Sunday, October 31, 2010

Post modern poison - part 3

A group that is often looked to as buying into the post modern poison is the Emergent Church. Not all within the movement would buy into the reletivizing of truth. Many young people have gravitated toward the movement simply because so many in the Church have presented a judgmental and legalistic code. Nevertheless, aspects of the Emergent movement seem to espouse that the grand metanarritive of the Christianity can't exist.

By far the most prominent leader of this group is Brian McLaren. Philosopher John Caputo has this to say about the Emergent movement and Brian McLaren, " I try to be a philosophical consultant for them whenever they ask my advice. Brian McLaren is a good friend of mine, and a lot of people I’m quite close to and really help as much as I can."[1] McLaren is at the forefront of what seems to be an acceptance of postmodern philosophy. McLaren states, "I think that most Christians grossly misunderstand the philosophical baggage associated with terms like absolutism or objective....Similarly, arguments that pit absolutism verses relativism, and objectivism verses subjectivism, prove meaningless or absurd to post modern people."[2] What's interesting is that the statement by McLaren is one that is objective in nature. McLaren consistently dodges clear statements in the Bible, concerning truth claims of the gospel writers. What appears to be McLarens road, is to present watered down truth, so as not to offend others.

Staying away from offending others seems to be the thrust of the Emergent post modern philosophy. John Caputo nicely sums up the philosophy by saying, "There’s a group of young evangelicals who are restless with the elders. They think the elders are racist and sexist and homophobic and xenophobic, and they’re sick of it. And they don’t think that the point of the New Testament is to ban gay marriages, it must have some broader point than that. It must mean something more than that. And they’ve gotten much more interested in peace and justice issues and in the spirit of the Kingdom of God, and they look to progressives like Brian McLaren to show them some alternative, what Brian calls “more generous orthodoxies”.So the orthodoxy is bad news. The orthodoxy means beating people over the head, blackmailing them with the fear of eternal damnation, making them get in line. There’s a group of mostly young people, younger evangelicals who are sick of that, and they want to hear something else. So there’s an opportunity."[3]

While it is true that Christians should not beat individuals up, it is also true that God's Word is offensive to those who are perishing (2 Cor. 2:15-16). If the post modern philosophy is embraced by McLaren or others, the poison KoolAid of post modern philosophy is taken by denying God's grand metarrative of truth.

[1] John Caputo interview
[2] Christianity Today (November 2004), p. 42-43
[3] John Caputo interview
* Interesting Brian McLaren interview

Friday, October 29, 2010

Who are you? Who are you... really?

Clint Eastwood star's in the movie Pale Rider which is about a cowboy who drifts mysteriously into a small mining town. In his new found home the people discover Eastwood is a man of the cloth and affectionately refer to him as, "preacher." As the movie proceeds, they discover some interesting characteristics about the preacher causing his friend, Sarah Wheeler to finally ask him, "Who are you? Who are you... really?" So, who are we as Homo Sapiens? Does the answer to the question have anything to do with how we live our lives?

Two paths can be taken concerning who man is: one is to see man as an accidental product of the universe, while the other is to see man as uniquely created in the image of God. Taking the first path is the reason given by the naturalist. A naturalist would see the entire cosmos as an accidental product by which man was created. Paul Churchland has stated, "The important point about the standard evolutionary story is that the human species and all of its features are the wholly physical outcome of a purely physical process....We are creatures of matter and we should learn to live with that fact."[1] On a naturalistic view as stated by Churchland, humans are purely pieces of matter that happened to develop a conscious life.

If humans are solely matter creatures then our evolutionary path has determined who we are. One of the characteristic features of this view is that humans are determined creatures by way of chance evolution. Researchers have recently discovered what they call the liberal gene. This liberal gene would control a person's view on how he/she sees the world. Obviously if a liberal gene exists, then a conservative gene must also direct an individual's actions and views. Philosopher Daniel Dennett takes the view that both alcoholics and child abusers are "determined to act as they do by forces outside their control."[2] On a naturalist view, humans are nothing more that robotic pieces of meat that act out their evolutionary determined direction. In fact, William Provine says, "Free will as traditionally conceived...simply does not exist. There is no way the evolutionary process as currently conceived can produce a being that is truly free to make choices."[3]

On a purely naturalistic view as defined by Provine, people cannot help themselves. If we are programed by evolution then morality does not exist. If morality does not exist then individuals should not be held accountable. For if morals do not exist, there is no right and wrong. How then are decisions made? Decisions are made by those in power. The naturalistic worldview paints a scary picture of reality if this is the way things really are. Taken literally, individuals can never be blamed for actions such as, lying, cheating, stealing, raping, or killing, for individuals are solely acting on their pre-programed information. No one can be called good or evil on this view, because there is no such thing as good and evil, or anything by which to measure such concepts. As Fyodor Dostoevsky said, "If God does not exist, everything is permissible." Ultimately, how we live our lives does not matter on a naturalistic view.

How we live our lives on a naturalistic view is truly frightening, but a different path can be presented. What if humans are the creation on a loving God who is intimately involved in the affairs of his people? On a Christian view, humans have free-will and are therefore responsible for what they do. God, as the possessor of all good becomes the measuring stick for what is right and wrong. A moral universe exist on the Christian worldview. We can know the right thing to do both intuitively and through God's revealed message to mankind. On the Christian worldview, humans are intrinsically important and have eternal worth. On the Christian worldview, God cared so much for his creation that he was willing to send his only son that whoever shall believe in him will not perish, but have eternal life.

Who we are makes a big difference on how this life can be viewed and lived. On the naturalist view, we are forced to live an irrational life while trying to make sense out of everyday struggles. "Atheism is a theoretical formulation of the discouraged life," according to Harry Emerson Fosdick. However, on the Christian worldview it makes a tremendous difference in knowing who we are. The Christian worldview provides a hope, even given the difficult struggles we daily face. The naturalist has to look at life with all the disappointments as the absolute best he will experience, where the Christian can view life with all its joys as the absolute worst he will ever experience. Who you are really matters in how you see this life.

[1] As quoted in J.P. Moreland's Kingdom Triangel, p. 47

[2] Moreland, J.P., Kingdom Triangle, p. 49

[3] As quoted in J.P. Moreland's Kingdom Triangel, p. 49

Sunday, October 24, 2010

If God doesn't exist, does it matter?

Probably the biggest question out there is, "Does God exist?" Many have undertaken this question and come to different conclusions. But, what if God does not exist, does it really matter?

If God does not exist, then life is without meaning. People can have relative meaning without God, but if God does not exist, there is no ultimate meaning to life. Many atheists will try to give meaning to life, but in reality all a person does is total non-sense without the existence of God. As Jean-Paul Sarte has rightly stated, "Life has no meaning the moment you loose the illusion of being eternal." Again, the late atheist paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould said, "We may yearn for a higher answer - but none exists." If God does not exist, then everything a person does has no ultimate meaning, for we are all destined for the grave only to be forgotten as non-beings.

What about purpose without God? The same holds true, for without God everything a person does serves absolutely no ultimate purpose. Sure individuals can have temporary purpose while alive, but ultimately without God it is fanciful to think of life as having any real purpose. Evolutionary scientist Richard Dawkins has stated, "Natural selection, the unconscious, automatic, blind yet essentially non-random process that Darwin discovered, has no purpose in mind." If Dawkins is correct in his thinking then a purposeless accident has produced a purposeless world. What is puzzling, is why Dawkins or anyone would offer explanations, if the world has no ultimate purpose or meaning.

One of the questions raised for a purposeless and meaningless life is how do morals count for anything? If life has no purpose and meaning, then why shouldn't individuals indulge themselves? For that matter, why should individuals talk of virtue or vice if God does not exist? It seems atheists have to live within a world as if God exists, while denying His existence at the same time.

Does it matter if God does not exist? It absolutely matters if God does not exist. Ultimate meaning and purpose cannot be found without the existence of God. Albert Camus has stated, "Without God and without a master, the weight of days is dreadful." Though Camus was an atheist, he rightly diagnosed life without the existence of God. For without God, man is a pathetic creature floating through the vastness of a dark and cold universe with no ultimate hope.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

How could God?

One of the more troubling aspects of the Bible is when God commands or approves the killing of individual people groups. How could God do such a thing? There are many factors to consider when God makes such commands.

Before getting to explanations, what exactly are we talking about? Consider 1 Samuel 15:3, "Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.' " Numbers 31:7 states, "They fought against Midian, as the LORD commanded Moses, and killed every man." Again, we see in Numbers 21:3, "The LORD listened to Israel's plea and gave the Canaanites over to them. They completely destroyed them and their towns." Three passages in which God either commands or approves the destruction of entire people groups.

Before addressing the reasons for such commands, it must be understood that all three passages in no way disprove the existence of God. Individuals may not like the passages, but these verses cannot be used to say that God does not exist.

Three good reasons exist to show that it is within reason to justify the punishment of these people groups. The first reason deals with the nature of God. God is described as being a holy God who cannot tolerate sin. These people groups were completely vile and depraved. They were so vile that the sacrifice of their own children was a practice that was engaged in. Not only were they blood thirsty, but they were sexually depraved as well. In reality, no one is innocent in God's eye's and all deserve to be eternally separated from God. All of these people groups could have repented of their sinful lifestyle, but they were content in their evil ways. God foreknew they would never change and therefore called for their destruction.

A second reason for the destruction of these groups is found also in God's nature. God is completely and totally just. In fact, it would have been unjust for these people groups to live and infect the world with their evil practices. This is exactly what did happen to God's own people - the Israelite, after taking possession of the promised land. Because these evil people groups were not exterminated, they brought the Israelites down morally and ultimately led to events whereby the Israelites fell captive to the Babylonian empire. By God allowing evil to go unchecked, would make Him not only unjust, but unworthy of worship.

The third and final reason, deals with the sovereignty of God. The sovereignty of God speaks of his power and authority. If God exist, He and He alone has the ability to rule. God rules with justice and love. He loves all people, but cannot tolerate sin, especially the unchecked sin that existed in the groups God commanded to kill. 2 Peter 3:9 states, "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." God's love today is offered in the sacrifice of His son Jesus. Those who accept Christ will be saved, but those who do not will suffer in being eternally separated from God. If God exists, the created has no right to say to the Creator what He can do. God is completely justified in his command and approval in removing people groups of the past.

  • A good article from an acquaintance at Biola dealing with the same subject manner.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Where did Cain get his wife?

I ran across an interseting article with the above title. Hugh Ross of Reasons to Believe supplied the article, but I found it through a blog that I follow called, Truthbomb Apologetics. As a pastor, I have often heard this question and knew the proper answer, but the article highlights just how fast the population could have grown during the lifetime of Adam. If you think about it, God gave only two commands to Adam. One was to not take fruit from the forbidden tree, and the other was to be fruitful and multiply. One command was kept and the other forsaken and it has made all the difference in the world.

  • To access the article click here.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Post modern poison - part 2

The main problem with post modern philosophy is the purposeful erosion of objective truth. This purposeful erosion is done by way of deconstruction. Deconstruction, an idea from Jacques Derrida, is a way to reconstruct text. It is looking for new meaning and new interpretation of texts. For example, the bible can be looked at in a different manner and deconstructed as well. Professor of philosophy John Caputo has this to say about deconstructionism, "Deconstruction is a way to reinvent things. Which means you need something to invent to begin with. You need some kind of tradition, inherited belief, structures, et cetera, which is where you start."[1]

The problem with deconstructionism is that it leads to relative truth. Christian scholar Norm Geisler states, "Deconstructionism embraces conventionalism. All meaning is relative to a culture and situation."[2] According to deconstructionism, truth is lost, because reinterpretation is always necessary. There is no objective truth on a post modern deconstructive interpretation. Again according to Caputo, "You’ll never get to the original intent. Second of all, if you could, that doesn’t settle anything. That was just the first interpretation; it’s not the last."[3] If everything is always reinterpreted, then no objective truth exists, and this is the problem of post-modernism.

Post modernism makes way for relative truth to wiggle its way into the the grand metanarritive, this is exactly why the interviewer (Luke Muehauser) asks professor Caputo, "Many analytic thinkers will say that post-modernism is bound at the hip with relativism about truth and morality."[4] Caputo states, "I don’t think it’s relativistic."[5] Caputo does nothing to dispel the notion of relative truth, for how can you? Anytime relative truth is explained away it is done so by way of objective statements. Relativism is self defeating and post-modernism destroys objective truth. This is the problem and poison of post-modernism.

[1] interview with John Caputo
[2] Geisler, Norm, Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, p. 192
[3] Caputo interview
[4] Ibid
[5] Ibid

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Apologetics in a Rural Setting

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

How to Get Apologetics in Your Church: Apologetics in a Rural Setting

Apologetics in a Rural Setting
by Shelby Cade

The Christian worldview is under attack today and the need for Christian apologists to rise up in the Church is crucial. It seems that every year, those skeptical of Christianity are on the attack with a greater frequency. Unfortunately, many Christians are unprepared for those who would attack Christianity. According to Peter we are commanded to be ready to give a defense (1 Peter 3:15). This does not mean that individual Christians should know all the answers, but we need to prepare for the attacks leveled toward Christianity. A major part of apologetics revolves around study (2 Timothy 2:15) and staying relevant to the cultural issues that counter Christianity. If one is going to be prepared, then study and having knowledge of God’s word is of the utmost importance.
[MP3 | RSS | iTunes | Table of Contents]

What are some approaches to doing apologetics in the Church and why engage in apologetics in the first place? I will tackle the second question first. First, it has already been stated that apologetics is necessary in order to give a defense against those who would promote a different worldview (2 Corinthians 10:5). A second good reason for doing apologetics is the edification of God’s people. Ultimately, we are interested in truth, and apologetics not only builds the body of Christ, but also provides confidence to the person engaged in apologetic ministry. The third and final reason we do apologetics is to lead others to Christ. We should never be so consumed with winning an argument that we miss the opportunity to share the good news of Jesus. Apologetics is not undertaken for selfish reasons, but ultimately to present Christ to a lost and dying world (see Acts 17:16-34).

I’m sure there are many approaches to making apologetics available in the church. I will share some of the ways I have brought apologetics not only to the local body, but also to the community. I live in a rural farming community and have found that apologetics needs to be tailored to the needs of my community. In other words, some of the issues in a rural community will play a little bit differently than they might in an urban area. Having said this, I must add that many apologetic issues cut across cultural differences and are helpful for all to share and think about.

The first technique I incorporated was to ask challenging questions. Those who would call Christianity into question constantly bombard us in today’s culture. I have found that challenging and relevant questions have drawn interest into a wide variety of apologetic subjects. When individuals in the church see the need for apologetics and understand that the Christian has solid answers, the launching pad for starting apologetics is established within the local church.

One of the specific ways I have addressed meeting the need for apologetics within the church is simply by starting Bible studies on a variety of subjects. For example, I have led studies on world religions, and have addressed or touched on a variety of different subjects. I have also tried to keep up with current cultural apologetic issues (abortion, homosexual marriage, orthodox Christianity, Darwinian evolution, relativism) in order to work them into lessons. Some of the lessons or Bible studies being taught may not specifically center on a current apologetic issue, but with the present skepticism in our society, apologetics can always be worked in.

There are many resources for conducting studies on apologetic issues. One of the best ways to start an apologetic study is simply to gather information on a certain topic and create your own curriculum. Many Internet sources can be utilized, and the best part is most are free. I have led studies in which the class receives both a handout summary of the subject at hand, and a separate sheet to fill in the answers to various questions. There are books that could be utilized, many with questions in the back. Videos are also useful for apologetic ministry. Lee Strobel’s Faith Under Fire series and Ben Stein’s video Expelled are both excellent resources. Many apologetic videos have curriculum that accompanies the video. One video series that has received high reviews is The Truth Project. This particular series, and its curriculum, addresses many relevant issues of our day. There are multiple other avenues for bringing apologetic lessons into the local church, including MP3’s and CD’s, which can be listened to and discussed.

One of the methods by which I share apologetics, with not only the church but also the community and beyond, is through writing. Serving in a rural community has afforded me the opportunity to write weekly apologetic articles (Just Thinking Apologetics) in the local paper. I initially thought this approach would have little effect in our small community, but was surprised to see that even in a small town, people crave answers for challenges to the Christian worldview. Individuals from various denominations - even some whom are not Christian - come to me with questions.

A blog titled Flatland Apologetics is my second form of writing that extends apologetics to the church and beyond. I encourage the church to check out not only my blog, but also others to gain answers to those who question Christianity. Starting an apologetic blog also encouraged me in God’s truth, having to do more intensive study, and provided confidence in the truthfulness of the Christian worldview as well. Anyone can start a blog and if one is interested in apologetics, this is a great outlet to challenge and dialogue with those who don’t know the Lord.

Preparing apologetic talks is just another tool for reaching out to the church and others who would be interested. I have developed a series of 13 PowerPoint presentations that can be shared with anyone. The talks center on relevant topics that frequently confront the Church, such as, “Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?” and “Did the Universe Come into Being by Accident?” Not only have I shared in the local church, but I’ve had the opportunity to share across denominational lines. One word of caution for those who present and teach - keep it relevant and short. I always need to realize that many do not share the same passion as I for apologetics, so my talks should be tailored to the audience I’m addressing. There is nothing worse that presenting a long-winded talk that flies right over the audience’s head. If you present an apologetic talk, make sure it has content designed to catch the eye and the ear.

Encouraging others within the church to take classes on-line, or through a local university, is just another way to bring apologetics into the church. Many courses are offered on-line, either free, or through a particular university. Many community colleges offer World Religion or Philosophy classes that can be taken to sharpen one’s perspective. It seems that many in the Church are sheltered, leaving them vulnerable to those who would question Christianity. If the Church is going to have answers, it is important to know “where the other side is coming from.”

The last approach, which I hope to take to the future, is to organize an apologetic conference or debate. Many large churches have done this and it is beneficial for God’s people to see that the Christian apologist has effective answers to those who are skeptical of Christianity. After all, we are fighting for, and defending, truth when presenting the Christian worldview.

Apologetic issues confront us daily, whether it’s in the news or at the office. Never before has apologetics been so necessary in America as it is now. If any Christian has a desire to start apologetic work in the church, he or she can find almost unlimited resources to do so. Having the heart and passion to bring apologetics to the local body is the first step.

The Apostle Peter said, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” It is the last part that all of us need to concentrate on. Apologetics must be done with the heart of lost in mind. Apologetics is crucial for today, but not at the expense of turning someone away from the good news by simply trying to win an argument. There are many avenues for starting apologetics in the local body; all that is needed is the desire and passion to get started.