existence of the Son and the Holy Spirit necessitate that the Father exists. They are all metaphysically necessary in their existence, eternally existent, and yet are all one God. One God who is eternally present in three persons. As the Nicene Creed says, the Son is “eternally begotten from the Father. God from God, Light from Light.” That is why Christians need the trinity. It is the only way to make sense of the love of God.

Does Truth Matter? We live in a culture that tells us that truth is something like an abstraction. It does not matter so much as what makes a person happy. If believing something about the world makes somebody happy, that will become their truth. But what if their truth is dishonoring to God? What if it does not honor the Son as it honors the Father? What if it renders the relationship between the Father and the Son a vain spectacle, a charade, a game that Jesus is playing with us? What if it makes the Holy Spirit into a mute, dumb, blind, deaf idol? What if it belittles the doctrine that God is love? Christians need the trinity because what we want to believe is not significant. What is true and honoring to God is what is significant.

A true Christian will believe the trinity and they will strive to honor God. For when we contort God to fit our human constructs, we become guilty of idolatry. Christianity is not a matter of believing anything we want to believe. We believe what God has revealed to us. God has revealed the trinity to us in his holy word, at the incarnation of his Son. When his Son came into the world, the full revelation of the trinity came with it. We needed to understand who the Son was and how he related to the Father. We needed to understand that it was God dying on the cross. The one who has existed from eternity, who is an expression of the love of the Father, came to earth and died on the cross. His name is Jesus Christ and calls all men to repent and believe in him. For all who do not honor the Son do not honor the Father.

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5 Reasons Santa Probably Does Not Exist

santa 1The Christmas tradition that we see today did not just pop into being in its’ fullest form. People did not wake up one day and place a pine tree in their living room and convoke the big man in a red suit. It is similar to many other social customs and holidays. It evolved over a long period of times with minor variations and mutations, eventually becoming what we know as Christmas. However the Christmas tradition would seem bland and lame without the towering and beloved figure known as Santa Claus. After all, you may argue, ‘How do you explain the presents under my tree? How do you explain the jingling bells that I heard on the darkest hour of Christmas eve? And where did my letter to Santa go? Why was it not returned to sender? And who ate the Christmas cookies?’ Alas, while it may rob you of your Christmas splendor, while all joy may fade, and you will be left drowning in despair, I would like to suggest 5 reasons Santa probably does not exist.

santa 2The absence of evidence is evidence of absence. When we consider the existence of God, atheists often tell us that the fact that there is no evidence for God suggests that he does not exist. The two fundamental errors that they have made is that there is evidence for God and that they are assuming that the absence of evidence is evidence of absence. God could exist and provide no evidence if he so chose (as I pointed out in my article 5 Reasons We Shouldn’t Believe Atheists Unless They Can Disprove God’s Existence). However, in contrast, the Santa narrative would produce conditions in which there was tangible evidence that literally everybody in the world could observe.

If Santa Claus existed, he would necessarily appear in the living room of every single home that has children in the middle of the night. One need only plant a video camera in their living room to capture him (after all, as canon reminds us, Santa is a big man and would be easily spotted) or simply stay awake, patiently awaiting his arrive. Now, one might reply that you dozed off to sleep for a moment without realizing it and in those moments, Santa arrived. But unless there are presents that were not there prior to your dozing off, that hypothesis would be unwarranted and simply ad hoc. You would be constructing a narrative to circumvent the evidence rather than basing your hypothesis on the evidence. This is one of 5 reasons Santa probably does not exist. His existence would insist upon evidence, and there is none.

The Funding Problem I know that it may be difficult to think critically about some of the beliefs that you hold sacred (many atheists struggle with this as well as I pointed out in my article 5 Reasons Atheism Is A Crutch) but just think for a moment about what we are being told to believe. We are being told that a man employs literally thousands of emissaries who venture throughout the world prior to Christmas to discover what literally every child in the world wants. When they return with these lists of demands, Santa dutifully fulfills them. But how? How is he supposed to manufacture millions of toys? Canon tells us that the elves help him. The North Pole is apparently one of the largest employers in the world. But who feeds the elves? Who pays for their housing? More critically, who funds the manufacture of all of these toys?

The industry at the North Pole must literally cost billions of dollars every year, and since they are in the business of charity, there is no income to sustain them. The only possible resolution to this problem is to say that private donors fund the North Pole’s lucrative industry. But for how long has the North Pole been functioning? It must be hundreds of years. Canon might tell us even longer. So there must exist a family who literally has trillions and trillions of dollars to fund the North Pole. But who are these people? Why do we know nothing of them? Not even Donald Trump and Bill Gates could fund the North Pole. Who is this incredibly rich and incredibly generous family? There do not seem to be any answers forthcoming. A more likely explanation is that this is one of 5 reasons Santa probably does not exist.

Santa is unknown in other parts of the world. Canon tells us that Santa delivers presents to children based on their merit. If they have been good throughout the year, then he will deliver these presents. However, there are several countries that do not celebrate Christmas and have never heard of Santa. These countries include Morocco, Thailand, Russia, Turkey, et cetera. Do children have to know about Santa for him to deliver presents to them? Suppose a mischievous parent tells their child that Santa does not exist? Is the child expected to believe in Santa in spite of what their parents said? Are children expected to believe in Santa even when they have not heard of him? Of course not, and canon tells us that he travels around the world delivering presents to children. He does not exclusively visit western nations. He visits the orientals. He visits the middle east. He visits Baghdad and he probably knew where Bin Laden was and yet did not tell us!

We are not just imposing what we want upon Santa. Canon tells us that he has traditionally gone around the world to deliver presents. But the fact that these people have not heard of him is quite telling. This is one of 5 reasons Santa probably does not exist.

There are no intellectuals who believe in Santa. While this may not necessarily serve as an argument against the existence of Santa, it certainly raises a few serious questions. It alerts us to what may be a flawed epistemology. For parents will relay the Santa narrative to their children at a young age and once they reach the age of sophistication, then they will tell them that Santa was just a silly myth and they were just having a laugh at the child’s expense. Once one reaches a certain age and intellectual minimum, they are required to deny the existence of Santa Claus.

Consider the fact that no sophisticated scientist believes in Santa Claus. But, as I pointed out in my article Is Belief In Santa Like Belief In God? there are scientists who believe in the existence of God – on the basis of the evidence. As Dr. Frank Tipler said, “When I began my career as a cosmologist some twenty years ago, I was a convinced atheist. I never in my wildest dreams imagined that I would be writing a book purporting to show that the central claims of Judeo-Christian theology are in fact true, and that they are straightforward deductions from the laws of physics as we now understand them. I have been forced into these conclusions by my own special brand of physics.” There is no comparable claim from a scientist about believing in Santa on the basis of the evidence. This is one of 5 reasons Santa probably does not exist.

If bad children get coal, then shouldn’t everyone get coal? There is a common belief that people are generally good and capable of doing more good than evil in their lifetime. Perhaps this belief may lead to a judgmental disposition. After all, if people are generally good, then they are better than those wretched sinners. The Santa myth seems to assume this doctrine. For it posits that children who are not naughty will get the presents that they asked for. But, children who are naughty will only find lumps of coal. However, if “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) and “Nobody is righteous, not even one” (Romans 3:10) then what hope do children have of meriting these gifts? Further, how can a gift be merited? As Paul tells us, a gift is not given to the one who merits it. If it were, it would no longer be a gift, but something that was earned (Romans 4:4).

That is why when men come to God to be reconciled with him, all attempts to do so by their own merits fail, as I pointed out in my article Is Justification By Faith Or By Faith Alone? For all have sinned and all fall short of the glory of God. The only hope that we have is to put our trust in Christ. For when he was murdered, our unrighteousness was nailed to the cross and his righteousness was given to us and now we stand before God as though we had never sinned (Romans 3:21-25). If our hopes we in our own righteousness, we would be most of all to be pitied. Hence, the Santa narrative is dependent upon a doctrine that renders men most of all to be pitied. The biblical disconfirmation of the Santa myth is staggering and serves and the most powerful of the 5 reasons Santa probably does not exist.

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The Potter’s Freedom: Reflections on the Sovereignty of God

The question of the relationship between God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility on matters concerning salvation is a conundrum that has perplexed theologians and Bible scholars for centuries. On one extreme reside the hyper Calvinists who see God’s sovereignty as entailing no necessitude for evangelism. On the polar extreme reside the open theists who maintain that God’s foreknowledge — as well as his predetermination of future events — is limited. It is my position that both of those extremes are at odds with Scripture and historic Christianity. In this blog post, I want to consider the issues of divine sovereignty, free will, election, predestination, the nature and extent of the atonement, and man’s responsibility in salvation.

I will begin by presenting an outline and defense of my own perspective on the matter, and will subsequently discuss some common objections to this view. Continue reading

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5 Reasons Christians Should Not Support Donald Trump

trump 1Consider for a moment the sort of person in whom you want to put your trust, who you believe can represent your interests, values, ethics and those of the entire nation. What would that sort of person look like? We obviously cannot expect an ideal candidate, for all of our criteria to be met, but we still need to be wise in discerning what sort of compromises we are willing to make. I believe that with Donald Trump presently the leading as the Republican nominee, we have compromised far too much. Most of these people are professing Christians, and I think that by supporting Donald Trump, they are acting in a way that is unwise, thoughtless, and that they are putting their trust in a man who is patently of low moral repute. There are at least 5 reasons Christians should not support Donald Trump.

trump 2He is a self-promoter, a master-brander, and he is playing on the fears and frustrations of the nation. Donald Trump’s signature best-selling book is, as you likely know, The Art of The Deal. He expounds upon how he applied his negotiating and salesmanship skills to turn that small loan of a million dollars that his father gave him into billions upon billions of dollars. He is, as he reminds us, a very rich and very successful businessman. He is a master salesman and a master brander. He knows what people want, and he knows how to exploit it. This is one of the most precious skills that a human being can have and may be applied to any discipline – even when campaigning for President of the United States. For what is he trying to sell to the American people, if not himself? That is what sales is – you are selling not just the product, but yourself, and if the customer likes you, they will buy from you.

trump 3Donald Trump is using his skills as a negotiator to sell himself to the American public. He asks himself what the American public wants and how he can exploit it. Hence, we see him echoing the mantras, fears, and frustrations that we all share. I am sure I have written about the folly of political-correctness a few times, as has every conservative and every Christian. Donald Trump recognizes that, and so, he is constantly talking about it because he recognizes that we are frustrated with that. Similarly, when there is a terrorist attack, Trump will play on the fears of the Americans and say, “I would bomb them right now.” In a moment like that, when we are afraid, Trump will play on our emotions and give us what we want, even if it is not feasible in reality or even if that is what the current administration is already doing. He sees what we want in a candidate and he is exploiting it. That is what he does. That is his expertise. That is one of 5 reasons Christians should not support Donald Trump. He is packaging himself as what we want and selling himself to the American people.

trump 4He said that he would kill the families of terrorists. When I first heard this, I thought the media must be taking him out of context. He must have been speaking symbolically or something, as if to say, “I would utterly destroy ISIS.” Surely, he could not literally mean that he would murder their families. The media must be twisting his words around to create a controversial headline.

But when he was pressed by Bill O’Reilly, he crystalized his intentions. He said that when the World Trade Center came down the families of the terrorists must have known what these terrorists were going to do, so their slaying would be justified. He went on to say, “I would cause them great distress… I don’t want to be so bold [as to say that I would kill them] but they would suffer.” Donald Trump would punish wives and children for the actions of a terrorist. What manner of justice is this? Is this really a Christ-like ethic? This is one of 5 reasons Christians should not support Donald Trump.

He would not allow Muslim immigrants into the United States. This is the latest (as of this writing) Trumpism. Referring to it as a policy that he would enact, he said that he would disallow all Muslim travelers to the United States. His critics have been justifiably merciless about this. After all, radical jihadists have been striving to portray the as a war between the United States and Islam, between Christianity and Islam, so as to call new recruits. That is why President Obama has been so careful to say, “We are not at war with Islam.” If Donald Trump’s foreign policy were enacted, the terrorists would rejoice as their ranks fattened and we became considerably weaker.

Consider the treatment of foreigners prescribed in the Bible. Leviticus 19:34 reads, “The foreigner who resides with you must be to you like a native.” Deuteronomy 10:19 tells us, “And you are to love those who are foreigners.” Exodus 22:21 emphasizes, “Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt.” Is this really reflective on Donald Trump’s proposed foreign policy? Are we really treating domestic Muslims with this sort of equality and kindness if we are to enact his foreign policy? That is one of 5 reasons Christians should not support Donald Trump.

He does not think before he speaks. It seems like every time Donald Trump makes a speech, he is saying something outrageous. He is coming into the national spotlight because he made some outlandish claim that was just an attempt to play on the emotions of the Americans or attack another candidate. Recall how he treated Megyn Kelly, when he referred to her “bleeding.” Think of when he said that John McCain and all POWs were not true war heroes because they were captured by the enemy. Consider when he attacked the character of Ben Carson for as being pathologically sick. He made fun of a handicapped reporter who criticized him.

With these incidents alone, one wonders how he is leading in the polls, and yet these are mild compared to when he said that he would murder families, prevent Muslims travelers, bomb cities, et cetera. How in the world is this man leading in the polls? Can you imagine the President, with all of his power, making such cavalier and reckless remarks? He takes no precautions and makes no apologies. Islamic terrorists would feast upon clips of his speeches and use them as recruitment tools. This is one of 5 reasons Christians should not support Donald Trump.

There are other candidates with a strong moral character. They all have their flaws and one could mount an argument against any of them. Some may be in favor of the establishment or lacking political experience. But these conservative candidates have a strong moral background and character. They are of high moral repute and have labored for years to live out their faith. Men such as Mike Huckabee, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, et cetera, are all worthy nominees who we should consider before Donald Trump.

I am not specifically endorsing any of them. This blogpost is not an attempt to score points for my favorite candidate. I am just saying that there are other candidates with real virtue and sincerity. This is one of 5 reasons Christians should not support Donald Trump. There are other candidates who stand for the same thing but actually believe in what they are representing, are not pulling a fast one on the American people. There are candidates who truly do have a strong moral character. We do not need Donald Trump.

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Is Young Earth Creationism Science?

yec1As mankind has progressed in their pursuit of scientific truth, the faith of the masses is sometimes challenged because what we are discovering does not always comport with what we thought the Bible said with regard to science. This has led some to apostasy, to abandon the faith, and it has led others to say that the science is all wrong and we only need to believe the Bible. This latter option is represented in what is known as young earth creationism. Of course, the young earth creationists reading this blog post will vehemently deny my characterization. They will suggest that they are taking the biblical data as their primary authority and the scientific data is made to correspond with the Bible. So if you look at science through the lens of a biblical worldview, then you are doing proper science. But is this proper science? Is young earth creationism science?

yec2Most scientists believe that the earth is several billion years old, that the universe is 14 billion years old. Among these men, there are a number of faithful Christians who proclaim the gospel and even defend the Christian faith. They would be known as old earth creationists. But the young earth creationists who I mentioned believe that the earth is about 6000 years old. Of course, there are a number of observations that one can make that will allow us to draw the conclusion that the earth and the universe very old. So is young earth creationism science? If it is, then young earth creationists have a lot of explaining to do.

“You are assuming that the rates have always been the same.” As I indicated, there are several observations that suggest that the earth and the universe are very old. Perhaps this illustration will help. If you see me drawing a line, you know how long the line was and you know the pace at which I am drawing, then you can determine the amount of time it took me to draw the line. It is the same with the universe. The cosmic expansion of the universe and the decay of radioactive isotopes are the most common examples. By measuring the rate at which they progress, we may mathematically determine their age, just as you may mathematically determine the amount of time I spent drawing the line. But, argues the young earth creationists, “You are making an assumption. You are assuming that you have been drawing the line at the same rate of speed. You could have been drawing it faster a few seconds ago.” Now, the young earth creationists seem to have raised a legitimate second order question with regard to philosophy of science. What sort of assumptions go into the scientific method? Science is permeated with unprovable assumptions, such as the consistency of the speed of light.

But that is the nature of scientific inquiry. If we begin to question the assumptions that undergird scientific inquiry, we seem to be left in a chaotic sea of relativism. Just imagine that a man was charged with murder, and his fingerprints and DNA were at the crime scene. He could mount an argument using identical reasoning with regard to the second order philosophical question. He could suggest that they are making the assumption that his DNA and fingerprints were the same. If he is charged with shooting someone in the head, he could suggest that they are assuming that the forces of gravity were operable at that particular moment. He could suggest that they are assuming the uniformity of nature. He could suggest that scientific inquiry does not and cannot resolve this. He could raise these questions, but he would almost certainly not be acquitted. All the defendant has done is to raise questions about the fundamental assumptions that science makes, and the same can be said about young earth creationism. These assumptions are necessary, basic, and without them, science cannot function. Is young earth creationism science? I should not think so. It challenges science on a fundamental level.

Most scientists believe in an old earth. There may be a handful of scientists who believe that the earth is young, and this will sometimes lead people to think that there really are a lot of these men. But there are really not. They are just a loud minority. They are the ones who are reminding the public that they really are out there. But the fact that they are out there should not lead us to think that young earth creationism is plausible or scientific. A credentialed scientist could be led to abandon the scientific method. In fact, I would argue that this is what most of them do. For most of them admit that they allow a particular interpretation of the Bible to be the driving force behind their scientific inquiry. It is not that they independently concluded with young earth creationism by examining the data. So the fact that there are a few young earth creationists who are also scientists should not strike us as surprising.

Further, it is not just secular scientists who believe in an old earth. Men such as Dr. Francis Collins, the former head of the Human Genome Project and author of The Language of God is both a convert to Christianity from atheism and believes in an old earth. But it is not only scientists who believe in evolution that hold to an old earth. Dr. Hugh Ross, the author of Why The Universe Is The Way It Is is a scientist, an old earth creationist and denies the Theory of Evolution. Is young earth creationism science? Well, most scientists would not think so. This includes even most Christian scientists. There is but a sliver of a fraction of scientists that are specialists in a relevant field who believe in a young earth.

They do not practice methodological naturalism. Science is the search for causes in the natural world. The scientist wants to find a natural mechanism to explain a natural phenomenon. This is what is known as methodological naturalism. This should not be confused with metaphysical naturalism, which will say that the natural world is all there ever was, is, or will be. But methodological naturalism is just the search for a natural explanation. So, if God is the explanation of some phenomenon, science cannot yield that information. Science cannot test or detect God. The function or placement mechanism might give us cause to believe in God, but since God is outside of the natural world, the scientist can have little to say. They will have to pass the baton onto a philosopher or a theologian.

Young earth creationists do not engage in methodological naturalism. By introducing their interpretation of the biblical data into the conversation to resolve the issue, they will assume their conclusion. In their Statement of Faith, the largest young earth creationist ministry in the world, Answers In Genesis, says that everyone on their staff must agree that the earth is 6000 years old. However, there are credentialed scientists on their staff. As these men are conducting science, looking at the natural world, trying to discern what might have happened, they are restricted by dogma. They dare not step outside the boundaries that AiG has manufactured. If they do, they will lose their job. Is young earth creationism science? They cannot freely follow the science where it leads. They must always assume that the earth is 6000 years old. They must assume their conclusions. But that is not science.

It has no predictive capabilities. Some things are just interpretations of the data. Since most of my readers will probably be Christians, I will use the Bible to illustrate my point. John 3:5 reads, “Unless one is born of water and spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” Some will read “water baptism” between the lines of this text despite that is not what it says. It just says water. Water baptism is just an interpretation. Similarly, when the young earth creationists look at the Grand Canyon, they interpret it as not millions of years of erosion but a highly destructive and cataclysmic flood, forming the canyon in only a few months. This is an interpretation. The reading of John 3:5 as indicated is an interpretation. Of course, we all interpret, but the question is what we can draw from the data. Is our interpretation draw directly from the data, or is our interpretation an attempt to circumvent the data? Are we truly trying to understand the natural world, or are we trying to develop interpretations of the natural world that fit into our paradigm?

Science guards against this error. To ensure that a theory is not merely an attempt to circumvent the data, but is drawn directly from it, a theory will be measured by its’ capacity to make predictions about the natural world. Young earth creationism makes no predictions. Everything needs to be explained away or tried to fit into their paradigm. Why does the speed of light suggest that the universe is 14 billions years old? Why does the decay of radioactive isotopes suggest an old earth? All of these, and more questions, are explained away. Is young earth creationism science? Well, the young earth creationists are not trying to understand the natural world. It seems as though they are trying to fit the natural world into their paradigm.

12063656_10154365723649899_3410176139630353274_nIf they love science so much, why are they always railing against it? Answers in Genesis is always putting out materials about how unreliable scientists are. They will suggest that since science is flawed in one particular area, or that science made a mistake, that we cannot trust the scientists who say that the earth is old. I am not sure what the proposed resolution to this problem is. Are they suggesting that we should all become young earth creationists, because science is flawed and we do not know the answer anyway?Are they suggesting that young earth creationists will not make mistakes during scientific inquiry? It is difficult to discern their meaning. But the theme that seems to emerge in this cartoon is that there is something that is fundamentally wrong with the processes of science. How can we believe in one aspect of science when others are so flawed? Is young earth creationism science? Well, if it were a branch or a manifestation of science, why are they so hard on science when it makes mistakes? What is the message of this cartoon, if not, “Don’t believe science!”

12002951_10154289516709899_3755250114732057060_nWhy does it matter?Answers In Genesis often says that old earth creationism undermines the authority of the Bible. They are reading the straightforward, plain meaning of the Bible, while the rest of us are trying to read science into the Bible. This will lead people to have a lack of trust in the word of God and to put their faith in man rather than in God. Well, first, they are assuming that their interpretation is the correct one. Second, just because somebody differs in a particular interpretation does not mean that they are compromising the word of God. I could easily charge Answers In Genesis with being guided by their manmade tradition rather than by the word of God. For somebody to say that there is concord between an old earth and the biblical data will not destroy anyones’ faith. However, to say that there is no concord between them will destroy faith.

The young earth creationists seem to have entered into an unholy alliance with atheists who want to force us into a battle between religion and science. The young earth creationists urge us to accept religion, and the atheists urge us to accept science. Young people learning about science see this. They see that what they are learning conflicts with the Bible. Since Answers In Genesis assures them that this is the only possible interpretation, the students will be left to abandon their faith. Answers In Genesis, then, seems to foster apostasy by playing into the atheists’ hands and allowing them to win the day. Is young earth creationism science? No, and students and young people see that and they will disregard the Christian faith because of it.

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Is God Wholly Other?

wholly 1Philosophers and theologians are sometimes keen to suggest that God is “wholly other.” This has become popular among liberal Christianity, represented by men such as Professor John Hick. It is to suggest that God is unlike anything at all in his creation, and all attempts to define or describe God will always be inaccurate or inadequate. There is some sense in which that is true. Everything that we say about God will fall short and will never be exhaustive. I will never be able to exhaustively define who God is, to capture the fulness of his essence in a single sentence. But that is not to say that we cannot speak and reason accurately about God. Is God wholly other? That is the question which we are considering.

wholly 2If it could be said that God was wholly other, then the task of systematic theology (to study the nature and revelation of God) would seem to be a fools’ errand, and that may be the point of mounting this objection. If we can overturn the theological pursuit, then we can overturn the elements of religion that one finds distasteful. If one dislikes the doctrine of Hell, then they may say that God is wholly other and that the doctrine of Hell is a manmade concept, and we cannot impose our ideas about wrath upon God. Just think about it. If God is wholly other, then this means that none of our descriptions apply. He is unlike anything at all. Nothing that we say about him can capture who he is. They are all anthropomorphisms. Hence, when we say, “God must punish sin,” what we are expressing would in fact be nonsense. Is that the case? Is God wholly other?

wholly 3To say that God is “wholly other” is self-defeating. The ‘is’ in this sentence is an existential ‘is’. It relates to being, to existence, which are concepts that relate to the human experience and the natural world. So merely by uttering the sentence, “God is,” we begin to invoke categories of our world, for there are things in the world about which we may use the existential ‘is’. In fact, this objection has led many to drop the label ‘God,’ to drop pronouns such as ‘He’ (after all, this is thought of as just an arbitrary label descending from a patriarchal society) and merely refer to God as the ‘ground of all being.’ But even this is guilty of the same detrimental flaw. If God is anything, whether it be the ground of all being or wholly other, then he is not wholly other. This is because we can describe him in at least some human terms. We can say, “God is.”

wholly 4This entails that if God were indeed wholly other, then we should have never discovered that he was wholly other. We should have never discovered anything about him. We should have never known that he exists. We should have thought that we were alone in the cosmos. If God were ‘wholly other’ it would seem to follow that he would be unable to communicate with us, to reveal himself to mankind, to let anyone know that he exists, that he is out there, or anything about himself. Is God wholly other? If he were, then it would be axiomatic that he could never reveal himself or any feature or aspect of himself to us, for that would lead us to the conclusion that “God is,” and this would betray the idea that he was wholly other. If God were wholly other, we should have never discovered that he was wholly other.

wholly other 5The scientific evidence betrays the possibility that God is wholly other. The advent of scientific exploration has hosted an enthusiasm for Christian apologetics and philosophy. For by unraveling the mysteries of the universe, we begin to discover what we may proverbially refer to as divine fingerprints. We see where God left behind traces of design. The most obvious one would be in the existence of the universe itself. As I explained in my article, Why Does Anything At All Exist? the very fact that the universe exists demands an explanation that transcends itself. But to say that God is the explanation of the universe is to refer to him as a Creator. But if he is a Creator or Designer, as I argued in my series of articles about the Evidence For God, then there exist some applicable titles that have meaning in our world. Is God wholly other? Well, the evidence suggests that he is the Creator, Designer, and Sustainer of the world. These are all categories that disallow his being wholly other.

wholly other 6If God were wholly other, then he would not be loving. This is not necessarily an argument against God’s being wholly other, but rather it is to point out a common inconsistency among those who believe that God is wholly other. Professor John Hick, as mentioned before, once believed both that (1) God is wholly other and (2) God is love, and therefore wants everyone to be in Heaven. As I pointed out above, people often have an anti-theological agenda in suggesting that God is wholly other. They want to maintain that God has no wrath against sin, and wants everyone to be in Heaven. So they will lift the sword of ineffability, but find that it is so heavy that they slip and cut themselves to pieces.

Consider for a moment. 1 seems to undermine 2. If God is wholly other, then he is not love. If he is love, then he is not wholly other. Love is something that exists here in the natural world, on earth. It is something that occurs between human beings. There seems an inescapable quagmire for anybody who wants to maintain both of these premises. You must either drop that God is love (which is also an existential is) or drop the assertion that he is wholly other. I recommend abandoning 1 rather than 2. Is God wholly other? Not if you want to say that he is love.

All world religions would be absolutely wrong. Now, it may be the case that all world religions are absolutely wrong. That is not quite my point. However, again, this cuts against the theological agenda that people have in raising this point. Rather than saying that God has wrath against sin, and condemns sinners, and sent his only begotten Son so that those who believe in him may have eternal life (John 3:16) and that nobody comes to the Father apart from Jesus Christ (John 14:6), they will say that all religions are offering an interpretation of this God that they perceive. He is wholly other. He is the object, and we all see a different angle. We all describe that angle in a different way, and nobody is really wrong. This is a distinction that Professor Hick referred to as between noumenal (related to that which is actual) and phenomenal (about that which we perceive).

There are two problems. First, world religions make claim about the noumenal God. Christianity says, over and against other religions, that the noumenal God is a trinity, and explicitly states that other perceptions are wrong. Most other world religions make claims about the noumenal as well. Ironically, the pluralist who is trying to say that all religions are correct end up saying that they are all wrong! Second, to say that there is a noumenal being that we all refer to as God is to engage in the existential self-defeating fallacy that I pointed out earlier. It is to say, at a bare minimum, “God is,” hence disconfirming the hypothesis that God is wholly other. Is God wholly other? If he is, then all world religions are wrong.

We are not applying human concepts to God – we are applying his concepts to humans. We are quite territorial, are we not? Many of us live in civilized culture where there is not tribal wars or chest-pounding or poop-throwing. But nonetheless, humans often find that they cannot shed themselves of their natural instincts that have been ingrained over the last few hundreds of thousands of years in the struggle for survival. In short, we are territorial. We think that everything is ours. Atheists sometimes say that logic and mathematics are based on the human mind. If there are no humans, then logic would no longer be applicable and mathematics would be cast in the depths of the oceans. I would like to present a counter-proposal.

Logic, mathematics, and concepts related to the world are not founded in the human mind. They are founded in the mind of God. We borrow these concepts from God. So, when we describe God, we are not applying human concepts to God. We are not bringing God down to our level. God has blessed us with a mind that can understand the universe, that can interact with physics, that can describe the natural world and that can even study the queen of the sciences – theology. The study of God and his activities in the world. Is God wholly other? No. We are made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-27) and therefore our minds can grasp the concepts that he has relayed in the natural world and in his word.

Is God capable of describing himself? People will say that we arrogantly and boastfully think we have put God into a theological box. We have a God with whom we are comfortable, who makes us happy and that concedes to all of our preferences. Well, if that were the case, I would probably be more keen to say that God is wholly other! What we assert is not that we have described God to our liking. But rather that God has described himself in his inerrant word. We are laboring to be his faithful servants by relaying his self-descriptions. His self-descriptions, however, are appalling to the natural man (1 Corinthians 2:14). The natural man hates what God has to say because he is by nature an enemy of God (Ephesians 2:3).

So when we say, “The wrath of God is revealed from Heaven against all unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18) the natural man is appalled. He cries out, desperately, impatiently, angrily, in futility, “You are bringing God down to our level! Your are using human concepts to describe God!” Not at all. We are describing a God whose standard of righteousness is so far above our own. I am commanded to forgive everyone who wrongs me as many times as they require (Matthew 18:22) because I am like those who wrong me, full of sin and unrighteousness. God is nothing like I am. He is perfect in righteousness, holiness, justice, and truth. Is God wholly other? Not in the absolute philosophical sense. But his righteousness is so far above mine that when I would want to let someone off the hook, God’s righteousness and wrath would persist and prevail.

Yet the signature proof that God is not wholly other is in his revelation. For he is not only perfect in righteousness and justice, but he is also perfect in love and mercy. Rather than leaving his people to perish in the wake of his wrath, he came as a man, in a glorious undertaking of human nature. God entered into his own creation (Philippians 2:5-8). The God who created all things, who revealed himself in the Scripture, to whom men have directed their prayer, and worship, and tears, and pleadings, came, and his name is Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus died on the cross for our sins, and when did he did that, all of the wrath that we deserve was poured out upon him. The Father crushed the Son (Isaiah 53:12), for he is a God who must punish guilty sinners. Our unrighteousness was nailed to the cross (Colossians 2:14). All who believe in his promises, who turn to him in faith, will find a perfect and powerful Savior (Romans 4:5). Is God wholly other? Certainly not. He became a man and commands everyone, everywhere, to repent.

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CerebralFaith’s Blindspot

cerebralfaith1I was recently afraid to open a blogpost. This is not because I feared that the intellectual assault in that post would be so robust that I would be astounded and forced to concede my points, arguments, and position. It was because, based on all of the reviews that were given of it, it was emotionally loaded, filled with insults and blasphemy against God and refused to have a serious conversation about the issues. But who wrote this mean-spirited blogpost that I was afraid to even open? Was it an atheist? Was it someone who was openly hostile to the Christian faith? Was it a liberal who was raised to believe that Christians were hateful bigots merely for disagreeing? Who was it? Well, it was an evangelical Christian who was writing a response to the blogpost of another evangelical Christian. It was Evan Minton of the Cerebral Faith blog. He was actually responding to something that I wrote, namely, my article How Job Answers The Central Objection To Calvinism. In this article, I was surveying a number of points that Evan has made pertaining to the morality of Calvinism and whether God would be evil if Calvinism were true. Evan simply could not handle it, and I would say that he responded like a teenaged atheist, but I am afraid that this would be an insult to teenaged atheists. This is CerebralFaith’s blindspot. It is the most obvious vulnerability on his page.

cerebralfaith2As I read through Evan’s post, I am becoming increasingly convinced that Evan did not actually read my blogpost. I think he skimmed it and read the words that were in bold print and then just started prattling off general thoughts about my subsection rather than specifically engaging with what I said. He read the titles of the subsections, but not the fine print and not the specific details. Yet he titled this article A Response To Richard Bushey – But it is not a response. He is just reasserting many of the things that he already said. There were several times in my original blogpost where I directly quoted Evan, rendered a response to what he said, and yet in his new post, he would reassert the same point without engaging my response! Why would he do that, unless he did not know that I wrote it? I say again, Evan did not read my critique of his arguments beyond a mere skim. So, Evan, if you actually read these words, I would like to urge you to actually read my last blogpost and then post a response to what I said. But the fact that Evan did not read my post led me think that I should not even construct a blogpost in response. But I thought it might be prudent and helpful to do so, that Evan and his readers may begin to understand.

cerebralfaith3Evan is not looking for answers to his questions. You will recall that in my original blogpost about this topic, I pointed out that Evan is concerned that the conversation is being shut down. We are forced to recede to merely plugging our ears and shouting our dogmatized slogans rather than intellectually engaging with the topics. But is that what we have done? Is that what I have done? It seems like anybody who browses my website would not come to that conclusion. However, while Evan may say that he is demanding answers, he desperately wants answers and Calvinists refuse to give them and just want him to blindly accept Calvinism, he does not really want any answers. Ironically, Evan plugs his ears in response to any answers. He dogmatically rejects any and all possible answers. That is why he did not seriously engage with anything that I said.

cerebralfaith4I raised several points in my article, such as the illustration of the man in the cage who turned out to be a prisoner, whether it is wrong to quote Romans 9:20, whether we have to stop asking questions, whether it is more than a debate about Calvinism, and also, whether God could condemn everyone in the world and still be just and still be loving. Consider that last point. Could God condemn everyone? In my last article, I pointed out that Evan’s answer was, “Yes,” and then I went on to point out a glaring inconsistency, that he essentially believed the same thing that Calvinists believe. How did Evan respond to this point? He responded by pointing out that he believes that God could condemn the world if he chose to do so. All that he had to say about this was to quote his earlier blogpost. The implication is obvious. If I had read more carefully, I would have seen that Evan actually agrees that God could condemn the world and still be just and loving. But since he did not read my blog post, Evan did not realize that I had already cited the very same quote in my response! He also made the point that if Paul Copan merely repeated, “Who are you, O man, who answers back to God?” rather than publishing his book Is God A Moral Monster? that this would be unsatisfying. But I had already quoted Evan as saying that, and I responded to it. I am still awaiting the first inkling of an indication that Evan Minton actually read my blogpost. This is CerebralFaith’s blindspot. He does not want any answers despite demanding them.

cerebralfaith5Nonsense or mystery? – Another inconsistency. You will recall that in my original blogpost, I suggested that if it is even possible that God has morally sufficient reason for unconditionally electing creatures to salvation, then it is our duty as creatures to just put our trust in him rather than to lean on our own misunderstanding. Evan rendered two responses to this. First, he writes, “Some things aren’t mysteries, some things are clear nonsense. This is one of them. A mystery would be how God can be 3 persons yet 1 God… God causing people to do evil and yet not being responsible for evil; That’s not a mystery. That’s nonsense. You might as well assert that a man who puts pants on is still naked.” But he goes on to say, “If one can show me that God can causally determine evil, punish the agents he determined to commit the evil for all eternity, and yet not be responsible for the evil which he caused, then I will gladly retract every statement I’ve ever made about determinism impugning God’s goodness.” If a Calvinist could possibly provide such a theodicy (I attempted in my previous blogpost – Evan ignored that too, more evidence that he did not read my post), then he would drop his argument. So in his first statement, he suggests that it is a logical contradiction to ask for an explanation, and then he goes on to ask for one anyway.

cerebralfaith6The difference between a logical contradiction and what Evan is pointing out here should be obvious. We do not know the intentions and motives of God. If we had insight into the divine mind, then we might be able to make that judgment. The only way that we could say, “God is being evil,” is if we knew his intentions. Perhaps there is a greater good that he is trying to achieve. Perhaps mankind is not the greater good. That is CerebralFaith’s blindspot. Evan’s assumption seems to be that mankind is the greatest good, the ultimate reality and the highest end worth pursuing. But if that assumption is incorrect, then the door has flung open to consider that it is possible for God to have morally sufficient reasons. Hence, it is a legitimate mystery.

Is God killing innocent people? Another inconsistency. You will recall that in my original blogpost, I pointed out that Evan is assuming that God owes us something. God owes us a free choice. He owes us a non-deterministic universe. Well, when I said that he does not trust God’s righteousness, Evan went on to apply a very telling illustration. He writes, “If someone came up to me and said my brother ((I don’t have a brother, but I’ll invent one for the sake of the argument)) murdered 100 innocent people, what would I conclude? That he’s evil? Well, that certainly would be the conclusion I would reach if he actually did such a thing. But I would object “No! He would never do such a thing! He’s a good person! He would never kill 100 innocent people!” Do I lack trust in my brother? No. While I strongly hold that if he did such a thing, he would be evil, I reject that statement as being true because I believe just as strongly in my brother’s goodness.” Granted that no illustration is or can be expected to be perfect, the applicable portion is the innocence of the people. Evan is assuming that the people are innocent or at least deserving of a fair chance at salvation, or that God owes them a non-deterministic universe.

But if God does not owe us a non-deterministic universe, Evan’s illustration breaks down at a foundation level. This is CerebralFaith’s blindspot. He is making underlying and subconscious assumptions about what God owes us and this bleeds through in every page that he writes about this topic.

Evan seems to feel vindicated by the fact that other Arminians render this argument. I do not care what other people believe. I would be very hesitant to feel supported or as though I were on solid ground just because several others believe the same thing. But this seems to be the case with Evan. He writes, “But the argument that I, Roger Olson, and virtually every other Arminian make against the god of Calvinism is that what Calvinism teaches about God logically entails conclusions (unless you’re super skilled at cognitive dissonance which many Calvinists are) which impugn His goodness.” Why does he point that out? Why does it matter what people believe? It matters because he seems to have drawn out some sort of emotional support from the fact that Arminians agree with him and scholarly Arminians have made this argument. Well, I was just as appalled that Roger Olson made this argument in his wretched book Against Calvinism as well. I can sympathize with what James White said in his review of that book, namely, “I feel pity for the poor trees who were used to publish Olson’s superficial comments.” It was appalling when Roger Olson said it, and it is still appalling when Evan says it.

However, since Evan published his last response, I have gotten several messages from people (some of them Arminians) who were stating that they were concerned about his negative behavior, and who can blame them? Arminians who have messaged me and who are offended at his behavior should send him a message and tell him that. Leave a comment on his blogpost. Tell him that it is not okay. The way that he treats this topic and the disrespect that he shows for people, the fact that he refuses to engage with or read any answers is very telling. This is CerebralFaith’s blindspot. He seems to just be so insecure about this topic. Perhaps that is because he knows that he did not read my critique, and that somewhere, deep down inside, he is terrified of the knowledge that what he is battling really is the truth. If you are not a witness to his behavior, just look at the following.

12309129_921201534582591_142912438_nEvan’s terrible behavior. Just take a look at these responses. Rather than seriously engaging with what people have to say, he disrespectfully calls them idiots and begins to say, “Oh, I’m just trolling, so it is all justified.” Well, even if you are trolling, you are still responsible for your behavior. Even if you think that determinism entails that you are not responsible for your behavior, we all, Calvinists and Arminians alike, believe that people are held accountable for their actions. Evan may suggest that he was illustrating the absurdity of determinism. But instead, all he was doing was disrespecting people and refusing to engage in conversation. If you do not want to have a conversation, do not reply, or wait until you do. If you have nothing nice to say, do not say anything at all.

But Evan suggests that he just does not care to engage. Look at what he wrote on Twitter (during a stream of emotive tweets on both his personal and blog account):

The fact that Evan does not take this topic seriously may explain why he did not read my blogpost. He went on to say:

12285596_921200647916013_888776454_nBut consider his behavior on Facebook. Who was behaving irrationally? Was it those who were trying to have a rational discussion, or the one who was calling people idiots, refusing to engage, et cetera? I would like to urge Evan to engage in introspection and to consider what people have to say. You need to take these blogposts down. This is CerebralFaith’s blindspot. It is the weakest point of your blog and it exposes you. Atheists will see that. Anyone who comes to your blog will see the emotional and angry ravings that you have let out.

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How Job Answers The Central Objection To Calvinism

job 1People often say that they would like to meet God, because they would have a few choice words for him. They would quiz him. They would pose a few questions to him to see how he would explain himself to them. This strikes me as being something like saying, “If I fell on the face of the sun, I would spit on it!” Yet this is the sort of objection upon which people base their beliefs. What I mean is that they hold God accountable. They suggest that if God were to act in some way, he would have a lot of explaining to do. But what do we mean by God? When we say God, we mean one who is perfect in righteousness, justice, love, and truth. If that being were to act in a certain way… he would have a lot of explaining to do? To whom would he explain himself? To you? Yet this is the central objection to the doctrines of grace, what is known as Calvinism. But certain books of the Bible that emphasize God’s providence, righteousness, and the fact that he does not have to explain himself to mortals seem to acquit Calvinism of all charges. So, in this article, I will explain how Job answers the central objection to Calvinism.

job 2For those who do not know, Calvinism is the view that salvation is solely a work of God. Man can contribute nothing to his salvation except for the sin that made it necessary. Man is totally depraved, dead in his sin, a slave of sin (John 8:34) and therefore does not have the capacity to turn to God in righteousness (Romans 3:10). Man will not freely choose God. He hates God. The natural man does not desire God (1 Corinthians 2:14). A person is born again only after God changes his will and inclines him to himself. First, God changes man. Then, man can freely choose God (1 John 5:1). But then, the question arises: why would God choose only some, and not others? Why would God condemn people when he determined what they would do anyway? Questions that begin with “Why would God…?” are of the breed that the book of Job addressed. Yet these are the sorts of questions that our non-Calvinist friends will pose. Throughout this article, I will use Job’s theodicy to vindicate Calvinism, explaining how Job answers the central objection to Calvinism. As I do this, I will take you on a tour of Evan Minton of Cerebral Faith’s argumentation so that you might be able to see the best and most emotionally loaded arguments that people will use to condemn God.

job 3What does Job say? Those who have not read the book of Job should. Books of the Bible are often not recognized as works of literary mastery that they deserve. But this book is a poetic and precisely and stringently constructed depiction of a man named Job. It is also the Bible’s longest polemic against the problem of evil and suffering in the world. If God is good, why is there evil? Why do good people suffer? Job is the book to which we should always turn to answer this question. For Job is an upright and holy man. He is blameless in the sight of the Lord. He has wealth, health and prosperity. But God recognizes that Job is in love with his blessings such that if he loses them, he will spurn the Almighty. So God allows Satan to rob Job of his blessings. His home, his servants, his children, his wealth and health are all reduced to nothing.

job 4Throughout the narrative, Job’s friends are giving him terrible advice. They tell him that he has suffered such because of some sin of which he has failed to repent. He has neglected the orphans and the widows. He has been greedy. Job continues to declare his own righteousness and ponder why God has allowed turmoil to befall him. He says of God in 10:4, “Have you eyes of flesh? Or do you see as a man sees? Are you days as the days of a mortal?” He continues to declare his righteousness and to plead to with God, asking him why he must endure such calamity. He suggests, “Behold, here is my signature. Let the Almighty answer me and the indictment which my adversary has written. Surely I would carry it on my shoulder. I would bind it to myself like a crown I would declare to him the number of my steps. Like a prince I would approach him” (Job 31:35-37).

job 5When all of the elders failed to give Job sound advice, a young man approached him and said that he has sinned against God. While the calamity was not a response to his sin, his sin came after the calamity. His sin was that he had multiplied words against God (Job 34:37). Then, out of a whirlwind, God had answered. Job said that he would approach him like a prince, and God offered the opportunity. “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” bellows God. He darkens counsel by words without knowledge. This means that Job is raising these questions and indictments against God despite that he does not know why they happened. God proceeds to ask dozens of rhetorical questions, demanding that Job instruct him. Surely, Job will know and surely Job can instruct him. The message of Job is obvious. He is insignificant. He is merely a man. In the presence of God, the one who had the confidence of a prince shrunk and said, “Behold, I am insignificant, what can I reply to you? I lay my hand on my mouth” (Job 40:3).

job 6So what is the objection, and how does Job answer it? Recall that the objection to Calvinism is that God is treating people with injustice. He is behaving nefariously. Evan emoted this point in his article, “Why No One Should Worship God If Calvinism Is True. He writes, “God decided before the universe was even created that certain humans would inevitably sin and burn. His desire for many people was for them to end up in Hell. God has made a list of people whom He wants to save, and those whom He wants to burn. Why in the world should we worship such a beast? Why would a loving God, a God who’s very essence is love (1 John 4:8) desire such a thing for such a large number of people?” Since I believe that Calvinism is true, I also recognize that Evan is referring to God as a beast. This is deeply offensive to anyone who has even an inkling of piety.

job 7However, it does have the ring of some of the lamentations that Job rendered. Job accused God of having eyes of flesh and being a mortal. He said that he would approach God as a prince does. He did not understand why God would do something and so emoted his moral judgments over the Almighty. But what was the divine response? “Who is it that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” Evan is relying on his own moral intuitions to make judgments over God. It is something like if I told you vague details of a scenario. “A man is holding another in a cage and refuses to let him out.” You might be appalled and say of the man that he was evil. Then I inform you that the man is a prison guard and the man in the cage is a convict. That is something like what Evan is doing in his moral judgments over God. He is assuming that God could have no good reasons for doing some action. But recall who God is. God is perfect in righteousness, love, trust, and justice. Is it not a better option to just assume that we do not know the answer, and that we will lean not on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5)? This insight is brought out in Job and that is how Job answers the central objection to Calvinism.

job 8Does God owe us salvation? Undergirding these objections seems to be the assumption that God owes salvation to mankind. By virtue of being human, God is our debtor and must at least give us a fair shake, an attempt to choose to be saved. But what good reasons are there to think that? As a Christian, I believe that salvation is a free gift (Romans 6:23) and is not something God owes us. He did not have to give us salvation. He could have created mankind and doomed everyone to Hell if he chose to do so. He could have created sinners just to express his justice, offering them no hope of salvation, no chance of redemption, no free choice, and he would still be just and still be loving. You are not saved because God owes you salvation. You are saved because he offered salvation as a free gift despite that he did not owe you anything good. But when we begin to say that God would be unjust if he does not attempt to save certain people, then we begin to darken counsel by words without knowledge. That is how Job answers the central objection to Calvinism. For the central objection is undergirded by the assumption that God owes something to us.

Evan claims to agree with this in the same article that I referenced above. But in an act of duplicity, he goes on to say, “So, not only does God choose not to save some people, but He is the reason that they’re sinners to begin with (according to Calvinists who believe in Divine Determinism)! How in the world could God possibly hold anyone accountable for sins that they commit if it’s His fault that they committed the sin to begin with?” This charge amounts to saying that God owes us a chance to do something different. God owes his creatures the ability to choose righteousness. Evan also wrote in the very same paragraph, “I would agree that if God decided to never send Jesus to die on the cross to atone for our sins, and if He sent every human He ever created into the fiery pits of Hell that He would be perfectly good and just to do so. God is under no obligation whatsoever to provide a way for us to be saved.” Now, if God had never sent Jesus to die on the cross, nobody would be saved or have the opportunity to be saved. There would be no grace. There would just be totally depraved people who could only choose to sin, could never choose to be saved, and would inevitably result in their eternal destruction. And, writes Evan, God would still be good and still be just. Yet I have trouble seeing how this is significantly different from the model to which Evan objects.

Is it wrong to say, ‘Who are you, O man, who answers back to God’? Something that you may have noticed about God’s claim that Job is darkening counsel by words without knowledge is that it is very similar to what God said in Romans 9:20, where Paul the apostle asked, “Who are you, O man, who answers back to God?” When Job questioned God and when he indicted God with unrighteousness, God’s presence, might, and wisdom made Job realize how insignificant he was. That is how Job answers the central objection to Calvinism. For Paul said just the same thing. When Paul engaged in proleptic thought, he expected people to object precisely as Evan does. He expected people to say, “Why does he find fault? For who can resist his will?” (Romans 9:19). That sounds a lot like what Evan said, does it not? Paul’s response: “Who are you, O man, who answers back to God?” (Romans 9:20). Evan hates Paul’s response to this question. He writes in his article, Things Calvinists Really Need To Stop Saying that we really need to stop reciting Romans 9:20.

He writes in the article, “Calvinists need to do better than simply point out that we’re in no position to judge God. They need to show how their theology doesn’t paint God as something He’s not.” But why is that? It is because unless we can expound upon the counsel of God, unless we know the motivation behind the divine will, Evan will continue to refer to God as demonic, a beast, and every manner of nasty name that he can conjure up. The question is not how God can explain himself to us. The question is whether we are going to assume that we know more than he does. Are we going to darken his counsel by words without knowledge or are we going to trust in the one who has wisdom and knowledge? By demanding that God explain himself, to account for his actions, so that Evan may assess them and sit in judgment of them, Evan reminds me of Job’s claim that he is going to approach God like a prince.

Does God have to explain himself to Evan, Job, or unbelievers? Recall what I said in the opening paragraph. People often think that when they encounter God, they will have a few choice words for him and God will sit and listen to them. God will try really hard to justify himself before the almighty man. In his article that might have a little overlap with blasphemy, titled An Unbeliever Meets The God of Determinism (satire) Evan manufactures such a meeting. In this scenario, the unbeliever has died and now he is standing before God who is judging him. Evan creates this dialogue, wherein the unbeliever has a few questions for God. Here is the abridged dialogue:

Sam: “Before you do, I just have a few questions for you. … Every transgression I committed against you while I was alive was ultimately caused by you, you made it happen, and if that’s the case, how can you be justified in condemning me?”

God: “Who are you O Man to question me!?”

Sam: “What?”

God: “I said ‘who are you O man to question me!?’ I am perfect in everything I do. If I casually determine sin, it’s for a good reason. If I punish causally determined creatures for the sins I determined them do, it’s for a good reason. I am perfect. I am holy.”

Sam: “That doesn’t really answer my question.”

As you can see, in this dialogue, the unbeliever has the upperhand, and all God has to say is, “Don’t question me.” God’s response is clearly supposed to be taken as inadequate, for he needs to be able to explain himself to this unbeliever. Well, let’s suppose for a moment that God did explain himself. God answered all of the unbelievers questions, emitting wisdom that we just do not understand. If that were to come to pass, that would entail that we should have just trusted in him during this life. We should have believed that there was a divine plan, and that there were mysteries which we just did not understand. That is precisely how Job answers the central objection to Calvinism. For in Job, we have somebody who really does encounter God, and God really does reply in the way that Evan finds so objectionable.

Do we have to stop asking questions? God’s response to Job seems to be a burden to Evan. He dislikes it because he thinks it prevents people from asking questions. He writes in the article mentioned above titled Things Calvinists Really Need To Stop Saying, “If merely saying “Who are you O man to question God?” was enough to resolve such difficulties, why did Paul Copan write an entire book called “Is God A Moral Monster”, answering criticisms to God’s moral character from atheists? Why couldn’t this over-used Calvinist slogan be enough? When atheists say that God is morally flawed by unleashing His judgments in the Old Testament narratives, why couldn’t every single page of Copan’s book say in big bold letters “Who are you O man to question God!?” Why couldn’t that be enough? Maybe because it isn’t enough. The critically thinking mind wants answers, not slogans.” Several times, he accuses Calvinists of not permitting questions. In response to my article Is God Evil If Calvinism Were True? he objected that Calvinists often disallow question. Mimicking the Calvinist response, he wrote, “We don’t know! We don’t know! Stop asking so many questions and accept Calvinism like a good little boy.” Questions are clearly depicted as bad.

However, as I pointed out there, his reasoning is identical to what we find in Bart Ehrman’s book on this topic. On Page 173 of God’s Problem: How The Bible Fails To Answer Life’s Most Important Question – Why We Suffer, Bart Ehrman offers pretty much an identical response to what Evan said. Ehrman writes, “God appears at the end of the poetic exchanges, and refuses to give an answer.” He goes on to complain on page 188, “God does not explain why Job suffers. He simply asserts that he is the Almighty, and as such, cannot be questioned… God is not to be questioned, and reasons are not to be sought… Doesn’t this mean that God can maim, torment, and murder at will and not be held accountable?” Ehrman applies this reasoning precisely because he denies biblical authority. He denies who God is. Yet it is remarkably similar to what Evan said. The reason that we do not suggest that God is evil is because we trust in him and believe that no matter what happens and no matter what he does, he is God; he is holy and righteous and loving even when we do not understand.

Further, we are not saying that one cannot ask questions. We may pursue the question of why God did or allowed something. That is permissible so long as God’s character is not being impugned. If you are pursuing an answer, and saying that if God’s accounting of that event is unacceptable, that you will stand in judgment over him, that is what we would regard as impiety. But, if you pursue an answer just to learn more and help people who are weaker in the faith, then that is permissible. I do think that there are good reasons for why God chose to create a world in which some go to Hell when he could have sent them to Heaven. I think that God does that because he wants humanity to see the full range of his attributes expressed. He wants us to see both his wrath and his mercy. That is one possible answer, and it may be wrong, and there may be others. But the fact that we do not know the answer to a particular question should not cause us to shake our fists at God, to say that God is evil, et cetera. When we do not know the answers, we should be willing to accept God’s response to Job. Who is it that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?

What about the uneducated person who has no access to answers? Sometimes it seems like everything is wrapped up neatly in a theological box. All of the canned answers are prepared. “Why does God only save save?” “Free will” comes the reply. But for people in other parts of the world, those answers are not there. There are people throughout history who have had no access to libraries, informed clergymen, the internet or the CerebralFaith blog. So from where did they get their answers? Suppose some tragedy were to befall them. They would not necessarily know that we live in a fallen world. They would not know about freedom of the will. They would only know what is in front of them and that God is supposed to be good and powerful. So, for them, the only response available is to just put their trust in God.

I think in this way, the book of Job may have been written for such people. God could have provided a thorough theodicy, justifying every action he ever took. But he did something that is simpler. Rather than explaining himself, he communicated to us that we need to recognize his character and recognize who he is. He is God. The people with no access to answers and complex theodicies will have to accept that and learn to be at peace with that. That is how Job answers the central objection to Calvinism. God provides one answer and we need to accept it and be at peace with it just as the person who would have no access to answers.

In other contexts, Evan uses the same reasoning. The objection that Evan spends so much time railing against is applied in other contexts. We all recognize the message of Job. We all recognize that there are times wherein we need to just trust in God’s righteousness even if we do not know the answers. In his article, One Possible Reason For Animal Death, Evan writes, “I had a terrible time finding any good answers to this objection I had back as an On-the-fence Creationist. It frustrated and bothered me to no end. I pushed OECs back into corners often times not because I wanted to refute them, but because I wanted answers and I wasn’t getting any that satisfied me. God helped me get over the trouble of this through the power of His Holy Spirit. I thought of Proverbs 3:5 where The Bible says to “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding”. I just through up my hands and said “I don’t know why You let all that suffering and disease happen before the fall, but all the evidence points toward Day-Age Old Earth Creationism and I can’t go against this stream of powerful, scientific and scriptural evidence, so I’ll just trust that You had good reasons for permitting suffering pre-fall just like You have good reasons to allowing to happen to human beings AFTER the fall.” Evan believed in day-age creationism despite having no answers to the moral objection raised by young earth creationists concerning animal death before the fall. How did he respond? Much like Calvinists respond. We trust in God’s righteousness even if we do not know the answer.

Again in his article The Problem of Evil And Suffering he does something very similar. He writes, “Life is sometimes like a puzzle and God is putting it all together. We can only see the pieces of the puzzle, but once God is done putting it together, we can see the entire picture. A beautiful masterpiece.” Why is it okay for Evan, but it is not okay for Calvinists? Now, he does go on to provide a deeper theodicy, but he does seem to think that it is a worthy point that sometimes we need to remember that it is possible for God to have good reasons for allowing evil and suffering. That is precisely what Calvinists are saying. It is possible for God to have good reasons. We can only see part of the picture and we only know some of the reasons. Maybe someday, he will explain it to us. But until then, we ought not darken counsel by words without knowledge. That is how Job answers the central objection to Calvinism. He reminds us that we need to remember that God has morally sufficient reasons.

Why this is more than a theological debate about Calvinism. We can debate about Romans 9, John 6, Ephesians 1 and various other seminal texts of Calvinism. But this debate is something wholly other. Evan is not raising a logical objection. That is not to say that he is being illogical. It is to say that his objection is in a different category. It is an emotional and moral objection. Just read what he said in his article that I linked to above titled Why Nobody Should Worship God If Calvinism Is True: “I feel that, if Calvinism were true, I’d rather be in Hell, separated from such a cruel icy hearted puppet master of a God. The hatred I feel for the God of Calvinism is immense. I believe Calvinism is false, so I don’t believe in this God I hate so much. But I do hate him. He is not the God I fell in love with when I became a Christian. He is not the God I worship. I’ve come to understand how atheists can hate a being they don’t believe exists for this is exactly how I feel about the Calvinist version of God. I don’t believe he exists, and yet I loathe him with the fire of a thousand suns. He is so revolting, the mere thought of him churns my stomach. … Such a God, in my opinion, deserves to go to Hell to burn there himself.”

I believe that Calvinism is true. The God who he describes is the very God that I believe in, pray to, and believe is worthy of all worship and glory and honor. He came upon patriarchs such as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, inspired prophets, such as Moses, Samuel, Elijah, Isaiah… he is the one who decisively revealed himself in Jesus Christ. When Jesus said, “Once you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father” (John 14:9), he claiming to be God, to be identical to the Father and to portray all of the characteristics of the Father. He was saying that if you want to know who God is, you look to him. I believe that he was identifying himself with the very God who Evan is condemning. When I read what he wrote, what I see is, “I’d rather be in Hell, separated from Jesus Christ… the hatred I feel for Jesus Christ is immense. I hate him. Jesus Christ is revolting… I hate him with the fire of a thousand suns. Jesus Christ deserve to go to Hell.” Just think about it for a moment. If Calvinism really is true, that is precisely what Evan is saying. This is not merely a theological debate. It is something that is heart-wrenching to hear a professing Christian say about Christ.

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A Critique Of Fundamentalism From A Fundamentalist

fundamentalism 1Sometimes we will encounter blog posts from authors who are trying to ‘win the internet’ by pontificating about how conservative Christianity has faltered. They will say that we ought not be so stringent in our beliefs and doctrine, and that Jesus may not have really risen from the dead. They will say that the Bible teaches outdated morals or the church has misunderstood the Bible for the last two thousand years and they are going to relay to us some new interpretation that just happens to be swept away by the cultural tidal waves. They will sternly warn that Christians need to realize that it is acceptable to love Jesus and hate religion, have love for God but not seek after righteousness. When a Christian critiques Christianity or Christian virtues, liberals and atheists will nod in approval of this freethinking and rational Christian who has gone against the grain of biblical belief. They have risen beyond their primitive dogmas and finally realized that the world was right all along. If that is the sort of article that you are looking for, I am afraid that you have come to the wrong place. This is a critique of fundamentalism from a fundamentalist, but it is not a departure from fundamentalist dogma or practice.

fundamentalism 2Rather, it is a call for Christians to return to the biblical standard, to practice what they preach, to learn about what they believe and why they believe it, and to not accept an answer just because an authority figure told you what the answer is and what you should believe. Of course, many Christians will read this and protest, “But that is not descriptive of all Christians!” Indeed, I am a Christian fundamentalist (in the technical sense, I am not trying to apply a derogatory name to myself or others. Anybody who believes in the fundamentals of Christian theology is a Christian fundamentalist) and I am aware of these problems and labor to strip myself of them. This is a critique of fundamentalism from a fundamentalist, not a critique of fundamentalism from somebody who is trying to mock and ridicule fundamentalism. I am not saying that fundamentalism needs to be absorbed into radical liberalism. I am saying that by adjusting our practices, we can revise the definition of fundamentalism so that it is no longer associated with stupid, ignorant, wacky Protestants.

fundamentalism 3Shallow preaching for a shallow audience. One of the central questions that a pastor will ask himself is how he can gain new converts and maintain their attendance. Of course, if one does not wish to repel their congregants, they must preach in a manner to which the people will not have to make any major adjustments. They will have to be funny, charismatic, and they must be skilled in public speaking. Further, and critically, the sermons must be shallow so as to not overwhelm or intimidate the lay people in the audience. Hence, the principle of many sermons will be something like, “You need to pray more” and this will be underlined by a cacophony of personal anecdotes about the real impact that prayer has. Topical sermons laced with stories, jokes and nothing too challenging will keep the parishioners happy. However, the preacher will find that he always has to preach the same messages and can never introduce new content because his congregation is not growing. The only edification that they are receiving is the spiritual snippets that this pastor has provided.

fundamentalism 4When an exegetical sermon is introduced or a sermon that introduces theological concepts, the parishioners will just not understand it and will respond in impatience. So rather than slowly expanding the mind and laboring to open a door to expand the spiritual maturity of his parish, the pastor will be inclined to adapt his preaching and leadership to their theological understanding and their spiritual maturity. Shallow sermons for a shallow audience is what proceeds. When the time of practical applicability is upon them, the parish can apply only what has been given to them. They have only, “Pray more,” “Wear the armor of God” “My pastor had an answered prayer once” et cetera. This is a critique of fundamentalism from a fundamentalist. As such, it is prudent for me to urge that shallow sermons will just not sustain the spiritual life of the congregation and will result in apostasy and nominal Christianity.

Anti-intellectualism in the church. Probably as concomitant to the previous section (or very closely related), Christians will often host an aura of anti-intellectualism. In an effort to stride closely to their theological ideas, or because they are not being led into spiritual maturity, or do not care to pursue spiritual maturity, parishioners (and teachers!) are often guilty of anti-intellectualism about many topics. That is why fundamentalism is often thought of as a barrier to scientific progress. It is an obstacle to cultural advance. In my opinion, Christians truly display anti-intellectualism.

This is because there is a paradigm that has been developed by liberalism that pits Christianity against scientific progress. Historically, the pioneers of science have been Christian fundamentalists and would sternly object to the developments that I describe here. But many Christians firmly believe that the earth is only a few thousand years old, and often are not even willing to listen to other interpretations of the Bible, because they are convinced that they are compromises of the biblical data. But the age of the earth is as firmly established as the shape of the earth. Just as we can observe the stars in distant galaxies, so also can we observe the age of the universe. So when somebody says that the the earth is only a few thousand years old, they are embarrassing the church and acquiring for it the characterization of anti-intellectualism. When unbelievers are desperately seeking something for which they might mock the Christian faith, the young earth creationists eagerly present themselves.

This position of anti-intellectualism will manifest itself as Christians will say things such as, “I do not need science or college, I have Jesus.” However, it is present not only in scientific studies but also in theological studies. Christians will sometimes feel prideful and resentful with theologians. They will say that they do not need an educated person to explain the Bible to them (and of course, unless they read Koine Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic, they rely on scholarship in the translation of the biblical text). So Christians will often not understand the trinity or even be able to explain what the creedal view of the trinity is. When Christians do not understand what they believe, or why they believe it, one has to wonder how they will fair when they are sharing the gospel. Will they be merely sharing their narrative, offering a few little anecdotes about the faith? Is that really what it means to share the gospel? A critique of fundamentalism from a fundamentalist would have to note these things. Christians need to be introspective and reflect upon whether they are doing harm to the gospel and the cause of Christ.

The influence of tradition. Tradition certainly has several virtues. It keeps the faith of the masses within the barriers of orthodoxy. If we accept tradition as authoritative (though not infallible), it will help us to understand our own faith better, serving as a guide and a guard against heresy and error. But tradition is often misused and abused. Rather than allowing tradition to merely be a guide, many Christians will look upon it as though it were infallible. They may claim that they believe that the Bible is the sole infallible rule of faith for the church, but they will act as though their traditional values were infallibly offered.

Consider when Jesus said that the Pharisees had used their tradition to nullify the word of God (Mark 7:13). What they had done is to assume that their traditional interpretation of the word of God was, itself, the word of God. When they read, for example, “You shall keep the Sabbath holy” they will begin to ask questions, such as, ‘how do we keep the Sabbath holy?’ Their answers to that question might be, ‘Do not walk more than two miles from your home on the Sabbath.’ The Torah does not prescribe that we stay at home on the day of rest, but that interpretation is treated as though it were the word of God. This is precisely what Christians do today. They will elevate their traditional interpretation, not recognizing the difference between an interpretation and the word of God. So when Jesus said, “If you are not born of water and Spirit, you cannot enter the kingdom of God” in John 3:5, a Cambellite will read “water baptism” between the lines despite that the verse does not mention water baptism. Their interpretation has become inextricably linked with the word of God. A critique of fundamentalism from a fundamentalist notes that we need to be able to separate our interpretation and tradition from the word of God lest we be like the Pharisees.

The inability to disagree. This one is probably not unique to Christianity, because everybody seems guilty of this. Everybody has problems disagreeing and listening to critiques of views that they hold sacredly. Atheists react in rage when people disagree with atheism, as do Christians, and this is a problem. Indeed, we often do not even know what Christians of other denominations would have to say about a particular issue. We may have heard our pastor summarize it for us, but often he will just offer a caricature, not a proper representation and will amount to nothing more than reminding us that we were right all along. After all, it is trivially easy to convince somebody that they were right all along. But when somebody who can render a robust presentation of a particular view arrives, many of our assumptions about that view will collapse.

However, when we encounter such a person, Christians often receive them in distaste. Such a person is offensive. Well, no progress can be made if we are offended by each other and not willing to hear what people have to say. By listening to those with whom we disagree, we can learn more about not only their views but our own views. We can learn more about why we believe what we believe and perhaps even adapt our beliefs as better arguments arrive.

The lack of discipleship. In his book Follow Me David Platt argued that rather than making converts, we ought to make disciples, and being a convert will be chauffeured with it. For if we are making converts, then we are laboring to persuade people to accept the truth claims of the Christian faith, to repent and believe the gospel, and then to move on to somebody else to convince them to do this. However, if we are making disciples, then we are teaching people to follow Jesus Christ, to get involved in their lives, to be their friend, to be there for them and to help them to come into obedience to the gospel. A critique of fundamentalism from a fundamentalist notes that this is the model of evangelism that Christians need to practice and it is often not emphasized very heavily in our churches.

Our preaching is not oriented toward the gospel. I have had conversations about the gospel with Christians who have been going to church for their entire lives. They will respond with things like, “I have never heard that before.” How is that somebody going to a fundamentalist church can never hear about the fundamentals of the Christian faith? Sermons are often reduced to motivational speaking with a little Christian theology sprinkled on. They might hear trite platitudes such as “Jesus died for you” but it has no applicability or meaning to them. It is just something that they have heard preachers say, or sometimes shout, but they do not know what it means.

For the duty of the Christian disciple is to make more disciples. It is to share the gospel and to bring people to follow Jesus Christ. How can people who do not know what the gospel is do that? If all we have to offer is our personal anecdotes and stories, but neglect what Paul called the power of God (“the gospel is the power of God” Romans 1:16), our evangelism will be stifled and we will have churches filled with people who do not care about the gospel or even know what it is.

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What Is The Theory Of Evolution And Is It True?

toe 1What is the Theory of Evolution and is it true? Often this is presented in the scheme of religious discourse. Religious people are thought of as those who deny the Theory of Evolution because it cuts against their belief that mankind was personally, specially, fearfully and wonderfully made by the Creator. Further, since the biological complexity of biological organisms has historically been one of the most compelling arguments for belief in a Creator God, the Theory of Evolution would seem to raise significant challenges to this apologetic. So it is usually regarded with disdain from adherents of the Christian religion. On the opposite side of the spectrum, Richard Dawkins in his book The Blind Watchmaker will say that an atheist can be intellectually satisfied with the Theory of Evolution. There would seem to be a theological or an anti-theological agenda in embracing or shying away from the Theory of Evolution.

toe 2So what is the Theory of Evolution and is it true? It seems like this is a prudent and practical question for us to ask. There are a number of different authorities for us to appeal to, including the biblical data and the scientific data. I will only focus briefly on the biblical data, as I have dedicated several other articles to reveal what the Bible says about this issue. In this article, I will conduct a general survey of some of the evidence that is usually presented and try to expose some of the logical errors and assumptions that are made on both sides of the argument.

toe 3What is the Theory of Evolution? The Theory of Evolution (ToE) is a scientific theory about the development of biological organisms. It posits that as we adapt to our environment, future generations of offspring develop biological traits that will increase the capacity for survival. The ToE posits that it is from this process that all biological organisms have come into being, beginning with single-celled organisms and a vast family tree sprouting from there. Hence, just understanding what the ToE is will illuminate a consistent misunderstanding that people have, for people often say, “why are there still monkeys in the zoo? Why have they not evolved?” The ToE suggests that the monkeys in the zoo are on a different branch of the evolutionary family tree. Human beings evolved not from monkeys but from monkey-like creatures.

toe 4All biological organisms, then, are cousins or somewhat distant relatives. Whether bananas, cabbage, elephants, anteaters, butterflies – we are all related and all members of the same family tree. We are more closely related to some animals than others, such as monkeys (and this would seem to draw support from the strikingly similar biological traits). They evolved differently based on different environments, natural selection being the fundamental driving force. We gain new traits based on what will aid our survival. What is the Theory of Evolution and is it true? Well the ToE posits that every biological organism has come into being through a slow and rigorous process of adapting to the environment.

toe 5The Theory of Evolution is not a worldview. As one reviews my summary of the ToE, I can conceive of at least two reactions to it. Atheists may read it and look for errors, strawmen or misrepresentation in my presentation, just incase I am attacking a version of the ToE that they do not believe. Second, Christians may be reading this summary of the ToE and think that it presents a very bleak very of the world and mankind. However, it should be noted that the ToE is not a worldview. It is a scientific theory of the development of biological organisms.

toe 6The mechanism that brought biological organisms into existence does not rob us of our intrinsic worth. It may be that God guided the process of evolution throughout the generations. Of course, one may suggest that the ToE would make for a very wasteful process. But waste is only a consideration for somebody who has either limited time or limited resources. God is burdened with neither. He can expend all of the resources and time that he likes. This means that while atheists will usually believe the ToE, there is nothing about the ToE that is exclusively atheistic. A Christian can believe in the ToE, and indeed, there are many faithful Christians who do.

Micro to Macro – The Flawed Induction. The ToE draws support from the general observation of evolution. As I pointed out, it is undeniable that biological organisms adapt to their environment. We pass on traits to our descendants that are meant to increase their survivability. Creatures change over time. This is the underlying principle in the ToE and it would be a vast understatement to say that this was justified. It is not only a justified observation. It is obvious and immediately observable. But since creatures change over, the ToE extrapolates that to explain the development of all biological organisms.

Is this a justified extrapolation? It might be, but it is strictly conceptual and hypothetical. It might not be true. One would need to find alternative evidence to confirm this extrapolation. This is because one cannot literally observe the evolution of a single-celled organism into all living organisms today. One can only observe the minor variations within species, not the variations between species. This is the difference between micro and macro evolution. Some scientists will argue that there is no distinction between micro and macro evolution precisely because the extrapolation from micro to macro is justified. Well that may be the case. But it seems difficult to assume that the extrapolation took place in the absence of other evidence. The presence of adaptation and change over time would seem to only serve as supplementary evidence rather than a firm establishment of the ToE.

What is the Theory of Evolution and is it true? The ToE posits that all biological organisms developed through a long series of adaptations and it draws support from the adaptations that are observable. But this induction seems to make an assumption that needs to be independently justified.

DNA Evidence – The Flawed Induction. Recall that I pointed out that the ToE posits that all biological organisms are related. They are all members of the same family tree, branching off from that original single-celled organism, evolving into all of the life that we see today on the earth. How could one confirm this? Well, just think about how you can confirm that you were related to members of your family, or how you could prove that you were not adopted. You would appeal to DNA evidence. Similarly, we may appeal to DNA evidence to establish that all living things are related. This usually serves as very powerful evidence that all biological lifeforms originally had the same genes and diverged from there, hence confirming the ToE.

However, one would seem to be making a number of assumptions in making this argument. One would be assuming that the best explanation or even the only feasible explanation for the DNA evidence is the ToE. The ToE is being invoked as an explanatory hypothesis as opposed to a deductive argument. It is another induction. Christians will usually point out that there are other possible explanations for our having the same DNA, namely, that we had a common designer who used the same blueprint in all biological organisms. There are two common responses to this. 1 – If we are going to posit God as an alternative explanation for DNA evidence, we need to provide evidence for God’s existence. But this objection leaves one vulnerable to the counter-strike that you need to provide alternative evidence for the ToE to establish it as a possible hypothesis. 2 – God is not available to the scientist as an explanation because he is engaging the methodological naturalism, which looks for causes within the natural world. Well, that is fine. But God is still available to most people as an explanation or even a scientist in their off-hours. It seems strange to exclude a possible logical alternative just because of a technicality. Technicalities cannot establish the ToE. What is the Theory of Evolution, and is it true? Well, DNA evidence may not have as much to say about this as we would like.

The best argument – predictive capabilities. Often scientific theories are measured by their capacity for predictive capabilities. This means that if we can analyze the ToE and conclude with what we should find in the actual world, then this would serve as powerful evidence that it is true if it is found. The ToE would predict, for example, that whales evolved from a land animal known as indohyus. The ToE predicts that there would be fossils of indohyus and intermediate states near the water, which is precisely what we find. Hence the ToE seems to have predictive capabilities.

This would be further supported by what is known as the geological column. The geological column is a classification system for eras of the history of the earth. The ToE will predict where fossils should be dated, and may boast of the fact that a fossil has never been found out of place. So, the ToE accurately predicts where all of these fossils should be. However, dissidents of the ToE will reply that the geological column is reformulated based on dates that are out of order. Second, they will object that the geological column assumes that the ToE is true and therefore cannot be used as evidence for something that it assumes. A lengthy discussion of this may be read here (from a perspective supporting the ToE paradigm) and here (from a dissident of the ToE paradigm. What is the Theory of Evolution and is it true? The ToE seems to have predictive capabilities, hence increasing the probability that it is true.

Does the Bible answer this question? Most Christians will appeal to the biblical data, suggesting that it explicitly disallows the union of Christianity and the ToE. I will briefly treat two topics, namely the creation account and the story of Adam and Eve. However, if you would like to read a more detailed discussion of this topic, please read my other articles. In these articles, I pointed out that there are a number of ways to interpret the creation account, which do not force us to believe that the earth is 6000 years old. The model that I would represent is known as the day-age model, which suggests that the days in Genesis 1 are long periods of time. This draws support from Genesis 1:14, which says that 24 hour days were created in the midst of the creation week. If 24 hour days were created, how could the creation days be 24 hour days? Second, it draws support Hebrews 4:1-7, which explicitly says that we are still in the seventh day of the creation week. If we are still in the seventh day, how could the days be 24 hour periods?

What about the problem of Adam and Eve? If Adam and Eve were the first humans, created by God, how could the ToE be true? Well I am not convinced that the text says that they were the first humans created by God. Adam and Eve could have been created specially, from the dust of the ground, in the image of God, to look like the homosapiens that have evolved. This would preserve the doctrine of original sin by adhering to what is known as Federal Headship. God judged Adam as our Federal Head, knowing that Adam would stand in our place and accurately represent what we do. So, in Adam, we all die, and this does not contradict the model presented by the ToE. What is the Theory of Evolution, and is it true? The creation account in the Bible does not seem to answer this question. The Bible teaches theology, not science.

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Did Josephus Write About Jesus, Or Was It Entirely A Forgery?

josephus forgery 1Are there any early accounts or testimonies of the life of Jesus that are independent of the biblical data? Well, before beginning to discuss the data in Josephus, it should be noted that it would be a mistake to discount the biblical data simply because it is a theological text. While Christians do believe that it is divinely inspired, it is also a product of human hands. It is a collection of historical documents and it contains a wealth of information, the best available data that we possess of the historical person Jesus of Nazareth. It is a collection of historical biographies written within a generation of his life, and a collection of letters reflecting the earliest information that was circulating about his life. It is a historians’ delight. With that in mind, is there anything else that testifies to the life of Jesus? Aside from the best resource that we have, is there anything else that might serve a supplemental purpose? Well, certainly. The testimony of Josephus in his Antiquities of the Jews speaks of Jesus. But, did Josephus write about Jesus, or was it entirely a forgery?

josephus forgery 2In 18:3:3, Josephus writes, “Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.” I will be drawing from Dr. John Meier’s book A Marginal Jew (Volume I, Chapter 3, pages 56-89) to demonstrate that this writing is at least partially authentically being derived from the pen of Josephus.

josephus forgery 3Christians certainly did manipulate this passage. There are certain aspects of this passage that would just not reflect the thought of an orthodox Jew such as Josephus, as he was most certainly not a Christian. For him to employ such Christian characterizations of Jesus would be exceedingly unlikely. After all, one short paragraph about Jesus is hardly fitting if he really did regard this man as the Messiah, the Savior of the Jews, who overturned all expectations, was God the Son and commissioned all men to make disciples of all nations. For Josephus to claim that he believed that Jesus was the Messiah and say nothing else of the matter would be to demonstrate a startling lack of piety and devotion.

josephus forgery 4He began his summary of Jesus by saying of him, “if indeed it be lawful to call him a man.” This is clearly a recognition of the Christian beliefs about the identity of Jesus. He was not merely a man, but he was God the Son, the second person of the trinity. If I were to describe Jesus by saying that he was a man, most Christians would find that unsatisfying. Though he was a man, he was more than a man. He was totally man and totally God. He was the God-man. This passage clearly refers to Jesus in Christian terms. Second, it refers to Jesus as “the Messiah,” which, again, would be unlikely considering that Josephus did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah. Third, it quoted the oral tradition found in 1 Corinthians 15:5, saying that Jesus appeared to many, according to the Scriptures. These are clearly Christian interpolations of the Antiquities.

51HtqOWgf9L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_This charge is usually developed by the raving and radical skeptics who emote the unlikelihood of the existence of Jesus as a historical figure. This will lead them to the conclusion that Josephus did not mention Jesus of Nazareth at all, and that the entire section was a forgery. Is that true? Did Josephus write about Jesus, or was it entirely a forgery? I submit the position that these interpolations warrant the conclusion that it is entirely a forgery is far too simplistic.

Jesus “won over” the Gentiles. Dr. Meier pointed out that it is quite curious for Josephus to say that Jesus had won over people of Greek origin if he was familiar with or took the gospel records as authoritative. For Jesus did not win over the Gentiles. His mission was particularly for the lost children of Israel (Matthew 10:5-6). There certainly are a few exceptions, but during his earthly ministry, that was his intention. It was only after his resurrection from the dead that Jesus commissioned his disciples to go into “all nations,” (Matthew 28:19). This means that a Christian would be unlikely to say that Jesus of Nazareth won over a good deal of Greek disciples, because the testimony of the gospel records would be to the contrary. It is more likely that Josephus retrojected the situation of his present day onto the life of Jesus. That was a common error among historians of the day and understandable. Did Josephus write about Jesus, or was it entirely a forgery? He probably wrote this detail about Jesus.

Who condemned Jesus? Throughout the gospel records, it is depicted that the Jewish Sanhedrin were guilty of condemning Jesus to death (Matthew 27:25). They were envious of Jesus throughout his ministry and persecuted him unto death. Pilate is almost depicted as a passive recipient of the Jews’ will, afraid of the wrath of Caesar (John 19:12). It is pretty explicit that it was the Jews who condemned him and Pilate was the resource that they employed to bring about the execution. Yet that is not the picture of the crucifixion that we see in Josephus. Josephus says that “Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross.” In this depiction, Pilate alone is responsible, and the Sanhedrin are advisers. Did Josephus write about Jesus, or was it entirely a forgery? There is clearly a contrast between the condemnation of Jesus in the gospels and in Josephus. Hence, somebody who was familiar with the gospels probably would not write it in this way.

The tribe of Christians has not yet died out. Josephus concludes the section about Jesus by saying that the tribe of Christians has not yet died out, even until this day. The implication, argues Dr. Meier, “seems to be one of surprise: granted Jesus’ shameful end (with no new life mentioned in the core text), one is amazed to note, says Josephus,that this group of post-mortem lovers is still at it and has not disappeared even in our own day (Does Josephus have in mind Nero’s attempt to get it to disappear?). I detect in the sentence as a whole something dismissive if not hostile (though any hostility here is aimed at Christians, not Jesus): one would have thought by now that this “tribe” of lovers of a crucified man would have disappeared. This does not sound like an interpolation by a Christian of any stripe.” (Page 66). Did Josephus write about Jesus, or was it entirely a forgery? The dismissive tone seems to indicate that he did write about Jesus.

His reference to John the Baptist. Josephus also mentioned John the Baptist, and while it did not explicitly mentioned Jesus, it is interesting obviously because John ushered in the ministry of Jesus. Further, since it does not mention Jesus, it is unlikely to be a Christian interpolation, as the role of John was to point to the one who was greater than he. So Josephus provided independent evidence of John the Baptist. In book 18, chapter 5, paragraph 2, he recounts John’s arrest, incarceration and even his execution, just with fewer details than the gospel narratives. He even refers to John fondly. But, interestingly, he writes, that John “commanded the Jews to exercise virtue, both as to righteousness towards one another, and piety towards God, and so to come to baptism; for that the washing [with water] would be acceptable to him, if they made use of it, not in order to the putting away [or the remission] of some sins [only], but for the purification of the body.” According to Josephus, John’s baptism was not for the remission of sins. Now this sounds exceedingly similar to the gospels – which explicitly say that his baptism was for the remission of sins (Mark 1:4). This line seems to be an attempt to counteract the Christian claim about John’s baptism. Did Josephus write about Jesus, or was it entirely a forgery? The bit about John the Baptist was certainly not a forgery.

James the brother of Jesus. In book 20, chapter 9, Josephus describes the execution of James. Probably with no way to distinguish him from other men named James (as it was a very common name), he refers to him as “the brother of Jesus, who is called the Messiah.” Now, recall the Christian interpolations of the other reference to Jesus. It is decorated with divinity, that he is more than a man, that he rose from the dead according to the Scriptures. But this reference is almost blasé. Jesus is referred to in passing, used to identify this other man, James. Further, the standard Christian account of the death of James as recorded in Clement 2:23:3,19 differs from that recorded in Josephus. Did Josephus write about Jesus, or was it entirely a forgery? His passing reference to Jesus in 20:9 was almost certainly authentic.

Did Josephus write about Jesus, or was it entirely a forgery? I would like to point out that history is an inductive investigation. It is probabilistic. So while one could conjure up a number of scenarios wherein every reference to Jesus was a forgery, that is not how historical investigation is done. The historian looks for the simplest explanation and that which comports best with the evidence. Accordingly, Josephus almost certainly wrote about Jesus and both of the references to him are probably authentic. Josephus probably originally wrote:

“At this time there appeared Jesus, a wise man. For he was a doer of startling deeds, a teacher of people who receive the truth with pleasure. And he gained a following both among many Jews and among many of Greek origin. And when Pilate, because of an accusation made by the leading men among us, condemned him to the cross, those who had loved him previously did not cease to do so. And up until this very day the tribe of Christians (named after him) has not died out.”

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Why I Lost Respect For Dr. Shabir Ally

hqdefault-5Dr. Shabir Ally is widely known as the foremost living Islamic apologist, scholar and debater. He has summoned the intellectual respect of men of all different religions. I have thoroughly enjoyed his interactions with Dr. William Lane Craig, Dr. James White, Dr. Nabeel Qureshi, and most recently, Dr. David Wood. He has immersed himself in both liberal and conservative Christian scholarship so that he might be able to arm his underlings with the best argumentation against Christianity, that they might be bold and confident in their Islamic faith. He is one of the few Islamic apologists who understands Christian theology and represents it properly in his debates (as far as I have seen). He knows how to discuss the historicity of the gospels and how to interact with the evidence for the resurrection. Since he presupposes belief in God (unlike the atheists who will debate this subject) the discussion is more fruitful. However, in Dr. Ally’s recent debate with Dr. David Wood, I was thoroughly disappointed in his repulsive behavior. I would like to explain why I lost respect for Dr. Shabir Ally.

hqdefault-4His debate rhetoric. Anybody who has had a boring and monotonous professor will know that such a man would not perform very well in an academic debate. In a debate setting, it is not enough to dryly present the facts. One needs to be a good speaker, to interact with the emotions of the audience and to be in touch with their own emotions. That is what we see in many of the best debaters in the world. They have a balance of robust argumentation and excel in their public speaking skills. Similarly, they will know how to call our their opponent when they make an error. They will know how to expose that error clearly, in a way that the audience understands, such that the audience will think that the opponent might be wrong. Dr. Ally is a master debater and rhetorician. Rhetoric is necessary in a debate setting. There is nothing wrong with rhetoric. Saint Augustine was also an expert in rhetoric. Many Christian apologists are experts in rhetoric.

Like many things, rhetoric is a good resource when it is applied correctly. However, there are times when a person may use their rhetorical skills to carry the debate. They will abuse the proper function of rhetoric, something like the man who uses a sharp pencil to stab his neighbor in the neck. There is nothing wrong with using a sharp pencil, but this man has abused its’ proper function and murdered his neighbor. Throughout the course of the 6 debates that Shabir Ally had with David Wood, he wasted no opportunity to misapply his rhetorical skills. Before all of his rebuttals in the first four debaters, he would begin with a one-liner that was meant to make Dr. Wood look bad. He would say things that slightly but significantly misrepresent Dr. Wood’s arguments.

In their debate about the apostle Paul, Dr. Wood argued that if Shabir is to be consistent, he would need to think that Paul the apostle was being deceptive. Dr. Ally replied, “David is saying that I think Paul was deceptive.” Notice the shift between what Dr. Wood said and how Dr. Ally represented what Dr. Wood said. Dr. Wood said that if he were consistent, he would say this. Dr. Ally represented his argument as saying that he does say this. This was a clever way of slipping passed the objection and making it appear as though David’s argument was considerably weaker than it was. Similarly, Dr. Ally began one of his rebuttal in the third debate by saying, “David is ignoring everything that we said yesterday.” Of course, he was referring to the debate about the historical Jesus, and he suggests that David is ignoring all of the progress that was made during the course of that debate. However, I would like to suggest that Dr. Ally prepared to make that remark no matter what David opened with in that debate. For David’s opening presentation about the apostle Paul was almost completely independent of his argumentation about the historical Jesus. So, in an attempt to score debate points, Dr. Ally made this remark. There were several other examples wherein Dr. Ally abused the proper function of rhetoric during these debates. However, to be honest, examples such as these are not why I lost respect for Dr. Shabir Ally. I was willing to let these go. His utterly repulsive behavior manifested in their final two debates.

He accused David Wood of rejoicing in the death of Christians. Anybody who follows Dr. Wood knows that he often recites facts about Muhammad’s life from traditional Islamic sources. This often compels Muslims to accuse Dr. Wood of being a hateful and raving Islamophobe. For Dr. Wood will often argue that Islam is not a religion of peace and that the religion that Muhammad taught imposed misdeeds upon his followers, such as subjugating people who do not believe in Islam, bringing captives of war into sexual slavery, et cetera. During their debate, Is The Qur’an A Book Of Peace? Dr. Wood rendered this sort of argument. While Dr. Ally did try to interact with the arguments that David offered, he also presented a little piece of rhetoric meant to win over the audience and make David look bad. During one of his rebuttals, Dr. Ally said (and I am paraphrasing) “Christian apologists often rejoice in the actions of ISIS. It gives them a ministerial platform.” One has to wonder why Dr. Ally even said this. After all, the topic of the debate was not, “Are Christian apologists pure in their motives?” It was, “Is the Qur’an A Book Of Peace?” It seems likely that Dr. Ally offered this piece of rhetoric to set David up.

Dear Boko HaramIn his next speech, Dr. Wood waved a dismissive hand to such an absurd assertion. He said sarcastically, “Oh, yes, I love it when ISIS cuts peoples’ heads off and rapes women. It really helps my ministry.” Everybody recognized that this was sarcasm (the audience response was telling). However, that is not to say that he was making a joke or taking this issue lightly. He was being dismissive of this abhorrent charge. After all, these are his brothers in Christ. When Boko Haram kidnapped all of those children, Dr. Wood offered to submit himself to arrest and martyrdom on the condition that these girls would be released. Clearly, Dr. Wood hates the atrocities that occur throughout the world, and indeed, the stated purpose of his ministry is precisely to repel the growth of Islam. Everybody recognized that this was sarcasm and that such a charge made against Dr. Wood is unwarranted.

Yet Dr. Ally shamefully stood up and twisted David’s sarcastic comment to make it appear as though he was being serious. He quoted Dr. Wood as if it were an affirmation of these abhorrent actions! Now, I thought that Dr. Ally was joking the first time that he said this. But, the next day, in their final debate (which I linked to above), Dr. Ally came out again, and accused David of rejoicing in the death of his brothers in Christ, quoting the same sarcastic line from the previous day! When David explained that he was being sarcastic, Dr. Ally replied, “Okay, if you say so. God knows the truth, but if you say so.” The implication of ‘God knows,’ is obvious. We do not know. Dr. Ally was expressing skepticism.

Further, he wanted the audience to be skeptical. He wanted the audience to think that Dr. Wood rejoiced in the death of his brothers in Christ. What manner of man is this? In an effort to win a debate, he labors to smear David Wood (a man who he referred to as his friend a few times), to make him appear to be a lunatic. This is an academic debate about whether the Qur’an is a book of peace, and Dr. Ally addresses this academic topic by making this off-handed and repulsive remark. This is why I lost respect for Dr. Shabir Ally. He is certainly intellectually formidable and a master debater. But he is also a deceptive schemer who is willing to sacrifice his debate opponents to his cause. Perhaps he has a personal problem with Dr. Wood (as a result of his catalog of counter-Islamic apologetics and the de-conversion of hoards of Muslims), or perhaps he would do this to any debate opponent. Either way, this is why I lost respect for Dr. Shabir Ally.

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