Posted in Apologetics, Christian Faith

Would you mind not talking about your holy book please?

*For throwback Thursday, I am reposting something that was originally posted back in May…

The other day I ran into an atheist who hated it when Christians reasoned from, referred to, or quoted their “dumb holy book around her” because she believes it’s a work of fictitious nonsense that has no relevance.

My first thought was, well duh, of course atheists don’t like dumb holy books, why would they?

But is it a reasonable to have any expectation that a Christian should be willing to even temporarily set aside his or her dumb holy book?

Further, should a Christian ever consider not reasoning from, referring to, or quoting the Bible even as an act of good will, congeniality, or in the interest of political correctness?

NO! and NO!

First, setting aside the Bible because it offends the sensibilities of someone who is dead in sin is profoundly absurd. Their feelings about the Bible are theirs and not our concern. They hate it? So what.

I was listening to a presuppositional apologetics podcast the other day and the host, Frank Butler, said that setting aside the Word of God was actually mankind’s first mistake. Granted, Adam and Eve did not have the Bible as it exists today but they did have the Word of God and they blatantly disregarded it before they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Yes, they were deceived. But would this deception have been possible if they hadn’t set aside God’s Word in order to chat with the deceiver?

Think about that. Had they held fast to God’s Word the outcome might have been completely different.

Second, the Bible is not just a dumb holy book that we should put away when we aren’t at home or at church, it is the rock on which we are supposed to stand. Fact is, the Bible IS TRUTH. This does not mean it simply speaks of truth or it’s “true for you but not for me” but that it IS TRUTH. With it everything makes sense and without it nothing makes sense.

Reality is what it is because God declared it so and made it so. Therefore God is the author, source, determiner, governor, arbiter, ultimate standard, and final judge of all truth.

The Old Testament refers to the Almighty as the “God of truth” (Deut. 32:4; Ps. 31:5; Is. 65:16). When Jesus said of Himself, “I am…the truth” (John 14:6, emphasis added), He was thereby making a profound claim about His own deity. He was also making it clear that all truth must ultimately be defined in terms of God and His eternal glory. After all, Jesus is “the brightness of [God’s] glory and the express image of His person” (Heb. 1:3). He is truth incarnate — the perfect expression of God and therefore the absolute embodiment of all that is true.

Jesus also said that the written Word of God is truth. It does not merely contain nuggets of truth; it is pure, unchangeable, and inviolable truth that (according to Jesus) “cannot be broken” (John 10:35). Praying to His heavenly Father on behalf of His disciples, He said this: “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:17). Moreover, the Word of God is eternal truth “which lives and abides forever” (1 Pet. 1:23).

John MacArthur
Posted in Apologetics, Christian Faith

The Christian faith doesn’t rise and fall on the accuracy of 66 ancient documents

A while back I saw this in a presuppositional apologetics Facebook group I am a member of.

I am not on Twitter so I did not see the since deleted tweet nor any of the comments or additional context/explanation Stanley may have provided there. One of the things I actually hate about Twitter (other than that it is generally a dumpster fire) is that tweets are often ripped from whatever context there may have been and used to build a case against the tweeter which is, I think, unfair.

That said, this tweet does look bad but, still, it does deserve fair treatment rather than the scorn it seems to be getting.

In full disclosure I make it a habit to give pastors, unless they have proved themselves to be blatantly heretical, the benefit of the doubt as well as what could be considered by some an undue amount of grace.

The work of a pastor is not only deadly serious, it’s hard. And that, combined with the fact that we all have different philosophies about how to run a church, different target audiences, different personalities, and different teaching and preaching styles, makes it that much harder. So knocking a pastor because he is not leading, preaching, and teaching in the exact same manner I would is, and I hate to overuse the term, unfair.

Anyway, I did an assignment a couple months ago where I had to compare and contrast a book written by Andy Stanley with a book written by another pastor. Here is an excerpt from that assignment I think is relevant, emphasis added.

It is an unconventional approach to want people to attend a church knowing full well that they may not buy the theology but Stanley and his team “are committed to creating churches for unchurched people and fighting the pull for their churches to become churches for church people.”[4] Stanley realized that there was a problem with how traditional churches do church and a new way ahead was needed so unconventional was his objective. But if truth suffers because of his objective, then the objective should be questioned. Stanley writes that “People are far more interested in what works than what’s true. I hate to burst your bubble, but virtually nobody in your church is on a truth quest, including your spouse. They are on happiness quests.”[5] Assuming this is true, is biblical truth being sacrificed in order to make the unchurched Stanley is trying to attract to his church happy? Stanley also writes that, “Attractional or seeker friendly churches who strive to be so accepting they extend too much grace truth becomes a casualty.”[6]

The consumerism, desire to make people happy with their church experience, and a disproportionate desire to attract the unchurched rather than feed the churched can have a negative impact on seeker friendly and attractional churches and Stanley obviously understands that. There is no data in Stanley’s book to suggest his church has suffered but that possibility certainly exists and he may need to adjust his church’s laser focus on the unchurched and their happiness quests and make much of the Gospel instead.

James A. Hatt

As I noted in the assignment. Stanley clearly understands that his attractional church model can cause truth to become a casualty yet he is pressing on and I think this is dangerous. Not heretical, per-se, but it is not a good path for someone who has a biblical mandate to stand on biblical truth to be on.

In an article in Outreach Magazine, Stanley explains his position.

For post-Christians, common sense, science, philosophy and reason are the go-tos for worldviews and decision-making. Post-Christian nones have a low tolerance for faith-based answers to fact-based questions. At the same time, like most of us, they aren’t exactly on a truth quest either. They’re on a happiness quest. Many walked away from faith because faith didn’t make them happy. That’s never a presenting reason. Nobody wants to appear that shallow. But scratch beneath the surface and you’ll find the quest for happiness plays a big role. When faith is viewed as an impediment to happiness, goodbye faith. The seemingly irrational, anti-science version of faith many were brought up on makes it that much easier to simply walk away. Given all of that, this next statistic should not come as any surprise. When asked about their views of Scripture, 72 percent of nones said that it is not the Word of God. This data is corroborated by data compiled in a massive study conducted by the Barna Group.

Outreach

Credit where credit is due, Stanley has his finger directly on the pulse of post-Christians. He gets them and he understands how they think. On them, I think Stanley and I are in complete agreement. Where we part ways is how to reach them.

A few months ago my pastor said that love without truth is meaningless and truth without love is mean and that is something all pastors need to be constantly aware of in our messaging, our teaching, our preaching, and our evangelism. I think Stanley means well but he is dancing on the edge of a razor and he is in real danger of falling off into a space that is all love, acceptance, and happiness and no truth.

Stanley understands the go-tos for post-Christian worldviews and has an admirable desire to reach the unchurched, dechurched, and nones. But this cannot be done by conceding any ground regarding biblical truths to them no matter how congenial we may think it makes us. Ultimately our goal is not to acknowledge that people are on a happiness quest and change the trajectory of our churches and tailor what our churches offer our communities to make people happier. Instead, our singular focus needs to be acknowledging that the unchurched, dechurched, and nones are dead and that the Gospel is the only thing that can make them alive.

In the same Outreach article, Stanley also wrote this which, I think, represents a fundamental misunderstanding of people as the Bible describes them.

There is an important distinction between a non-Christian and a post-Christian. The reason our evangelistic endeavors result in more recycling than actual conversion is that our methods and approaches assume non-Christian rather than post-Christian.

Although I get what he is trying to say there is no distinction between non-Christians and post-Christians at all, they are equally dead. Post-Christians may appear to be hipper and cooler, and have better and more philosophical or scientific reasons to reject faith but, on a fundamental level, they are no different than the proud Greeks of Paul’s day and no less dead without a savior. In other words, Stanley is simply putting a modern veneer on an old problem.

Perhaps the most damming thing Stanley said to defend himself is this.

Appealing to post-Christian people on the basis of the authority of Scripture has essentially the same effect as a Muslim imam appealing to you on the basis of the authority of the Quran. You may or may not already know what it says. But it doesn’t matter. The Quran doesn’t carry any weight with you. You don’t view the Quran as authoritative.

Again, I get it, post-Christians don’t view the Bible as authoritative, unbelievers of all kinds never have and never will, it is nothing new. That should be Christianity 101. But the answer to this is not to diminish the truth of the Bible to appear more reasonable or in touch with a “modern and more discerning” generation of dead people but to stand on the Bible as literally the only truth that exists.

Jesus also said that the written Word of God is truth. It does not merely contain nuggets of truth; it is pure, unchangeable, and inviolable truth that (according to Jesus) “cannot be broken” (John 10:35). Praying to His heavenly Father on behalf of His disciples, He said this: “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:17). Moreover, the Word of God is eternal truth “which lives and abides forever” (1 Pet. 1:23).

John MacArthur

The problem with post-Christians is not that they don’t accept the Bible as authoritative but that pastors concede to them that belief and willingly try to appeal to them in other ways when there are no other ways.

I want to make it clear that I am not trying to knock Andy Stanley. I think he loves God, loves people, and that he sincerely wants to be faithful to his calling as a pastor. I also admire his desire to reach the unchurched, I have the same desire, they need the Gospel desperately.

But he is grossly in error when he puts the inviolable Word of Truth under the authority of the opinion of people who are dead in sin. The Bible doesn’t carry any weight with unbelievers? So what. Stand on it anyway.

While meeting people where they are is a biblical concept there is no scriptural support for anything other than the fact that the Bible is the very Word of Truth from beginning to end.

Posted in Apologetics, Christian Faith, Westminster

Is There a God?

From the Westminster Larger Catechism

Q. How doth it appear that there is a God?

A. The very light of nature in man, and the works of God, declare plainly that there is a God; but his Word and Spirit only, do sufficiently and effectually reveal him unto men for their salvation.

Rom. 1:19-20; Ps. 19:1-3; Acts 17:28; 1 Cor. 2:9-10; 2 Tim. 3:15-17; Isa. 59:21.

Yes, there is a god and everyone, regardless of what some may say, knows there is a God, it has been made plain to them, and they have no excuse to deny. Those who deny God do not do so because there is insufficient evidence but because they suppress the truth about God in unrighteousness.

Posted in Apologetics, Christian Faith

The Impossibility of the Contrary

It is the Christian’s contention that all non-Christian worldviews are beset with internal contradictions, as well as with beliefs which do not render logic, science or ethics intelligible. On the other hand, the Christian worldview (taken from God’s self-revelation in Scripture) demands our intellectual commitment because it does provide the preconditions of intelligibility for man’s reasoning, experience, and dignity.

In Biblical terms, what the Christian apologist does is demonstrate to unbelievers that because of their rejection of God’s revealed truth, they have “become vain in their reasonings” (Rom. 1:21). By means of their foolish perspective they end up “opposing themselves” (2 Tim. 2:25). They follow a conception of knowledge which does not deserve the name (1 Tim. 6:20). Their philosophy and presuppositions rob one of knowledge (Col. 2:3, 8), leaving them in ignorance (Eph. 4:17-18; Acts 17:23). The aim of the apologist is to cast down their reasonings (2 Cor. 10:5) and to challenge them in the spirit of Paul: “Where is the wise? Where is the disputer of this world? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” (1 Cor. 1:20).

In various forms, the fundamental argument advanced by the Christian apologist is that the Christian worldview is true because of the impossibility of the contrary. When the perspective of God’s revelation is rejected, then the unbeliever is left in foolish ignorance because his philosophy does not provide the preconditions of knowledge and meaningful experience. To put it another way: the proof that Christianity is true is that if it were not, we would not be able to prove anything.

What the unbeliever needs is nothing less than a radical change of mind – repentance (Acts 17:30). He needs to change his fundamental worldview and submit to the revelation of God in order for any knowledge or experience to make sense. He at the same time needs to repent of his spiritual rebellion and sin against God. Because of the condition of his heart, he cannot see the truth or know God in a saving fashion.

-Greg L. Bahnsen, Always Ready: Directions for Defending the Faith, 121-122.

Posted in Apologetics, Christian Faith

So, how do I know what I know is truth?

In my last post I wondered how people know what they know.

I understand how asking “How do you know?” all the time can be annoying, I have been annoyed by the question myself countless times over the years. But it is a fair question because it forces people to think about and question the validity of their epistemology.

So how do I, personally, know what I know? With respect to politics I am as susceptible to bias as most people which is why I generally avoid political discussions and weighing in with my opinion. I suppose I could invest the time and energy it would take to sift through the mountains of misinformation, disinformation, and fake news to try to get to the truth but, in all honesty, I am not that interested.

With respect to religion I think what I know is true because of what presuppositional apologists call the absurdity of the contrary.

For example. The ultimate proof that God exists is that without him ontologically or epistemically you can’t prove anything since there is no rational and consistent justification for the preconditions of intelligibility that make evidence and proof possible. Unbelievers can deny that all they want but they do so to their own epistemic peril and absurdity.

The issue isn’t just that the Christian worldview has a way to account for intelligibility but it is also that the Christian worldview is the ONLY way to account for the world we live in and our experiences in an intelligible and consistent manner.

In atheism or in ANY non Christian worldview that is not the case.

I hate to sound trite or dismissive when people ask me how I know what I know regarding the validity of my faith but it is literally because without God, the Bible, and Christianity nothing makes sense.

Posted in Apologetics, Christian Faith, One Minute Bible Study

I don’t think that verse means what you think it means

I know this is an unpopular thing to say but there are two kinds of people in the world.

1. Those who have eternal life (John 3:16).

2. Those who know the truth of God but suppress the truth in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18-20).

In their efforts to expose the Bible as a book of errors and Jesus as less than divine, members of the latter group frequently misapply, misunderstand, misinterpret, or outright lie about what Scripture very clearly says. For example, they often use Matthew 6 to inform Christians that they are commanded by Jesus to keep their faith private. In other words, Christians are not to pray, proselytize, quote the Bible, or do any of their deeds where they may be seen.

Properly interpreted though, Jesus was not forbidding deeds done in public in Matthew 6. Rather, He was condemning the performance of “charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them” (6:1, emp. added). In the very next verse, Jesus elaborated on what He meant, saying, “Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men.” The hypocritical scribes and Pharisees, whom Jesus explicitly condemned earlier in this sermon (5:20), performed “all their works…to be seen by men” (Matthew 23:5, emp. added). This was the attitude of which Jesus warned His listeners. Do not do charitable deeds in order to receive praise from men, but do them (whether private or public) to be seen of God.

Jesus taught that the proper motivation must lie behind every “good” action, in order for that action to be pleasing in God’s sight. Some godly actions may be done in secret (e.g., giving monetarily to a good work, praying for the sick, fasting, etc.). Others can (and must) be done openly (e.g., preaching the Gospel—cf. Acts 2).

Those who know the truth but suppress it in unrighteousness don’t want us to be public about our faith because they don’t like our faith, they don’t like our Bible, and they don’t like our God.

Posted in Apologetics, Christian Faith

People need strong medicine, not kindness

It’s not kindness to tell patients who need strong medicine that nothing serious is wrong with them.

Cornelius Van Til

It seems fashionable for people to go out of their way to be politically correct so no one gets offended and no feelings get hurt. But not telling dying people what they need in order to be cured because we believe that is being nice to them is absurd. And I won’t do it. So…

The Illness

We have all sinned (Romans 3:23). We have all done things that are wrong, evil, or immoral (Ecclesiastes 7:20). Our sin separates us from God, and, if left unresolved, our sin will result in us being eternally separated from God (Matthew 25:46; Romans 6:23a). This eternal separation from God is hell, described in the Bible as an eternal lake of fire (Revelation 20:14–15).

The Medicine

God became a human being in the person of Jesus Christ (John 1:1, 14; 8:58; 10:30). He lived a sinless life (1 Peter 3:22; 1 John 3:5) and willingly sacrificed His life on our behalf (1 Corinthians 15:3; 1 Peter 1:18–19). His death paid the penalty for our sins (2 Corinthians 5:21). God now offers us salvation and forgiveness as a gift (Romans 6:23b) that we must receive by faith (John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8–9). “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). Trust in Jesus alone as your Savior, relying on His sacrifice alone as the payment for your sins, and, according to the Word of God, you are promised eternal life in heaven.

Posted in Apologetics, Christian Faith

Everyone has a right to participate in the debate but not everyone should

Image from amazon.com

This is an excellent article on something that can be seen by anyone, every single time they go on the internet.

While I was reading the article the second or third time through I couldn’t help but imagine if it were written by a theologian, pastor, or biblical scholar rather than a political policy expert. The wording would have to be changed a bit but the intent and meaning of the author would lose no validity.

To make this point, here is an excerpt I have tweaked a bit.

In religion, too, the problem has reached ridiculous proportions. People in religious debates no longer distinguish the phrase “you’re wrong” from the phrase “you’re stupid.” To disagree is to insult. To correct another is to be a hater. And to refuse to acknowledge alternative views, no matter how fantastic or inane, is to be closed-minded.

How conversation became exhausting:

Critics might dismiss all this by saying that everyone has a right to participate in the public sphere. That’s true. But every discussion must take place within limits and above a certain baseline of competence. And competence is sorely lacking in the public arena. People with strong negative views on Christian faith, for example, get the basic tenets of the faith wrong yet fail to let their profound ignorance keep them from arguing as if they are noted biblical scholars.
This subverts any real hope of a conversation and it is simply exhausting.

The author ends the article with a few points anyone who wishes to engage an expert in their field should take to heart. Most notably, IMHO, this point.

In any discussion, you have a positive obligation to learn at least enough to make the conversation possible. The University of Google doesn’t count. Remember: having a strong opinion about something isn’t the same as knowing something.

“In any discussion, you have a positive obligation to learn at least enough to make the conversation possible” is a great line and something everyone who enjoys discussion should take to heart.

Sadly, though, not enough people take their obligation seriously so we end up with stuff like this.

Not knocking Mr. Barker, per se, he could be a great guy and highly intelligent in many ways. But, regarding Christianity, it is painfully obvious that he has not risen above the baseline of competence necessary to have a rational conversation about the faith.

I love evangelism and answering honest questions people have about the Christian faith. What I’ve never understood however, and I’ve done it myself plenty, is why well meaning Christians participate in discussions with people with whom they know fruitful discourse is not possible.

Red Pen Logic with Mr. B does a great job of highlighting the profound ignorance in anti-Christian social media posts and I think that is a good thing. Having a conversation with people who put this stuff out there though is, as Tom Nichols accurately phrased it, exhausting.

*The author of the article, Tom Nichols, has also written a book with the same title I ordered this morning. If it’s as good as the article, it will be worth a read.

Also, here are a couple more things from Mr. B. a Facebook page I highly recommend.