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Animated, Movie Reviews

The Lord of the Rings animated "trilogy"

Peter Jackson wasn't the first to put J.R.R. Tolkien's books on film. Two decades before the first of Jackson's live-action/CGI films hit theaters, three animated versions were crafted in the space of three years, and by two different animators. The first two are well worth checking out. The third is not. THE HOBBIT Animated 77 minutes / 1977 RATING: 7/10 The Hobbit was the first Tolkien book to be filmed, in 1977. Director Authur Rankin chose a particularly cartoonish style of drawing that made it clear from the start that this was intended as a children's film. But his work had some humor to it – just as the source material does – which makes it pleasant enough viewing for adults too. Our hero Bilbo Baggins is a Hobbit, creatures that look much like humans, though they are half as tall and have far hairier feet. Normally Hobbits like nothing better than to stay close to home, but when the wizard Gandalf brings 12 treasure-seeking Dwarves to his doorstep Bilbo signs up for the adventure. And with the help of a magic "ring of power" Bilbo finds, he helps his new friends fight Orcs, Elves, and even a dragon. At 77 minutes long, readers of the book may be disappointed as to just how much the film condenses the story. However, as children’s films go it is quite a nice one, and a good introduction to Middle Earth. That said, for a children's film there are some fairly scary bits, including attacks from Orcs, giant spiders and a "Gollum" so this isn't suitable for the very young. Parents will want to preview this to see how suitable it is for their children. I know I can't show this to my girls yet, but will when the youngest hits about nine or ten. THE LORD OF THE RINGS Animated 133 minutes / 1978 RATING: 7/10 A year after The Hobbit was released, another animator, Ralph Bakshi, decided to try his hand at The Lord of the Rings.  The story begins with an aging Biblo Baggins passing on his magic ring to his nephew Frodo. Shortly after the wizard Gandalf shows up to warn Frodo of the ring's danger. It turns out this ring is so powerful that whoever holds it could use it to rule the world. This is why the evil Sauron wants it, and why the good Gandalf knows that it must be destroyed – this all-encompassing power is too much of a temptation for even the best of men to contend against. It is up to Frodo, who as a little Hobbit is far less tempted by the pull of power, to take the ring deep into the enemy's lands to destroy it in the lava of the mountain where it was first forged. And on the journey he has the company of hobbits, men, an elf, a dwarf, and a wizard to help him. Animator Ralph Bakshi used a style of animation that involved filming scenes with real actors and then tracing over each frame of film to create a line-drawing picture of it. This "rotoscoping" allowed Bakshi to incorporate the endless possibilities of animation with the realism of live-action. The realism also meant that this is a scarier film than The Hobbit. The lurching Ringwraiths (see the picture) are freaky, and some of the combat scenes, especially at the very end, are quite bloody. Though this is animated, it is not for children. There is one major flaw with the film: it is only half of the story! The director planned it as the first part of a two-film treatment, but the second film was never made, so things wrap up abruptly. While it lacks a proper ending, the story it does tell is intriguing. THE RETURN OF THE KING Animated 97 minutes / 1979 RATING: 4/10 This is sometimes treated as a sequel to Ralph Bakshi's film, but it isn't. Arthur Rankin directed, and he returned to the cartoonish animation style of The Hobbit. And while the events in this story do, loosely, follow after the events of the Bakshi film, Rankin seems to have been envisioning this as a sequel to The Hobbit, so he begins with an overview of everything that took place between it and The Return of the King. Or, in other words, it begins with a quick summary of two 500-page books – as you might expect this overview doesn't do justice to the contents of these enormous tomes, and the continuity of the story is completely lost. If a viewer isn't already familiar with the books he'll have no idea what's going on. Things don't get any better once the overview is complete - there is no flow to the story. Huge plot elements are skipped over, and random snips of scenes are stitched to other scenes with stilted narration and cheesy ballads. In addition, Frodo Baggins twice calls on God to help him. Some might argue this could be an appropriate use of God's name, but in the context of a fantasy world in which God is never otherwise mentioned, this seems a misuse. In short, The Return of the King is a dreadful film that is not worth anyone's time.

News

The Top 10 articles of 2019

It's said that the Internet is causing people to have shorter attention spans. If that's true, you can't look to our most popular articles of 2019 for proof, as many are among the longer articles we published. You'll quickly notice there are 11 articles on this "Top 10" list, and we want to assure you that's not a matter of bad math, but interesting statistics. The difference between 10 and 11 is so close, that they are repeatedly swapping spots. So, rather than have to update the list as they swap spots yet again, we're including both, as 10a and 10b. Now, what got thousands of folks reading each of these articles? Maybe it was the diversity. One of the fun things about a magazine that writes about all that God is up to is that we get to tackle all that God is up to! Without further ado, here is our Top 10 countdown for 2019. 10b. Original Sin: Luther's other life-changing doctrine (15 minutes) Harma-Mae Smit contributed an article that takes some effort but amply rewards it. We know Luther for his rediscovery of the Doctrine of Justification - that it is not by our works, but by faith in Jesus that we are justified. But Luther's understanding of our sinfulness was every bit as important. 10a. Countering Tim Keller's case for evolution (15 min) Keller is a much-respected writer because when he gets it right – when he treats God's Word as authoritative – he gets it really right. But when he gets it wrong, as he does in his treatment of the opening chapters of the Genesis, he gets it really and horribly wrong. 9. A sad tale of a wealthy millennial's moral confusion (8 min) E. Calvin Beisner read about a young man who was wealthy and felt guilty about it. Should we feel guilty when we are blessed? Or should we feel gratitude? A series of accompanying questions make this a great one for discussions on socialism, the 10th Commandment, social justice and more. 8. Porn addiction isn't just a guy thing (8 min) This article got no attention when it was first posted a year or two ago. But when it was reposted this year, thousands checked it out. Why? Maybe it's because we now recognize that even as pornography-use remains the sin that Christian men don't own up to, it is that much the harder for Christian women to look for and get help in this battle. 7. Reformed Harmony: a new tool promotes friendship...and sometimes marriage (10 min) Sharon Bratcher tells RP readers about this online forum created specifically for Reformed singles. What a great idea! 6. Public doubt: Josh Harris abandons God, and Hillsong's Marty Sampson struggles (5 min) It was big news when Josh Harris turned his back on God, and was almost as big when a prominent Christian musician went public with his doubts. So what's a Christian to do when they have doubts? 5. Should introverts be expected to act like Extroverts? (5 min) It takes all kinds to make up the Body of Christ. But we are the same Body, and that means that some type of togetherness is a must. 4. #chairchallenge highlights male/female divide (2 min) The chair challenge is a fun craze circulating the Internet which most women can do, and most men can't. It's fun, but it's also significant, living as we do in an age that denies there are two genders and that even if there are, denies they are different. 3. That morning I listened to Kanye West (8 min) In December 2018 Kanye West was featured on a song with XXXTentacion singing vulgar lyrics. Less than a year later he released his album Jesus is King and Rev. Wes Bredenhof had a listen...and liked what he heard. 2. Charles Darwin's grave mistake (12 min) On the 137th anniversary of Darwin's death, Christine Farenhorst shared how the Christian world honored him. 1. Cremation: why and why not? (8 min) In the past cremation has been done as an act of rebellion. But is that what it has to symbolize? Or might this be an area of Christian liberty?

CD Review, Parenting

CD REVIEWS: Bach and Beethoven for kids (and adults)

C.S. Lewis once made mention of a man who did not like children. Now some of our dislikes are simply a matter of taste – whether your favorite ice cream is chocolate or vanilla says nothing about your character – but this man recognized that his disregard for little ones was wrong. There is a beauty in little children, a wonder about what God has done in making these tiny new people that everyone really should appreciate. If a man doesn't, it is because of something missing in the man. Lewis was making the point that there is such a thing as good and bad taste – all is not mere opinion. When it comes to classical music I'm like this man. I've never appreciated it, but I recognize this as a deficiency in myself. I should like it. After all, this is music that has stood that test of time. We play Beethoven and Bach's music centuries after it was first written; does anyone think the same will be done for Lady Gaga, Beyonce, or Justin Timberlake? Even those of us who don't like Bach know that in a real tangible way he is better than Beyonce. Since having kids I've hoped that my daughters' musical tastes will be better developed than their dad's. So I was very happy to come across these two CDs: Beethoven Lives Upstairs and Bach Comes to Call. Each is a dramatized account of the composer's life, sprinkled throughout with a liberal dose of their music. In Bach Comes to Call (47 min) Bach appears in modern times, under unexplained circumstances, to a girl who is having a hard time getting her piano homework done. The composer encourages young Elizabeth by telling her the story of his own childhood and musical triumphs. In Beethoven Lives Upstairs (46 min) we are introduced to a little boy who has the misfortune to live below Beethoven's apartment. Beethoven, it turns out, is demanding, short-tempered, and makes the strangest sounds as he paces in his room. The boy airs his complaints to an understanding uncle who teaches the young boy to empathize with this great composer, who hears wonderful music in his head, but who can no longer hear it with his ears. How very frustrating that must be! A couple cautions to note. First, there is a moment in Beethoven Lives Upstairs that might lead to a little tittering. The boy complains that Beethoven was laughed at by little children who, while peering through his window, saw he was composing while wearing no clothes at all! Not a big thing, but it might have been nice to leave that detail out. Second, my wife and I have listened to other CDs and DVDs in this "Classical Kids" series and have yet to find any others we would want to recommend, so don't assume they will all be good. These two, however, are excellent, and a great way to foster a love of classical music in kids, and maybe even their dads.

Documentary, Movie Reviews, Pro-life - Abortion, Watch for free

The Missing Project

Documentary 2019 / 75 minutes RATING: 8/10 2019 was the 50th anniversary since Pierre Trudeau’s government first legalized abortion in Canada. To mark the occasion a number of pro-life organizations came together to make this film. This is, in part, a history lesson, detailing the country’s sad descent to where the unborn today have no protections under Canadian law. The Missing Project begins by explaining the divisions that exist among pro-lifers, between what’s called the “abolitionists” and the “incrementalists.” As ARPA Canada’s André Schutten clarifies:

“In Canada, the pro-life movement is very split on the question of, 'How do we implement a law?' So some people within the pro-life movement are adamant that we can only ever advocate for a total ban on abortions [abolitionists]. Whereas others, including myself and my team, we certainly believe that we can make incremental changes [incrementalists].”

One of the film’s strengths is how it gives time to representatives from both these sides. Whatever camp pro-lifers might have fallen into, it was a confusing time after the abortion law was struck down in 1988 and the Mulroney government proposed Bill C-43. No one knew at the time that this would be the last abortion restricting legislation proposed by a Canadian government. Some pro-lifers opposed it, hoping for much more. In a horribly ironic twist, these pro-lifers were joined in their opposition to the bill by abortion advocates who didn’t want any restrictions at all. They say hindsight is 20/20 but that isn’t true in this case. Pro-lifers today still fall on both sides. We hear some arguing the bill would have done almost nothing, and then get to hear from one of the bill’s crafters who argues that it would have at least done more than the nothing we’ve had in place since then. Bill C-43 was defeated in the Senate on a tie. After hearing from the various sides, viewers will probably be grateful that they weren't Members of Parliament at the time, and didn’t have to decide whether to vote for or against this bill. After the historical overview, we start hearing about the many things that have been missing in the public debate about the unborn. First and foremost, there are all the missing children, millions killed before they saw the light of day. Missing, too, is any media coverage of their plight. While that violence is committed behind closed doors, Jonathon Van Maren notes the media also have no interest in covering violence done in broad daylight against pro-life demonstrators.

"...abortion activists often take their core ideology to its logical extent, which is that they can react with violence to people they find inconvenient - that's the core message of the abortion ideology."

A missing answer At one point an atheist lists herself as one of the missing voices in this debate. It is odd, then, that while she was given time to make her argument – that we need to present secular arguments so as to reach atheists like her who don’t care what the Bible says – we don’t hear anyone making the argument for an explicitly Christian pro-life witness. There are many Christians in the film, but no one answering this young atheist, explaining that if we are only the chance product of an uncaring universe, why, from that worldview, would anyone conclude life is precious from conception onward? She believes it, but not because of her humanist stance – it's only because God's Law is written on her heart (Romans 2:14-15). So not only is it our joy and privilege to glorify God in all we do (1 Cor. 10:31), even from a very practical perspective, proclaiming the triumph of the Author of Life is the only answer to a culture of death. Conclusion That said, this is a film every Canadian Christian should watch because there is something here for everyone. Even if you've been involved in the pro-life movement for 20 years, you are going to hear something you’ve never heard before.  If you don't want to watch, because the death of 100,000 children a year is simply too depressing a topic, the filmmakers made sure this film is also encouraging. For example, about two-thirds of the way through, when we could really use a brief reprieve, the director gave us a moment of delight. Dr. Chris Montoya explains how we know a baby is able to learn from the time of the first detectable heartbeat. I won’t give it away, but it involved a tuning fork and thumping mom’s tummy. In a film full of muted horror, this was a moment of wonder – a kid at two months can already respond!  Another reason The Missing Project is encouraging is because of the challenging note it ends on. We learn there are things that can be done to help these babies. We don’t have to just toss up our hands in despair.  Another reason for hope is that, although God is not mentioned, Christians can fill in the blanks. We can see God at work in these various organizations, and it isn’t hard to imagine how His people can ally with and make use of these groups to offer our own Christian pro-life witness. So watch, learn how to spot our culture’s pro-abortion lies, be challenged, discover all the opportunities, and then go spread the truth that every one of us is made in the very image of God, right from the moment of conception.  The Missing Project can be viewed, for free at WeNeedALaw.ca/MissingProjectFilm where you can also find discussion questions and tips on how to host a movie night. Check out the trailer below. For more, you can also check out the 50 individual interviews that started this project – one for each year abortion has been legal in Canada. You can find those on the Life Collective website and also on YouTube here. Some of these individual interviews do raise an explicitly Christian perspective.


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Adult non-fiction, Book Reviews

BOOK REVIEW: Know why you believe

by K. Scott Oliphint 2017 / 221 pages There’s a need for different types of books on apologetics. We need the books on theory – and there are plenty of them. Several efforts have been made over the years to write books specifically addressed to unbelieving skeptics. However, so far as I’m aware, there haven’t been too many books written for believers at a popular level. I’m talking about the kind of book you could give to your teenage son or daughter when they start asking hard questions about the Christian faith. This is that book. As a professor of apologetics at Westminster Theological Seminary, Dr. Scott Oliphint is well-qualified to write this kind of work. He has a great grasp of the background philosophical and theological issues – and this is evident in his more scholarly apologetics books. Yet he also has a track record of accessible writing for popular audiences – for example, some years ago I reviewed his great series of biblical studies entitled The Battle Belongs to the Lord: The Power of Scripture for Defending Our Faith. He’s done it again. Except for a couple of more technical sections, most of Know Why You Believe should be comprehensible to the average reader from young adults upwards. And the book launches with this profound quote from C.S. Lewis at his best: “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” That really sets the tone for everything following. One of the reasons I love this book and can highly recommend it is because it takes God’s Word seriously. It takes Psalm 36:9 seriously: “For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.” God’s light especially shines forth in his Word. If you want to see clearly, you need to see things God’s way. This is also true when it comes to the reasons for believing the Christian faith. The best and most trustworthy reasons come from God himself – the faithful God who never lies. That’s the basic approach undergirding Know Why You Believe – a biblical, Reformed approach to apologetics. Oliphint covers 10 questions we might struggle with: 1. Why believe in the Bible? 2. Why believe in God? 3. Why believe in Jesus? 4. Why believe in miracles? 5. Why believe Jesus rose from the dead? 6. Why believe in salvation? 7. Why believe in life after death? 8. Why believe in God in the face of modern science? 9. Why believe in God despite the evil in the world? 10. Why believe in Christianity alone? Each chapter deals with one of these questions. It explains the reasons and then also addresses responses or objections that might arise. There are also “Questions for Reflection” and recommended readings with every chapter. Just touching on one chapter, the second last deals with the problem of evil. It describes the problem and then explores two ways in which Christians have tried to address it, albeit unsatisfactorily. Instead, Oliphint attempts to offer biblical reasons as to how evil can co-exist with a good God. He points out that God has recognized the problem of evil from before creation. Furthermore, God created human beings in his image as responsible agents. When Adam and Eve fell, God rightly judged their sin. The real blame for evil is on them, not God. He then points out how God himself has dealt with, is dealing with, and will deal with the problem of evil through his Son Jesus Christ. This is a good explanation, but Oliphint might have said more. For instance, he could have added that because God is good, he must have a morally good reason for allowing whatever evil there is to exist. Not every Christian ponders the deeper questions of why we believe what we do. But if you or someone you know does, this will be a great read. It would also make a great gift for consistories to give to young people who make public profession of faith. A 12-part video series based on the book is also available. Here below you can see the episode based on "Chapter 5. Why Believe Jesus Rose from the Dead?" Dr. Bredenhof reviews many other books on his blog Yinkahdinay.wordpress.com. ...

Apologetics 101, Gender roles

Highflying comparisons, down-to-earth questions, and truthful declarations - apologetics in 3 steps

Bill Muehlenberg is one of Australia’s most insightful commentators, and in his recent column “Sex Wars: Can’t get no satisfaction” he quickly and succinctly highlighted how thinking just doesn’t make things so. He wrote: “…consider this meme making the rounds on various radical feminist, homosexual and trans websites: "Things that don’t necessarily make you a woman: - having breasts - having a vagina - menstruating - being pregnant - having a uterus - going through childbirth - having ovaries "Things that definitely make you a woman: - identifying as a woman "Oh dear. Let’s just change things around a bit and see how all this works out: "Things that don’t necessarily make you an airplane: - having two wings - having a fuselage - being able to fly - having a means of propulsion - being able to counter gravity - having the ability to take off, fly, and land - having landing gear "Things that definitely make you an airplane: - identifying as an airplane "Hey, why not? I happen to have NONE of the things listed above, but I sure do identify as an airplane. So who wants to go for a ride with me? Who is ready to fly the friendly skies with me?” This comparison is brilliant, but to expose the nonsense we need more. So how can we take this even further? First we have to understand what point we’re trying to make. In the gender identity wars, we have two points to make: God made us male and female Anyone who says anything else is talking rubbish. When the other side is downright silly, then the best way to point that out is to get them to explain themselves further – we can make our point by asking them to make theirs. If they insist that simply feeling like a woman can make you one, we need to ask, “What does it mean to feel like a woman?” Remember now, they’re denying all the obvious biological differences – being a woman has nothing to do with any particular body parts. As we’re hearing more and more often now, some women have penises. So if gender has nothing to do with our objective biological differences, then what’s left? What makes a woman a woman? Do women have different emotions? Different preferences? Different tendencies? Do they think differently? Perish the thought – as the feminists have long told us, there are no emotional, mental or psychological differences between men and women. Suggest that boys like trucks and girls like dolls and you’ll be told that’s just social conditioning…. and that you’re a Neanderthal for even thinking such a thing. But if there is nothing objective that makes one a man or a woman, and nothing subjective either, then what is this nonsense about feeling like another gender? According to the world, there are no such things as “gendered” feelings. Christians know better. God made us male and female, and while that has obvious outward biological differences, it extends beyond the physical. Sure, the different body parts are easier to identify, but the different attitudes, thought patterns, strengths and weaknesses do manifest themselves in general gendered divisions too. And in His wisdom, and perhaps even displaying His divine sense of humor, God has so arranged things that somehow these differences complement each other so that the two can become one flesh. Great analogies, like Muehlenberg’s above, and careful questioning are fantastic ways to point out the flaws in worldly ideology. But we can’t stop there. Our goal isn’t limited to exposing error; we want to share God’s Truth. And when it comes to gender, what an amazing Truth it is – one even Christians don’t begin to fully understand! God has not only made us male and female, but He has given us a mirror, in the relationship between husband and wife, to show us Christ’s relationship with his Church. It is a mystery. It is wonderful. And it is evident for any who have eyes to see....

Apologetics 101

Tactics in defending your faith

In 2018, Stand to Reason's Tim Barnett teamed up with Reformed Perspective, traveling to churches across Canada to speak on "Tactics in Defending our Faith." This video and the rough transcript below, are from his March 18 presentation in the Smithers Canadian Reformed Church in Northern BC. A brightened version of the video can be found here.  **** Alright, let's talk about tactics. I want you to imagine that you’re a student and you're hanging out with your friends in the hallway outside of the classroom. One of your friends in the group – maybe they're not a close friend – says, “I've never understood how anyone could believe in a good God. Look at all the evil in the world look at the shooting that took place a couple weeks ago. Some good God, right?” Or imagine you're at work and it's lunch hour and you're just hanging out with your co-workers trying to be social. You strike up a conversation and one of your co-workers says, “I can't believe anyone would believe a Bible that's so full of contradictions. Who would be dumb enough to believe that stuff?” Or maybe you're with your family at Easter and your atheist brother-in-law, or maybe it's a sister, is sitting on the couch across from you. And they say something like: “Billy Graham was a good guy except for the fact that he was an intolerant homophobic bigot.” Think about how you would respond in that situation. There's a whole lot of Christians, if we're honest with ourselves, who would say absolutely nothing. You might make a face, or you make an awkward head nod, or something. But you don't say anything. Most of us just want to keep our mouths closed, because we want to be nice. And we're probably thinking: “Oh, I couldn't change their mind anyway. In the next five minutes how am I going to have an impact? Are they going to come to faith in Christ in the next couple of minutes? I can't get them there.” That's a typical “religious” response: “If I can't get them to accept Christ in the next three minutes, then what's the point?” Now I want to say something that may surprise. I don't have it as my primary goal in any one of those short conversations to actually convert that person on the spot. Now, I want you to hear me out: of course, my goal is that they would come to Christ. But in that conversation I don't put that weight on my shoulders. Because if I do – if every conversation has to lead to a Gospel presentation – it can get a little awkward. Just imagine, you're talking with your friend, your unsaved friend, about the hockey game and you say something like: “Did you see the save that goalie made? What a shot, and then he made that awesome save. Oh, and that reminds me of how Jesus saves all of us..." You see how awkward that is to move from the hockey game to the Gospel? A little bit forced, right? A little bit contrived going from the weather to salvation. Sometimes it’s a little bit awkward to get there. Gosptacles There's also issues that get in our way. One of them is the culture is religiously ignorant. That's not a put-down – I'm trying to be accurate here. In our culture, when we start talking about the Gospel, it's like we're speaking Greek to them. This is truly a post-Christian culture that we're trying to witness to. They don't understand a lot of what we're talking about when we use words like sin and repentance, and they need to be defined. In addition, there are these things that I want to call “gosptacles” – obstacles to the gospel. Now don't look it up; it's not a real word, but it's a helpful way to remind you that apologetics what is fundamental to the gospel. Why? Because when you start sharing the gospel with this culture you've better believe that gosptacles are going to come up, and you're going to have to respond to them. For example, you go to your friend and you start talking about how Jesus died for their sins and all of a sudden they're talking about the Big Bang. And you're, like, “I'm talking about Jesus here; what are you talking about?” But the Big Bang is a gosptacle for them. You go to any university campus and you try and talk about the Gospel and I guarantee you one of the top five responses will be: “I can't believe you can believe in a loving God who would send anyone to hell.” Hell is a gosptacle for our culture. Even the Bible has become a gosptacle. I don't know if you're familiar with guys like Bart Ehrman. He's responsible for more Christians walking away from their faith than any other atheists alive today – not Richard Dawkins and The God Delusion. Bart Ehrman is a New Testament textual critic who says you can't trust your Bible. He says those words that you're reading in the pew are nothing like what the original author recorded. And a whole lot of students are buying into it. So the Bible becomes a gosptacle. You want to talk about the Bible? How can you believe that book that is so full of contradictions? Or all of a sudden evolution comes up you're thinking “I'm talking about Jesus Christ.” It’s a gosptacle. Francis Schaeffer said, in our cultures, before you can do evangelism you need to do pre-evangelism. There's people who are looking for us to tear down those strongholds before they will give you an ear to. So, yes, there is religious ignorance – that’s something out there. But there’s also something in here that we need to get over, and it's personal discomfort. There's a whole lot of people, even in this room, that if you had five minutes to give someone the Gospel, a complete stranger, well that just makes you a little bit uncomfortable. There’s a whole lot of people in this room who, when they hear someone say, “Oh those Christians are intolerant” or “They’re homophobic” you just want to walk the other way. You don't want to in on that conversation. We have to get over this idea of personal discomfort. There are obstacles out there, but there also something in here – personal discomfort – that we have to get over. This issue of personal discomfort reminds me of this video that was put up by the Billy Graham crusade. It doesn't have to be hard – that's the take-home message. And it’s not hard – we’re going to work through this. Ambassadors model’s three skills So I don't consider myself in any given conversation to be the evangelist. I think there are brilliant evangelist out there – Billy Graham was one of my heroes. I'll tell you what we all are called to be, and that is Christian ambassadors. We are ambassadors for Christ. Second Corinthians 5:20 says this: “Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ be reconciled to God.” So what does an ambassador look like? It's a good question – you're called to be an ambassador, so what does it look like? At Stand to Reason we’ve come up with this ambassador model. We think an ambassador for Christ has three essential skills. KNOWLEDGE The first is knowledge. Do you want to be a good ambassador for Christ? You’ve got to know some stuff. I think that makes sense. You don't have to know everything. You don't have to be a Ph.D.; you don't even have to have a master's degree. You’ve just got to know a little bit. You’ve got to get some facts right. WISDOM The second, you also need some wisdom. This is your method and this is what we're talking about right now – to communicate that knowledge in a persuasive and effective way, and that might involve using illustrations and analogies, and asking good questions. There's a whole lot of ways to be winsome, and have wisdom. This is going to be our game plan. CHARACTER Here's the last thing – you can have all the knowledge in the world, and be winsome, but if you don't have character, then just keep your mouth closed. There's a whole lot of apologists out there who’ve filled their minds with all kinds of stuff, but they're jerks, and they actually do a whole lot more damage than good. So character matters. If you want to talk about love with someone, you better show love. If you want to talk about respect, show respect. I like how Martin Luther King Jr. put it – he said this talking in the context of segregation and racism, and he's trying to change people's minds. Here's what he said: “Whom you would change, you must first love” and here's the catch: they must know that you love them. Oftentimes we get in these heated arguments – we'll call them discussions– where you disagree with me, and I disagree with you, and all of a sudden your ears feel like they're on fire. Right? We've all been there! Then, let's take a step back and ask, does that person know you love them? And maybe we react “Oh, of course, they know I love them!” No, but do they really know? That's important. Key texts Now, most people have the impression that we're all Christian ambassadors, but that there's this subset of apologist – it's like you have the police, and then there’s the SWAT team and they handle like the really difficult situations.  So all you guys are ambassadors but the apologists, they're the guys who maybe get paid to do this – Tim, you can do that but I'm good, thanks. No, it's not like that! Ambassadorsareapologists; that's just the way it is – I hate to break it to you. Let me prove it to you. If we go to First Peter 3:15 – a go-to verse on this issue: “…always be prepared to give an answer to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect…” It says this:  “Always be prepared to give an answer…” An answer? What's that? Well if you look at the Greek it's the word apologia which is actually the word that we get “apologetics” from. So always be prepared to give an answer – some translations say “defense” – to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. And then here's the character part – it's almost like Peter was anticipating that when people give answers they may not be nice about it and so he says “but do this with gentleness and respect.” How about this verse; I actually like this even better: “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ…” (2 Cor. 10:4-5) Destroying strongholds – we destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God and take every thought captive to obey Christ – that's what an apologist does. Or how about this one in Jude 3: “Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” How about one more? “‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’ Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’” (Matt 22:36-37). Now think about this. I get how we love God with all our heart and soul– that's just like during a worship song, or during moments of meditation, or prayer. But what about loving God with our mind? What does that look like? Well I think it looks like a couple of different things. I don't think we check our minds out when we're worshiping, but I think it also looks like study, understanding God's word, understanding arguments from the culture and how to respond to them. That's all loving God with our minds. Think about that parents, grandparents – how are we training our kids and our grandchildren to love God with their minds? What are we doing intentionally to do that? All right one more verse. I just I found this one recently and I love it Colossians 4:5-6 says: "Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person." “Walk in wisdom towards outsiders making the best use of your time”  That's be smart: “walk in wisdom making the best use of your time” Then it says “let your speech always be gracious seasoned with salt.” You know how salt makes things taste better? So let your speech be like that – this is be kind. And then finally, “…so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” – this is the tactical part, which is what we're gonna talk about. So be smart, be kind, and be tactical. Putting a stone in their shoe What does it look like? Let's get practical. All these verses, they’re great, and we thank God for them. But what does it look like for me when I'm sitting across at Easter with my atheist brother-in-law? When I'm at the lunch table and the person raises a challenge, what does it look like? I’ll tell you what it looks like: it's a stone in someone’s shoe. Have you ever had a stone in your shoe before, where you're walking along, and it's really annoying, and you can't seem to stop thinking about it until you take it out. You notice it don't you? Have you ever had a stone in your sandal before, like a flip-flop, and it seems to defy physics – you're, like, kicking it out and it stays in. You ever had that happen? That's crazy– it's got something to do with quantum physics or string theory or something like that. Click on the cover for our review. We're gonna put a stone in someone's shoe – okay, not physically, this is all kind of theoretical –  and we're going to get people thinking about what we just said, walking away, kind of annoyed, but in a good way, until they deal with the thing that we just put in their minds. Alright so, what I want to do is give you a game plan. No matter how little you think you know, or how shy you think you are, or how scared you might be, if you follow the rules of the game plan you are going to be all right, and you're going to be effective in being an ambassador for Christ. We're going to go from the content – what you know – to the conversationwith the game plan. The whole game plan is in this book, Tactics. Here's the thing: you shouldn't be allowed to graduate high school without reading Tactics. Seriously! This is like Critical Thinking 101. I'm going to take some of this from the book and present that to you. If you're interested in more of it you’ve got to read the book. So here's the thing: I used to think that when someone raised a challenge, that it was my job to answer it –be the Bible Answer Man. Maybe this is you too. So someone raised the challenge, “Christians are intolerant” or “Christians are irrational” or “All religions lead to God” or “The Bible is not true.” Of course, I thought, “Oh, you say God does not exist? Well, yes He does!” and then I go into my arguments for God's existence. But notice what happened there – they made the claim “God does not exist” or “Christians are irrational” or whatever, and now I'm doing all the work. No! If they make the claim they bear the burden of proof to defend the claim; it's not my job to start defending something that I didn't even assert. But this is what happens – Christians, we think “Oh, you said something so now I better go into Bible Answer Man mode.” I think that's the wrong approach. And I think that's why the Culture has been getting away saying a whole lot of ridiculous things, and they go unchecked. For far too long we've allowed people to make claims, statements, challenges, and fold their arms and then just say “I'm waiting Christian, answer – God doesn't exist. Now go ahead and refute me.” That's not our job. Our job is not to refute random statements like that. Columbo Tactic #1 – What do you mean by that? I want to give you the game plan. The game plan is what I'm going to call the “Columbo Approach” or the “Columbo Tactic.” Do you guys know who Lieutenant Columbo is? Raise your hand nice and high so I can see. Okay, good it's all the older people. No, there were some young people; you're watching the reruns. Let me tell you about Lieutenant Columbo. Okay, Lieutenant Columbo is a bumbling, seemingly inept, TV detective who has remarkable success in catching crooks. The inspector arrives on the scene of the crime and he's in complete disarray. I mean his hair is a mess; his trench coat looks like he slept in it; he’s got a cigar wedged between his fingers; he's got a notepad but he's got no pen or pencil and he's got to bum one off somebody. I mean, this guy to all appearances looks harmless and stupid, but he's not because Lieutenant Columbo has a game plan. So Lieutenant Columbo, he maybe poked around at the scene of the crime, and then he'd scratch his head and do his trademark move: he turned to maybe the suspect – the killer or the robber, whoever – and he'd say “There's something about this thing that bothers me. Then he turned to the suspect and say, “You seem like a very intelligent person. Maybe you could clear this up from me. Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?” And then he'd ask a few questions and he'd seem satisfied. And he’d maybe start walking away and then turn on his heel and remember something and say, “Just one more ting.” And then he’d one more “ting” them to death, with question after question after question. He’d say, “I know I know it's annoying but this is a habit” and this is a habit I think that Christians need to get into. We need to start asking questions, instead of making so many statements. There's going to come a time where we're going to have to make statements, obviously. But there's so many instances where a question would have been better than an assertion or a statement. This tactic, the key to it, is to go on the offensive but in an inoffensive way, Colombo-style, by selecting carefully crafted questions for the conversation. There's a book called In but not of by Hugh Hewitt. I'm not actually recommending the book because it wasn't actually that great but there was one chapter in it that was fascinating, and it was on questions. In fact, he says in any conversation you should ask a half a dozen questions. So you meet someone, just start asking questions. Well, why ask questions? Here's a list of reasons why we should start asking more questions. Questions help you understand a person's point of view. Oftentimes I'll have people come up to me after I give a talk and say “Tim, can you recommend a good book on Buddhism?” And I'll say, “Why do you want a book on Buddhism?” “Well, I have this friend and they're a Buddhist. I'd really like to be able to witness to them. So do you know a good book?” I'm thinking, “Wait, you want to learn about Buddhism. Your friend is a Buddhist. Why don't you ask them?” Doesn’t that make sense? Instead of reading a book that may or might not be on their version of Buddhism anyways, why not just sit down at Tim Hortons and learn about Buddhism from your friend? Seems smart enough, right? Questions take the pressure off you. When you're asking questions, you're not defending anything. You ever think about that? You're asking them; they're doing all the work. By the way, it's not a lot of work because, turns out, people like it when you ask them questions. You should try it sometime; it works! Questions keep you from distorting the person's view – you understand where they're coming from by getting by getting them to clarify their view Questions are friendly and they build relationships. This is so true. When I met my wife in university it turned out that our birthdays are one day apart – she's born on April 28th and I'm born on the 29th. She's two years younger than I am, but I got invited to her birthday party and I didn't really know anybody. She had this one guy friend and we sat down and we started chatting. We were at this bowling alley and I spent the whole night asking him questions, asking him questions, because I was reading this material. We all went home and I found out that he called my wife and said “That Tim guy is one of the most interesting people I've ever met.” I don't even think he knew my name! Okay, maybe that's the one thing he knew. De didn't know anything about me; I didn't talk about me. I spent the whole night asking about him. Let me tell you something, interested is interesting. It just is. And it turns out questions show you're interested. We're not faking it – I wasn't faking it; I wanted to know about him. It just so happens that I just kept asking the questions and he just kept answering. Questions give you an education. In many cases you don't need to go to university for this stuff. Just learn it from people who know something you don't. Questions don't require a defense, You put it all together, and questions get you in the game. Someone says something and you're just caught off guard, you're flat-footed, you don't know what to say. Questions get you in the game, okay? You don't have to hit home runs; you don’t have to get on base! If we had Christians that would step into the batter's box once in a while and just start swinging, I'm telling you this Culture would look a whole lot different. I also want to make a really important point and I think Blaise Pascal, the famous Christian mathematician and philosopher, hit it right on the head. Here what he says: “People are generally better persuaded by the reasons which they have themselves discovered than by those which have come into the minds of others.” Think about that. If you want to convince someone to be pro-life, if  you want to convince someone that marriage is a certain way, you want to convince someone about God's existence, then don't just say “Believe God exists.” Or “Here’s this, this, and this.” No, no – if you want someone to change their mind about something people are better persuaded by the reasons which they discover. Well, how can you help them discover reasons? You can do that by asking really good questions. I like how Francis Schaeffer puts it – this is so counterintuitive! He says, “If I have only an hour with someone, I will spend the first 55 minutes asking questions and finding out what is troubling their heart and mind, and then in the last five minutes I will share something of the truth." That is so counterintuitive, because I'd imagine I'm not the only one here who, if I had 60 minutes with an unbeliever, I’d preach at them for fifty five minutes and then at the end say, “Do you have any questions?” Right? That's just what we do. But here's the problem: So many times in our culture we will end up preaching sermons that nobody wants to hear, and answering questions that nobody was actually asking. That happens all the time. But let's say you don't like Francis Schaeffer and Blaise Pascal (who were both brilliant). You've heard of Jesus Christ and like to follow his example. Well, Jesus knew this better than anybody. Questions were Jesus’ tool of choice; we heard that in Matthew 21 – we didn’t even plan that; that was great. They were his tool of choice for friend and foe alike in the Gospels. This may surprise you: Jesus answered 183 questions. Wow! However – and this should astonish us – Jesus asked 307! Jesus – the smartest person who ever walked the face of the earth – asked more questions than he answered. Was that because he didn't know a whole bunch of stuff? Not even close! The reason he was asking these questions was to get people to, like Blaise Pascal said, rethink things within their own hearts and minds. He used questions to get them to think about their own worldview. This was important for people to evaluate and reevaluate their own beliefs. Alright, let's get to the game plan: the first Columbo question. It's going to be: “What do you mean by that?” Everyone say, “What do you mean by that?” I'll tell you what I mean by that! “What do you mean by that?” is your go-to question because this is the kind of question that gives you more information so that you can move into the conversation. I'm just going to step into the conversation. How am I going to do that? “What do you mean by that?” Someone is going to make a challenge and I'm just completely caught off guard but I do remember this question “What do you mean by that?” Now you get more specific, as we'll see in a second here, but this question allows you to clarify what the person is actually saying. Sometimes they don't even know what they're saying, as we're going to find out. So, “what do you mean by that?” CHALLENGE #1 – Evolution disproves God Let's do a little exercise here. First challenge: let's say you're with someone, your friend who's maybe not a believer, and they say “Evolution has proven that God isn’t necessary.” Now hold that knee down, okay, because I know your knee-jerk reaction is to do a roundhouse kick or something, right? It's to start going into your creation mode, but you didn't make a claim; they did! Evolution has proven that God is unnecessary? You're going to ask “What do you mean by that?” In fact, I would ask if I were you, “What do you mean by evolution?” because I can, off the top of my head right now, name six different definitions for evolution. I can tell you something right now, whether you are the most staunch young earth creationist in the room, you believe in evolution in some sense. That is, if we're just talking about change over time, then of course we all believe in evolution. But if we're talking about molecules-to-man then I'm sure – well I don't know how many people here – but most of you I'm almost positive would say, “No I don't believe in that.” So there you go, those two definitions shows it depends “What do you mean by evolution?” And by the way, in this discussion people do kind of the bait-and-switch. It's like, “Of course evolution is true; it happens all the time.” Well now, it just depends “What are you talking about with evolution here?” and“What do you mean by evolution here?” Good question to ask. CHALLENGE #2 – Christians are intolerant How about this one?“Christians are intolerant.” You're going to ask “What do you mean by that; what do you mean by intolerant?” because let me tell you something, the word tolerance has actually changed in our culture. Tolerance used to mean that we disagree but I'm going to respect your right to disagree – I'm going to respect you as a person. In fact, think about it: if you accept the view then you just accept it; you wouldn't tolerate it. The fact that you tolerate it means you disagree. But today tolerance means “all views are equal and if you think thatthey're not all equal you're intolerant” So the definition has changed! I would want to ask “What do you mean by intolerant?” and they say “Well, you think you're right and everyone else is wrong; you're intolerant.” I'd say, “Well are you saying that I'm wrong then? Do you think you're right and I'm wrong?” You know what I’m saying? It's self-refuting actually, if you think about it. So you want to ask some questions. “What do you mean by intolerant?” – that's going to get you in the game. CHALLENGE #3 – All religions are the same “All religions are basically the same.” What do you mean by “All religions are basically the same” what do you mean by basically the same? I was out on vacation a couple years ago with my in-laws. We're at the table and my sister-in-law had taken a philosophy class in university and she was trained in the idea of religious pluralism that all religions are basically the same, and she said that at the table. Again I had to fight my knee-jerk reaction, and I said: “What do you mean by basically the same?” Let me tell you something: don't be surprised when you ask a question like that and they have no idea. “Well they just are.” “No, you just said they're all basically the same and I'm wondering okay what part about them is basically the same.” But to her credit she said, “Well, the Golden Rule – they all have the Golden Rule. Well, that's actually not true – they all don't have “do unto others.” They don't all have it…but even if it was true, that doesn’t make them all basically the same. That is a superficial similarity when there are fundamental differences. The Golden Rule is a superficial moral similarity, when there are fundamental differences: when it comes to God, when it comes to things like, for Christians, the resurrection, who Jesus was, what is the problem of sin, what is the problem of humanity, what about eternal destiny, because hell and heaven and reincarnation, annihilation and non-existence are not all the same. CHALLENGE #4 – Irrational to believe in God How about this? “It's irrational to believe in the God of the Bible.” You're gonna ask? “What do you mean by irrational?” You're getting the hang of this. I know some of you are like, “I can't do this anymore.” Listen, you need to practice doing this because Easter's coming Okay, what do you mean by “the God of the Bible?” I do not want to talk to my atheist friend until I define what they mean by God. Seriously, who is the God you don't believe in? What do you mean by God, because it turns out, usually, the God they don't believe in is the same God I don't believe in. The God they don't believe in is like some finite Zeus-like creature who, you know, maybe has a temper tantrum here and there. It’s finite so they can't really do much, and there are created, that kind of thing. That's not the God of the Bible, so the God they don't believe in – I'm joining them – I don't believe in that God either! That's an idol; I don't believe in those. CHALLENGE #5 – My body; my choice How about this one? “My body; my choice” is a very common pro-choice slogan. You see it on bumper stickers, t-shirts you name it. You're going to ask, “What do you mean by choice?” If we're going to talk about being pro-choice/pro-life I want to know what you mean by choice. What are the choices we're talking about, because some choices I'm absolutely pro-choice about. I'm pro-choice about which school women go to, and who they marry, and what they want to wear, and what doctor they have, and all that, so I'm pro-choice about all that stuff. But some choices are immoral, like killing innocent defenseless human beings. They just are. And they recognize that some things we should be anti-choice about. Should we be pro-choice about drinking and driving? No, we shouldn't be. In fact, they have laws against drinking and driving? Why? To protect people. Yeah, so most people are anti-choice about that. What about “my body”? “What do you mean by your body?” Well, it turns out it's a body inside your body. That's just science. Different DNA. How many eyes does that woman have? She didn’t just get two more – those are in a different body. In fact, that body inside her body could have a different gender! So it's definitely not the woman's body; there's another body in play. CHALLENGE #6 – The Bible condones slavery How about this: “The Bible condones slavery”? Lots of challenge go against the Bible. Someone says “the Bible condones slavery” and you may not know how to respond, but you could ask “What do you mean by slavery?” and “What do you mean by condones? Oh you’ve got to show me that – in what passage does it say ‘thou shalt own slaves?’” Because not everything the Bible describes is it prescribing. The Bible describes lots of stuff that it's not saying “go out and do.” It's just giving a description of history. What do you mean by slavery? What do you mean by condones? Columbo Tactic #2: How did you come to that conclusion? All right, don't be surprised that if you use the first Columbo tactic (which is very powerful) “what do you mean by that?” and you get a blank stare and complete silence. Seriously. And this is not your chance to jump all over them and say “Ha! Gotcha – you're so stupid!” or something like that. No, remember the character part? This is your chance to show grace and love. So you're going to be patient, and you may say “You know, maybe you need to think more about that; we could talk about it again some other time,” or something like that. By the way fellas, married men, if your wife calls you an idiot don't respond by asking her “What do you mean by that?” Just saying. I may know that from experience. How about this one? Second Columbo question. We’re only going to give you two Colombo’s: “What do you mean by that?” and the second one is, “How did you come to that conclusion? The first question gives you more information but eventually you've got to stop asking “What do you mean by that?” It's like your kids going on, “Why, why, why?” Okay, stop it! What do you mean by that, what do you mean by that, what do you mean by that? Okay, now I’ve got enough information. You can ask it, you can ask it until you get the information. But now you’ve got to find out – here I know what you mean, but why are you saying that? Why do you believe that? How did you come to that conclusion? This is a very generous question because it assumes people have come to a conclusion. And usually, from my own experience when I talk to people, they didn't conclude anything. They're just emoting and asserting, and they read it on a bumper sticker somewhere, or they heard someone on TV say it, and yeah that sounds good, and “When they accepted that award at the Oscars they said the same thing so it must be true.” This kind of thing. Here's the general rule: Whoever makes the claim bears the burden of proof to defend the claim. That goes for you too Christian. You say Jesus rose from the dead; I hope that you can defend that claim. But if they're making claims, like God doesn't exist, then we got to make sure we hold their feet to the fire a little bit and say “Okay, you just made a claim; now you need to defend it” so they bear the responsibility to give a defense for that claim. Christians are not the only ones who give defenses for things – everyone is an apologist for their view. And it turns out we just haven't done a good job making our atheist friends, or whoever, could be another Christian who just holds a conflicting view of yours. and you want to challenge it. Now let me give you an illustration of how this works. I was at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) when I was going through Teachers College. I went and got my degree in physics and then I went to Teachers College to get my Bachelor of Education so I could become a teacher. One of the things that we did was we went on all kinds of field trips to the zoo, and they showed us kind of behind-the-scenes, what's going on there, so that we would bring our students when we became teachers. So we're getting a tour and we're walking through the ROM and I'm with my friends. You’ve got to understand when I was in Teachers College I needed Stand To Reason and these other ministries because it was like me against everyone. I went to the University of Ontario Institute of Technology with all these other future science teachers and they all held views contrary to my own. Every day I would spend more time going home and looking on apologetics websites than doing my homework – somehow I still passed – and I would come back and it would be like me, and I'm not joking against 15, 20 people. It was always gracious. In fact, some of these guys went on to get jobs, became department heads, and people who vehemently disagreed with me, are trying to offer me jobs. “Tim my physics guy is retiring; you’ve got to come work in my department.” That's when you know you've got that good relationship, that they know you love them. So I'm standing next to this thing, that's a Brachiosaurus – it's the largest sauropod dinosaur in Canada, actual skeleton, actual fossil – and we have myself, my atheist friend, and he's bit shorter so he looked up at me like this, and he said “There's no way Noah's fitting that on the ark.” To which I had to fight my knee-jerk reaction, right, to do that roundhouse kick again. Again, I didn't make a claim; I don't need to defend anything here. So what I do is I ask a few questions, kind of a how-did-you-come-to-that-conclusion although they were much more specific. I said, “Okay, you don't think Noah could get that down on the ark, then clearly you must know how big the boat was.” He said, “No, I have no idea; nobody knows how big the boat was.” I said “Actually I think it's recorded in Genesis” so that was news to him. You’ve just got to make the conversion from cubits to meters. And then I asked, “Okay, you don't know how big the boat was; then you must know how many animals were on the boat because obviously, you know if it wasn't that many maybe….” And he's like “How could anyone know how many animals were on the boat?” I think, Wait, you don't know how many animals were on the ark, and you don’t know how big it was but you're certain there's no way Noah’s get that on the ark. Anyways, this right here is a baby Brachiosaurus and so long as you get a pink one and a blue one you'll be ok. You see the approach. You're going to want to be the Bible Answer Man. That’s how you've been trained, for whatever reason. That's just how we react as human beings, even when what you need to do is start asking questions. The Gauntlet This person had thrown down the gauntlet. A gauntlet is a medieval glove but in our culture today what they do is they throw down the gauntlet and then they celebrate like they just won. I'm not gonna show you my celebration dance; I almost did but I pulled back here. They throw it down and they celebrate. No, no, that's not how this works. In medieval times you throw down the gauntlet, someone picks it up, and then the duel happens. So we have to change our approach. We have to point this stuff out: you made a claim, now defend it. Now the second Columbo question is actually, again, very, very generous because it assumes that a person actually came to a conclusion. Again, don't be surprised if you say, “How did you come to that conclusion?” and they're thinking “What are you talking about? What do you mean, what reasons do I have for believing that?” and they don't have any good reasons. In that case, you're gonna have to be gracious again. So in summary, we've just looked at two Columbo questions. The first one tells you what the person believes, and the second one tells you why they believe it – what they believe, why they believe it – and that's exactly what Christians should know. We’ve got to know what we believe and why we believe it. As well, notice that these questions keep you out of the hot seat and, in a certain sense, you're in the driver's seat. When you're asking questions you're kind of steering the conversation where you would like it to go and that's a good place to be. When you are out of your depth Now let me make a couple of final remarks. It turns out that you could end up asking the wrong person the right questions, but you find out this person is really smart, like they are way smarter than me. You’re thinking, oh I'm gonna try Columbo on my next airplane ride but it turns out the guy next to you is like a quantum physicist. And you're like, Why did I open my big fat mouth? That kind of situation. Well, what happens when you're outgunned like that and you feel like you're in over your depth? I'll tell you what you do. You stick to the game plan. Here's what you do – and this works online too by the way – let's say you're messaging with someone and you're in a conversation you can't end. That's the problem with Facebook conversations; they never end because it’s just comment, comment, comment. How do I get out of this? It's a black hole! So here's what you do. You say. “You obviously are very smart; you've done a lot of reading on this. Maybe you’ve got a Ph.D. in philosophy and you're an atheist and you debate people for a living. Okay, great. Tell me what you believe and I'm going to write it down. Or I'm going to memorize. Okay, this is what you believe? And why is it you believe that?” Those are the two questions. And here's the magic words – you ready for the magic words? – “Now let me think about it.” You see how that works? “Let me think about it,” because that's exactly what they want you to do, and that's exactly what you're going to do. You're going to think about what they've just told you, when the pressure is off, because I'm telling you, maybe you're like me, but my neurons don't fire as well when I'm in the heat, in the middle of a conversation. Tensions are a running high. Sometimes actually I think they shut right down. So you want to take that information, and now I'm sitting in front of my computer I'm going to Stand To Reasons website STR.org and hey, “Maybe Tim has an article about that” and then you can find out more information. Or you're going to go to ReformedPerspective.ca and you're going to say “Hey they just wrote about that last week and look it there's – all the information I need.” That's why we exist: trying to get that information so that you can do something with it. Strengthen your own faith and then go and have an impact on the Culture. Flashlight, not a hammer Here’s this – I’ve got just two more slides, so hang on here. Questions are not meant to be used as a hammer to beat people up. I'm telling you, you start doing this (and you need to start doing this) and you're going to see that you can hurt people. You just can; you may not even mean to but you can, because you're going to find out people are not as smart as they think they are. They just haven't thought things through. They don't even know how to think critically; they just don't. I used to teach high school – I taught in the Christian school system and I taught in the public school system. Let me tell you something: a lot of the kids that are out there just cannot think critically because they were never taught to think critically. They're taught to memorize a whole bunch of information but never how to think. Questions are not a hammer to beat people up. I'll tell you what they are: it's how Jesus used them. They're a flashlight to guide people towards the truth. They're a flashlight to point people towards the truth. Sweat now Last thing: the Marines have a slogan in the States and it's translated from Latin into English and here's what it is: The more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in battle Why am I telling you this? Because something like sixty to seventy-five percent of young people in our congregations go off to university, many to secular universities and they end up walking away from the church. Why do they do that? The number one reason, the most popular response is intellectual doubt and skepticism. They do not know how to interact with the aggressive professor or the friend or whoever. So what I'm telling you is the more you sweat in training nowt hen when you get into those conversations you're not going to bleed out on the battlefield. And we have a whole lot of students that are bleeding it on the battlefield. And even at the workplace or wherever. I want to encourage you that we need to practice what I'm preaching here. That may mean tomorrow morning at breakfast, start asking these questions. That may mean before we go to bed, or on the drive home, “Oh so do you guys want to stop at Wendy's?” “What do you mean by that?” you know this kind of thing. Just do it. Because now it's second nature for me. I just kept doing this and kept doing it, and now my wife asks me “Do you want chicken for dinner?” and this is what happens: she gets kind of angry “Don't use that stuff on me.” But when it becomes second nature, then when the pressure is on three weeks from now, a month from now, six months from now, and you find oh my, now I'm face to face with that opponent, that person who disagrees with me, you're going to want this to come to mind. And it won't come to mind, it just won't, if you haven't been practicing it....

Apologetics 101, Sexuality

10 tales to help us clear away transgender confusion

We live in a time when the obvious is not so. How exactly can we explain to someone who doesn’t get it, that saying you’re a woman doesn’t make you one? Three thousand years ago the prophet Nathan faced the same sort of problem – how to effectively explain the obvious. Anyone who has heard the Ten Commandments knows that murder and adultery are sins and yet King David had done both and remained entirely unrepentant. So in comes Nathan, with a story about a rich man who’d stolen and eaten his poor neighbor’s only sheep (2 Sam. 12). David, blind to his own sins, condemned the rich man to death for actions that paled in comparison to his own. That’s when Nathan connected the dots for him: if you think sheep stealing is bad, then what should you think about wife stealing? “You are the man!” he thundered. And David’s eyes were opened. Transgenders and their allies need their eyes opened too. To help clear away their confusion, here are 10 news items and other illustrations. They can be used in back-fence conversations or in letters to the editor or to our elected officials, and come in three broad groupings: A. We shouldn’t encourage people to harm themselves B. People can be wrong about their own bodies C. Wishing doesn’t make it so These analogies are like warning signs that tell us “Turn around!” “Hazardous!” and “Do not go any further!” That’s helpful, but a “Wrong way” sign only tells us what not to do. It doesn’t really point us in the right direction. So it’s important to understand that while these analogies can expose the transgender lie, they don’t do much to point people to the truth. For that we need to share God’s thoughts on gender, that He created us male and female (Gen. 5:2), and that when we deny this reality bad stuff happens – then we arrive at a point where the cruel and the sadly comical are celebrated and encouraged. What follows are examples of where this reality-denying path leads. A. WE SHOULDN’T ENCOURAGE PEOPLE TO HARM THEMSELVES The majority of transsexuals don’t undergo surgery, but many do. This involves cutting pieces of their body off. Why are we encouraging this self-harm? Lonely man wants to be a parrot Ted Richards likes parrots, and in an effort to look more like his pets he has had the whites of his eyes inked, feathers tattooed on his face, horns inserted into his skull, and his ears cut off. He has also recently changed his name to Ted Parrotman. One article had him saying he had only two friends. His loneliness comes out in other ways too – he has no regrets about changing his surname because: “I’ve not had any contact with my mother and father for years because we didn’t really get on – I don’t even know if they’re dead or alive, and I also don’t talk to my siblings anymore – so I felt no connection to having a family name.” When he appeared on The Jeremy Kyle Show the crowd applauded when the host declared, “There’s nothing wrong with being different.” No, but there is something wrong with cheering on self-destructive behavior. Abled bodied man cuts off one arm In 2015 the National Post profiled “One Hand Jason,” a man who cut off his right arm with a “very sharp power tool.” According to the Post: His goal was to become disabled. People like Jason have been classified as “transabled” – feeling like imposters in their bodies, their arms and legs in full working order. Like the transgendered, transabled people feel they have been born in the wrong bodies, but instead of objecting to their genitalia, the transabled object to their limbs, or their hearing, or even their lack of paralysis. And like the transgendered, some seek to address this discomfort by cutting bits of themselves off. Woman blinds herself Jewel Shuping wanted to be blind ever since she was a girl. She bought herself a white cane at 18 and learned Braille by 20, and then, at 23, paid a psychologist to pour drain cleaner in her eyes. She told the British Tabloid The Sun: “I really feel this is the way I was supposed to be born, that I should have been blind from birth.” B. PEOPLE CAN BE WRONG ABOUT THEIR OWN BODIES The previous three examples could also fall into this category, but Kevin DeYoung’s illustration that follows is especially good. Girl’s anorexia is affirmed In A Transgender Thought Experiment Kevin DeYoung tells the fictional story of a young woman who at just 95 pounds still thinks of herself as fat. She asks her counselor for help and he shows himself to an affirming sort. Rather than address her anorexia the counselor tells her: “If you tell me you’re fat, I’m not going to stand in the way of you accepting that identity….You are fat. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s who you are.… No one can tell you what’s right or wrong with your body. After all, it’s your body…. it’s okay if you don’t eat much for lunch. Weight is only a social construct. Fat is a feeling, not a fact.” C. WISHING DOESN’T MAKE IT SO Four of the examples that follow are actual people, but the best illustration is probably the last one in this grouping, where Joseph Backholm asks a series of hypothetical questions to university students. And if people don’t believe the hypothetical could ever become actual, real examples are plentiful. Woman says she is another race The Afro-wearing, dark-skinned Rachel Dolezal was the president of the Spokane chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) from 2014 until June of 2015 when she resigned after it was revealed that both her biological parents were white. She later stated that she was “biologically born white to white parents, but I identify as black.” Man says he is another age Paul Wolscht is a heavy-set, six-foot tall, 52-year-old who wants to be a six-year-old girl named Stefoknee. In a video interview with the gay news site The Daily Xtra Wolscht explained that he has “an adopted mommy and daddy who are totally comfortable with me being a little girl. And their children and grandchildren are totally supportive.” “It’s liberated me from the hurt. Because if I’m six years old, I don’t have to think about adult stuff…I have access to really pretty clothes and I don’t have to act my age. By not acting my age I don’t have to deal with the reality that was my past because it hurt…” Wolscht has abandoned his wife of more than 20 years and his seven children, deciding that playing the part of a six-year-old girl is more to his liking than his role of husband and father. However, Wolscht has not abandoned caffeine or his car: “I still drink coffee and drive a car, right, even my tractor, but still I drive the tractor as a little kid. I drive my car as a little kid.” But, of course, six-year-olds really shouldn’t drink coffee, and driving is out of the question. So whether six or 52, Wolscht is not acting his age. One more thought to consider – Wolscht’s childish claims have been treated with respect by The Daily Xtra but what would they think of the reverse? As one of my teenage nieces put it, “Can I identify as a 22 year old and order a drink at a bar? Can I identify as a 16 year old and get my license?” Teens to get seniors’ discount? In April the American department store chain Target announced that they would “welcome transgender team members and guests to use the restroom or fitting room facility that corresponds with their gender identity.” In May the Christian satire site The Babylon Bee came out with an item about how the store would now allow “grant a 10% senior discount to any person who self-identifies as age 60 or older.” Woman says she another species Nano, a Norweigan woman claims she is a cat. She wears cloth ears and will, on occasion, crawl around on her hands and knees and meow at people. In a video interview with reporter Silje Ese she says she was 16 when she first realized she was a cat trapped in a human’s body. She distinguished her situation from that of her friend Svein, who, she says, is a human with a cat personality in his head (one of several personalities he exhibits), whereas she was born a cat. They both claimed to be able to communicate to each other in “cat language,” a claim which the reporter did not, of course, put to the test. Man says he is “mythical beast” Richard Hernandez has had his scales tattooed onto his face, arms and body, his ears removed, his eye whites dyed green, and his nostrils trimmed. Why? So he can become a female dragon. On one of his many blogs he describes himself as: “…the Dragon Lady…in the process of morphing into a human dragon, becoming a reptoid as I shed my human skin and my physical appearance and my life as a whole leaving my humanness behind and embracing my most natural self awareness as a mythical beast.” Guy says he is another height, gender, race and age In a popular YouTube video called College Kids Say the Darndest Things: On Identity, the short, very white, Joseph Backholm asked Washington University students if he could be a tall Chinese first-grader. They told him to go for it. https://youtu.be/xfO1veFs6Ho CONCLUSION These are fantastic illustrations of the insanity that results when we deny that it’s God who gets to define reality and not us. But the better the illustration, the stronger the temptation to rely on the story to do all the work for us. But like the prophet Nathan before us, after telling these tales we’ll need to spell out the transgender connection for our listening audience. What that might look like? Maybe a bit like this: Christian: Have you heard about the guy who cut off his arm because he felt like he should have been born disabled? Secular Sue: That is crazy! Someone needed to help that poor guy. He needed some counseling or something. Chris: I agree. But I got a question for you – some guys will cut off a significant bit of themselves because they think they should have been born girls. Do you think that’s crazy too? Sue: I think that’s different – gender is just a social construct, so if someone feel they are the wrong gender, then maybe surgery like that can help. Chris: So it’s crazy to cut off your arm but okay to cut off your…? Sue: Well…. Chris: Why the hesitation? Sue: Because when you put it like that it doesn’t sound quite right. Chris: That’s because it isn’t right. Self-mutilation is wrong. There’s a guy who was on a talk show about how, to become more like his parrots, he’d cut off his ears. The crowd applauded. Sue: Oh, that’s awful. Chris: I agree. But isn’t this just the logical end to encouraging transgenderism? If gender is changeable, what isn’t? And if all is changeable, how can we discourage anyone from trying to do just that? To each their own and all that. But Christians know that God made us male and female; we know He gets to define reality and we don’t; and we know that when we defy His reality, bad stuff results. Like people cutting off their ears to the approval of the clapping crowd. We’re not going to convince everyone, no matter how brilliant the analogy, so that mustn’t be our measure for success. Instead, we want to ask is, are we bringing clarity? Are eyes being opened? Is the world being presented with the choice they need to make? Do they realize they can either choose for God, male and female, and reality as He has defined it… or they choose chaos? https://youtu.be/q5-hq7wVOFc...

Apologetics 101, Pro-life - Abortion

Apologetics 101: Stay on message

Step 1. Figure out what you’re really trying to say Step 2. Don’t let anyone or anything distract you from saying it ***** Scott Klusendorf is a full-time pro-life apologist, which means he gets screamed at a lot. One of the more common squawks goes something like this: “You aren’t pro-life; you’re just pro-birth! You want to tell women what they can do with their bodies, and don’t give a rip what happens to the kid after it’s born!” How would you respond? God tells us that sometimes silence is the best response. He warns us that trying to be heard over a red-faced, spittle-spewing, murder-marketer’s screams will only make us look just as foolish (Prov. 26:4). But what about when the accuser really wants a response? What about when there is a listening audience gathered round? How should we answer then? We could point to the pro-lifers we know who donate to, or volunteer at, pregnancy centers. We could list everyone we know who’ve adopted or fostered children. And for good measure we might mention the way our churches care for the elderly and the sick, and the unemployed, and just generally show love for our born neighbors too. If we’re feeling feisty, we might even go on the offensive and ask, “How much time and money do you donate to care for others?” knowing that the typical critic is doing nothing or next to it. That’s an answer that might shut them up. But it’s not the answer Scott Klusendorf gives. He goes a different direction because he understands the abortion debate is largely one of truth versus, not simply lies, but evasion. The other side doesn’t want to debate whether the unborn are precious human beings like you and I; instead they sidetrack the discussion to any other topic. They’ll talk about how poor some mothers are, and how unwanted some babies are. They’ll attack men for daring to speak on the issue. In the latest pro-abortion stunt, groups of women will parade around in red dresses patterned after victims’ attire in a dystopian novel about political leaders who get away with ritual rape. The accusation that loving unborn babies is akin to rape is as bizarre as it is repugnant. But as much as insults hurt, they don’t do the same damage as suction machines. That’s why our focus has to be on the unborn, and sharing where their worth comes from. As much as abortion advocates want to sidetrack the issue, we can’t let them divert us from highlighting how our country’s smallest citizens are being murdered. How do we stay on message? By absorbing the insult. If they want to argue that pro-lifers don’t give a rip about children once they are born, we can grant their point and play a game of “what if…” Klusendorf’s response to attacks goes something like this: “What if I was the cold-hearted jerk you’re making me out to be? What if I was the worst human being in the world? How does me being a jerk have any impact on the humanity of the unborn?” When Kristan Hawkins, president of the Students for Life of America, was asked why pro-lifers weren’t offering solutions for the foster-care crisis she played the “what if” game too. What if the accusation was true? What if pro-lifers were only concerned with the unborn? She asked her accuser: “Are you upset that the American Diabetes Association doesn’t fight cancer?” She continued: “There is no other act of violence that kills more people every single day in America and across the world, than abortion. There’s nothing wrong with me fighting, and spending 100% of my time doing it. Just like there’s nothing wrong with the American Diabetes Association putting 100% of their money, their research and time behind curing Juvenile Diabetes…. The reality is, you don’t really care what I do. That I support children in third world countries. Or that I might be volunteering in a soup kitchen....  It’s just an argument to stop the actual discussion from happening, which is that abortion is a moral wrong and it should be stopped.” There’s an old joke about a pastor who, in his sermon’s margins, wrote: ”Point weak here; thump pulpit harder.” The world has no strong points, so they have to pound the podium till they bleed, shrieking their insults to try to drown out the Truth. They don’t want to have the debate. We can’t let them distract us from it. As the Westminster Shorter Catechism explains, we’re on Earth to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. When we make His glory our first concern, we won’t sweat it when someone attacks our name – that won’t stop us from talking about God’s Truth. When we’re enjoying His love we won’t worry about having the world’s approval – that can’t stop us from defending unborn children made in His image. And when we recognize the world only hates us because they hated Him first (John 15:18) we will rejoice in the good company we are keeping. ...

Documentary, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

How to Answer the Fool

85 min / 2013 RATING 8/10 Some Christians will try to provide atheists with reasons for why they should believe in the Bible, and for why they should believe in God. In How To Answer The Fool, Sye Ten Bruggencate teaches us to skip past this, to start with the Bible, and to instead present to the unbeliever the fact that it is only by acknowledging God, and the Bible as his Word, that the world makes any sense. Or to borrow from a C.S. Lewis analogy In Weight of Glory, this is believing in the Bible for the same sort of reason we believe in the Sun. It's not because we see it but because by it we can see everything else. This beginning-with-the-Bible defense of our faith is called “presuppositional apologetics.” Presuppositions are the things we assume as true at the beginning of an argument. Both Christians and atheists have presuppositions, but the point Ten Bruggencate makes in this film is that only ours make sense. He focuses on the issue of reason here, showing that while atheists will assume the existence of reason and logic (it is one of their presuppositions) they really have no basis in their worldview to believe in their reasoning – why would we expect a randomly generated universe be a rational one, and why would we assume that any beings in such a universe would be rational, and their logic trustworthy? He makes his case so well that the university students he's interacting with give up on reason, and start to argue that they actually know nothing. That's a logical enough conclusion based on the atheist/evolutionary worldview they continue to cling to, but even they get how comical it is to hear a person paying thousands of dollars a year to attend an institute of higher learning deny that they can know or learn anything. Eye-opening scenes like this one make this a must-see film for absolutely every Christian. And, thankfully, you can do so for free! Fool vs. Collision There is another notable presuppositional apologetics film, made just a few years before Fool, and it's worth comparing the two. Both are fantastic, but they each have their particular strengths. In Collision, Pastor Douglas Wilson takes on atheist Christopher Hitchens, and rather than reason, Wilson focuses his attention on the atheist's inability to account for morality. In taking on one of the biggest, baddest atheists of our time, and doing so with a smile and a wink, Wilson demonstrates apologetics at its most winsome. That winsomeness, if not altogether missing in How to Answer the Fool, is at least in shorter supply. That said, How to Answer the Fool is the more instructive film, because it explains for the viewer the philosophy, or the underpinnings, of presuppositional apologetics – it gives us more insight into the why behind how Sye is guiding conversations. Conclusion So watch the Fool to figure out what presuppositional apologetics is all about, and then follow-up with Collision to see it winsomely demonstrated....

Apologetics 101

The JFK assassination and apologetics: the facts don't speak for themselves

Movie director, Oliver Stone, unleashed a Pandora's Box at the box-office in 1991 with the release of his controversial film, JFK. The movie, which was a technological marvel and starred Kevin Costner along with a host of well-known actors, explored the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the Warren Commission Report regarding the tragedy, and a complex conspiracy theory which sought to "get to the real truth" behind an alleged cover-up. The Stone movie provoked a phenomenal response. Some people were outraged at its ugly implications, or at its own distortion of testimony, or at its white-wash of questionable sources, or even at its amazing editing and weaving of soundbites, visual images, changing angles, flashbacks and anticipations, documentary coverage and interpretive re-creations. Other people are equally outraged at finding out how poorly the subsequent investigation into the assassination was handled, and how many disturbing pieces of evidence or testimony were squashed or ignored, and how outlandish the explanations of the single-assassin theory had to become, and how our own government agencies may have been entangled or willing to look the other way. Newsweek magazine was so egged on by the movie that it decided to throw rotten eggs in return, giving it prime attention on its front cover with the heading: "The Twisted Truth of 'JFK' - Why Oliver Stone's New Movie Can't Be Trusted" (Dec.23, 1991). On the other hand, the local bookstores have been doing a rousing business in selling books which are relevant to rebutting the Warren Commission conclusions and exploring theories which, despite their conspiratorial character, pay compelling attention to details. Among the most important are the two books by lawyer Mark Lane: Rush to Judgment (a 1966 cross-examination of the Warren Commission, both thorough and sober) and Plausible Denial (a more recent book purporting to show C.I.A. involvement to some degree in the assassination). The massive analysis of Jim Marris (who teaches a college course on the subject) runs over 600 pages in length, and is entitled Crossfire: The Plot That Killed Kennedy. Also worthy of mention is On the Trail of the Assassins, written by former New Orleans District Attorney, Jim Garrison, whose investigation and eventual trial of Clay Shaw for alleged participation in a scheme to kill the president was the organizing plot of the Oliver Stone movie. On the downside of credibility for the conspiracy theorists is the large number of such theories which have been advanced. Granted, some are more plausible and well-reasoned than others, but the fact that there are so many of them is disturbing, each offering somewhat convincing evidence. Who should be fingered for the crime? The C.I.A.? Military intelligence? The mafia? The F.B.I.? The Vice-President? Anti-Castro Cubans? Pro-Castro communists? Right-wing extremists? Pro-Soviet communists? All of the above? None of the above? For years the thesis that Lee Harvey Oswald was the man who shot President Kennedy, and that he acted alone, has seemed relatively easy to accept. The public was told that an eyewitness saw Oswald in the book depository building window. A rifle was discovered there which not only had Oswald's palm-print, but had been purchased by mail order under an assumed name, identification for which Oswald was carrying on him. His own wife said she believed he was the killer. The FBI found incriminating photos at Oswald's home, later published by Life magazine. The man had previously renounced the United States and lived in the Soviet Union! No, the case against Oswald was not hard to believe. Yet there always had been disturbing elements in the story. Why was Oswald deprived of legal counsel, and why was no record made of police interviews with him? How did a man (Jack Ruby) simply walk in off the street, stride right up to Oswald in the presence of dozens of officers, and shoot him point blank? What do we make of eyewitnesses who said they previously saw Oswald and Ruby together in Ruby's nightclub? Why did the people who were present in Deleay Plaza when Kennedy was shot run forward toward the fence on the grassy knoll, seeking the shooter, instead of running back toward the depository building? Fifty-one witnesses claim to have heard shots from the direction of the grassy knoll! Why did the medical doctors initially report an entry wound to Kennedy's throat, if he had been shot (only) from behind? Why do films show his head recoiling from a frontal (and from the right) shot? The Oswald theory would require that no more than three shots were fired – although ballistics experts were unable to replicate even that feat within the relevant time restraint (5.6 seconds) with a bolt-action rifle like Oswald's. However, acoustics evidence now proves there were at least four shots. On the Oswald hypothesis, one of the assassin's three bullets needed to inflict seven wounds in two bodies (Kennedy's and Governor Connally's) – some at nearly right angles – and emerge in almost pristine condition! Photographic experts have discredited the Life magazine pictures of Oswald as edited composites. Marina Oswald's opinion of her husband's involvement actually changed (following virtual house-arrest for weeks with the FBI) from an initial disputing of it. Paraffin tests performed on Oswald's cheeks the day of the assassination demonstrated that he had not fired a rifle that day. When the FBI turned over the alleged murder weapon, it reported that there were no prints (where the palm print later appeared). Initial autopsy reports on Kennedy were destroyed... The case against Oswald looked strong for a time (and still does for many people), but now that case begins to appear rather weak (if not being fully refuted according to some people).  So what? For our present purposes, it is not really relevant whether the Oswald-as-lone-assassin theory regarding Kennedy's assassination is accurate or not. It is not my intention to take sides on this troubled question here. Rather, it is the controversy itself that is raging over this question which should interest us, for this dispute provides a very fruitful education into the real character of what we sometimes call "factual investigation" and illustrates the nature of historical (and forensic) argumentation. Oddly enough, the controversy over the Kennedy assassination provides an opportunity for Christians to learn something valuable about apologetical method - the defense of their faith. Popular and widely published apologists for the Christian faith often tell us, for example, that the most persuasive way to practice the defense of the faith is simply to provide unbelievers with "the facts" of history (the raw evidence of eye-witness testimony) and challenge them that any "rational" man would have to conclude that this evidence "proves" with practical certainty that Jesus rose from the dead – as the most astounding miracle of history. This approach has always seemed more than a bit naive. And the controversy surrounding the Kennedy assassination makes that naiveté stand out all the more prominently. The facts don't speak for themselves Evangelical apologists who think that a presentation of "the fact" of history is enough to vindicate the truth of Christianity against the skeptical challenges of unbelievers overlook the way in which people reach – and critically maintain – their personal conclusions about fundamental and important issues. Those who think that unbelievers would become believers if only they were made aware of the observational "evidence" (the testimony of alleged eyewitnesses) do not fully grasp the key issues in the philosophical study of the theory of knowledge (epistemology). What they do not realize is that, contrary to a popular aphorism, the "facts" do not "speak for themselves." What people see (or hear) will be unavoidably interpreted according to their other beliefs, their personal expectations and values, and their governing presuppositions. "The facts" do not simply stand "out there" with their meaning inherent in them, waiting to be seen for what they are regardless of what the commitments and beliefs may be of those who find "the facts." What a person will take to be a "fact" and how that fact is interpreted and related to other beliefs is not determined alone by the perceptions or observations (or observation-reports) which a person has. His thinking will be guided by various assumptions or controlling presuppositions. There were plenty of eyewitnesses at the very scene of the crime when President Kennedy was assassinated. In our day we enjoy incredibly advanced techniques and technologies for investigation of evidence, physical and personal. Hundreds of people have been hard at work dealing with the relevant clues and testimony concerning the killing of JFK. Do "the facts speak for themselves"? Do they? The fact that advocates of the Warren Commission's theory debate ferociously with critics of the Commission tells you that much more is involved here than a simple look at "the facts and nothing but the facts" concerning a particular event which transpired in 1963. The fact that critics of the Warren Commission disagree widely with each other in proposing other theories about the assassination of Kennedy tells you that there is much more involved here than a simple amassing of "the facts." This is even more the case with respect to Christ's resurrection. Here we do not have an event which took place merely thirty years ago, but almost two thousand years ago. We do not have any hard physical evidence to investigate and no living witnesses to cross-examine. We do not have a great number of extant testimonies (although some we have do speak of others as well). The event in question was no ordinary natural event (as the mere shooting of a man is, although he was a politically important man), but rather an awesome and extraordinary resurrection from the dead – a miracle. If the dispute over Kennedy's assassination shows us that the facts do not speak for themselves – that the question is not settled simply over alleged evidences – how much more should Christian apologists realize that our debate with unbelievers over the resurrection of Christ (and other matters of Biblical truth) is not simply a matter of "evidences." It must eventually involve a challenge to the heart-commitment and intellectual presuppositions of the non-Christian. Jesus said it long ago: "If they will not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they believe if one should rise from the dead" (Luke 16:31). This article was first published in the May 1992 issue of Penpoint (Vol. III:3) and is reprinted with permission of Covenant Media Foundation, which hosts and sells many other Dr. Greg Bahnsen resources on their website www.cmfnow.com....

News

Saturday Selections - Feb. 16, 2019

The Top 10 Scientific Problems with Biological and Chemical Evolution (20-minute read) This is a long but fascinating introduction to the enormous problems with evolutionary theory. This is an Intelligent Design (ID) perspective that creationists will appreciate too. 7 questions to ask your daughter's boyfriend Dad, is the fellow dating your daughter ready and willing to answer questions like: How did God save you? What does following Christ look like now? Do you struggle with pornography? What do you like about her? 3 ways not to love your children Parents, love is not self-seeking, easily angered, and keeps no record of wrongs. Assisted suicide turned homicide? Dutch results scare even liberals In the US 2.5% of deaths are "induced" – that means the person died at his or someone else’s hand, not of by illness or accident. In the Netherlands it has reached 25%...and even liberals are wondering if it has gone too far. Cancer and God's sovereignty "My view of God’s sovereignty went from theoretical to critical with one phone call....Everything changed when I received a cancer diagnosis on the day before my thirty-fourth birthday. Are our kids ready to respond to these pro-abortion arguments? Normally any video shared in Saturday Selections would be generally positive, or even explicitly Christian. This video is the opposite. It is from the co-founder of a "Shout Your Abortion" campaign that is trying to normalize abortion. We're sharing it because it is this sort of "nodding, smiling, everyday evil" that we parents need to teach our children how to refute. Stand to Reason shows how, first with the linked article above, and then with this pro-life crash course here. So get yourself prepared by checking out the links, then grab your teens and work through this video together. This is the battle we're in – we need to make sure our children are prepared for the fight. ...

Apologetics 101, News

Abortionist: “God performs way more abortions than I do…”

In a Dec. 29 tweet abortionist Leah Torres went viral by claiming: “God performs way more abortions than I do…” While pro-lifers were quick to respond, most failed to offer an effective reply. When we debate the world there can be a temptation to assume anything they say must not be true. That's what happened here, with many a Christian afraid to concede there was something to Torres’ claim, at least as far as it went. And because this uncomfortable truth was avoided, the rebuttals missed their target. The newsgroup LifeNews.com tweeted this reply: “But you believe in evolution. So it’s evolution’s fault, not God’s.” Maybe Torres does believe in unguided evolution, but the largely Catholic LifeNews presumably doesn’t. So why not offer a Catholic or Christian response, instead of this evasion? Faithwire.com thought another reply, a tweet by ToniMZ81, was worth sharing, but it also sidestepped the real issue. She wrote: “…most miscarriages are because of an issue with the pregnancy/ non viability & most abortions are viable pregnancies.” What this forgets is Who controls viability. There is a difference between an abortion and a miscarriage, but this tweet didn’t get to the heart of it. The difference is not that Torres takes life and God does not. The difference is that God is the Author of life and Torres is not. As the Source of life He has a right to take what He has given. Torres does not. This point was made by a few pro-lifers. Greg Schultz tweeted: There’s a difference… You Are Not God Taken to its logical end, Torres' argument justifies every sort of murder at any age because, after all, God has killed more people of that age, than any of us have. To highlight the incredible wickedness of this logic, Anthony Abides, in the most memorable tweet of them all, put Torres' self-justification in Hitler's mouth: “God killed more Jews than I do.”...

News

Reagan’s challenge to his dying atheist father-in-law

Earlier this year a note was discovered in Nancy Reagan’s personal effects – dated August 7, 1982 – written by Ronald Reagan to his father-in-law. What makes the 36-year-old letter special is the topic – the president of the United States was taking time on a Saturday afternoon to write to Loyal Davis, his ailing father-in-law. Reagan was concerned about his health, but even more so about his eternity – Davis was a self-declared atheist. Reagan was 71, and just 16 months removed from being shot in the chest by crazed gunman John Hinckley Jr. So maybe he understood what his father-in-law was facing, how he was being confronted with his certain mortality. From the letter it's clear that Reagan has been doing some reading about God, sharing with his father-in-law arguments that probably came from C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity and Josh McDowell’s Evidence That Demands a Verdict. What he began with was one of his own experiences. During his first year as governor of California, Reagan developed an ulcer that gave him sharp pains, and other times only discomfort, but which never went away entirely. Then one morning, as he reached for his Maalox, he discovered he didn’t need it – he was healed. That same morning the first and second letters of the day were from people telling him that they and others were praying for Reagan. Inside of an hour, a member of his legal staff popped in “on some routine matter” and on the way out the young man shared that some of Reagan's staff would arrive early every day to pray for him. An appointment two weeks later confirmed that not only did Reagan no longer have an ulcer, but, the doctor added, “there was no indication I’d ever had one.” Reagan understood this as God answering these many prayers. But he knew his skeptical father-in-law might dismiss this as coincidence, so he presented him with more to consider. Some seven hundred years before the birth of Christ the ancient Jewish prophets predicted the coming of a Messiah…. All in all there were a total of one hundred and twenty-three specific prophesys (sic) about his life all of which came true. Crucifixion was unknown in those times, yet it was foretold that he would be nailed to a cross of wood.* And one of the predictions was that he would be born of a Virgin. ....But Loyal, I don’t find that as great a miracle as the actual history of his life. Either he was who he said he was or he was the greatest faker & charlatan who ever lived. But would a liar & faker suffer the death he did when all he had to do to save himself was admit he’d been lying? The miracle is that a young man of 30 yrs. without credentials as a scholar or priest began preaching on street corners. He owned nothing but the clothes on his back & he didn’t travel beyond a circle less than one hundred miles across. He did this for only 3 years and then was executed as a common criminal. But for two thousand years he has had more impact on the world than all the teachers, scientists, emperors, generals and admirals who ever lived, all put together. And with that, Reagan pleaded with his father-in-law to turn to God and place his trust in Jesus Christ. And there is some reason to hope that he did. Karen Tumulty of the Washington Post discovered the letter while doing research for a biography on Nancy Reagan, and, rather than simply place it back in the box, she brought it to her paper, where they published it this past month. And so it was that, some 35 years after it was written, God used this private plea to challenge the many hundreds of thousands who have now been able to read it. * Reagan isn't quite right on this point. King David does prophecy, in Psalm 22, of Jesus' hands and feet being pierced (which points to the cross) but nowhere does it prophecy specifically that he would be nailed to a cross of wood. This is important to mention only because Christians don't want to be accused of overstating things....

Pro-life - Abortion

STAY ON MESSAGE: a lesson from the Chilliwack pro-life flag display

When a politician gets ready to do a television interview he’ll have his staff prepare “talking points.” These are brief one or two line summaries of the points the politician most wants to discuss. They need to be short and sweet so they will be easy to remember, and so the politician can stay focused on them. Then, if a reporter wants to ask about a government scandal, the politician will try to turn the conversation to these talking points: “Linda, that’s not what Canadians are concerned with. But they do care whether they have a job which is why our government has…” Pro-life talking point In the abortion debate we have one core talking point: From conception onward the unborn are precious little human beings like you and me. And they deserve the same protection under the law. That’s it. There are other aspects of the abortion debate – other sub-issues – but this is the big one, the central truth that we want to advance. This is the talking point we want to bring up in every conversation we have about the unborn. Why is it so important to keep this talking point in mind? Because our opponents wants to gets us sidetracked. On rare occasion the other side will actually argue that the unborn aren't human, but that's not a discussion they can win – the facts are all against them. And the longer we talk about the humanity of the unborn, the more certain it is that the truth will come out. So, because they can’t counter the truth, they want to get the discussion moved to more winnable ground. They want to get us off topic. We want to defend who not how That’s what we saw happen some years back, right after the Fraser Valley East ARPA set up a 10,000 flag display on the grounds around the Chilliwack war memorial. Half the flags were pink, the other half blue, and each one represented 10 children who had been killed by abortion in the space of a single year in Canada. It was an eye-catching display. However, both local newspapers denounced it as a "stunt." According to their editorial and articles, the protest shouldn't have been set up so near the war memorial or so close to Remembrance Day. And they didn't like the way the ARPA group had gone about getting permission for the display, with one paper going as far as accusing the organizers of lying. They were offended because of how it was done, when it was done, and where it was done. What they were studiously avoiding was a discussion of who the display was about. In the face of this type of outrage it is easy to become defensive, and apologetic, even when we’ve done nothing wrong. But we need to understand this hostility for what it is: they said it was about the how, when and where, but that simply wasn’t true. If someone set up an identical display under identical circumstances, but each flag had represented someone who died from cancer, instead of denouncing it, the papers would have treated us to articles about courageous cancer survivors. The truth about cancer isn’t offensive, so it doesn’t need to be evaded. But because this was about the unborn, they wanted to move the discussion to more winnable ground. Instead of debating the humanity of the unborn, they want us to debate the timing of our event. Instead of discussing when life begins, they wanted us talking about appropriate locations. But none of this was genuine – it was all about distraction and evasion. So we need to keep our focus on just where they don’t want it to be. No matter what they say, we need to steer the conversation back to the unborn. So how might that look in real life? Here are a few possibilities 1. Argue by analogy The abortion debate hinges on the humanity of the unborn, and that’s what we want to discuss. One way to get there is by pointing out how people would act if this was about 100,000 people who were already born. They’ll say “That’s different!” and that, right there, is our opening to investigate with them whether it really is different.  How could you do this so near Remembrance Day? Abortion kills more than 100,000 children each year, and that’s bigger than the whole population of Chilliwack. If each and every year somewhere in Canada a Chilliwack-sized city was wiped off the face of the map, would you worry about the timing of the protest? Or would any time and all the time be the appropriate time? But that’s different. The population of Chilliwack is made up of human beings, and the unborn aren’t human yet. Ah, now we’re getting to the real issue here – are the unborn different than you and me? Why don’t we take a look at the facts… 2. Question the insult In debate, when someone throws an accusation at you, one of the more effective counters is to simply ask the person to explain their accusation and why it is valid. Their accusation isn’t valid, so they won’t be able to do it, and we can return the focus to where it should be. "Why did you have to do it next to the War Memorial?" "Abortion kills 100,000 children each year, so can you tell me why exactly it is wrong to tell people about them next to a war memorial?" "Because it dishonors the service of these soldiers." "Telling people that 100,000 children are being killed each year in Canada dishonors our honored dead? How so?" "Because it distracts from what they did!" "How so? They fought for our rights, and there is no more fundamental right than the right to life. So what more appropriate place could we speak up for the 100,000 unborn children who are being denied that right?" 3. Keep it simple And sometimes our response can be very short and to the point (so long as that point is our talking point!). "How dare you!" "When 100,000 children are being killed each year in Canada, how could we stay silent?" "I’m outraged" "1 in 4 children in Canada are murdered before they are born. If we want to get outraged, how about we get outraged about that?" Conclusion It doesn’t matter exactly how we do it, or exactly what we say. What’s vital is only that we stay on message, and that we don’t let ourselves get distracted into discussing issues that are nothing more than distractions. The unborn need us to stay focused....

Apologetics 101

Disarming a name-caller by asking them to define their insult

Apologist Greg Koukl has a tactic he calls the “Columbo approach" which involves asking pointed questions to get a person to expose the holes in their own arguments or assertions. This approach can also be put to a good secondary purpose: disarming insults. In his fantastic book Tactics (which we review here) he provides this example: If you have already been labeled intolerant by someone, ask, “What do you mean by that?”….Though I already have a pretty good idea of what the person means when she says I’m intolerant, asking this question flushes out her definition of “intolerant” and sets the state – in my favor… “Can you tell me what you mean by that? Why would you consider me an intolerant person?” “Well, it’s clear you think you’re right and everyone who disagrees with you is wrong.” “I guess I do think my views are correct. It’s always possible I could be mistaken, but in this case I don’t think I am. But what about you? You seem to be disagreeing with me. Do you think you own views are right?” “Yes, I think I’m right, too. But I’m not intolerant. You are.” “That the part that confuses me. Why is it when I think I’m right, I’m intolerant, but when you think you’re right, you’re just right? What am I missing?” The same approach works for most any other insult too. Getting someone to define their insult will force them to be specific. If someone calls you homophobic you might reply: "What do you mean by homophobic?" "I mean you hate homosexuals." "Why would you say I hate homosexuals?" "Because you say that it's wrong for them to love who they love." "Well, it's not me saying it, but God. And the reason I'm sharing what God has said is out of concern for homosexuals. I don't hate homosexuals; I share this because I'm trying to show love for them!" Getting specific may not win you the argument, but it will help clear away the confusion and get you that much quicker to the heart of the dispute. Asking for an insult's definition also helps calm things down by inviting the other side to discuss, rather than denounce. And if they decline your invitation and just want to keep calling names, then you know better than to waste your time talking with them. An added bonus: if you have an audience, this approach makes you look reasonable, and if your opponent wants to keep shouting, it exposes them as the grade school intellects that they are. So the next time someone online or in person calls you a "pinhead," "bigot," or "nazi," disarm them the way Greg Koukl does. Ask them: "What do you mean by that?"...

Apologetics 101

Witnessing without knowing it all

Ding dong! The doorbell goes and through the peephole you can see two young men clad in dark conservative suits. Fortunately you’ve recently read an article or two on Jehovah's Witnesses so you're feeling at least a little prepared to talk. Smiling, you nervously open the door. But as the conversation begins, you quickly realize these aren’t the Jehovah’s Witnesses you’re ready for, but are instead Mormons – and you don’t know anything  about Mormons! So what are you going to do? What are you going to do?!?!? The burden of proof Don’t panic! Understand the battle in front of you: ignorance vs. error. You don't have answers at the ready, but because you serve the one true God you can be confident that there is truth to be found, though it might involve some digging. Meanwhile, these gentlemen at the door might be more knowledgeable about their beliefs than you, but they are utterly wrong. Digging will help here, too, but instead of uncovering truth you'll be uncovering their error. So you’re actually in a great position here. You don’t know anything about Mormons? Well here are people eager to teach you. What a great arrangement! Consider, also, that the pressure is all on them, not you. They’re here to make their case, and provide evidence and reasons for why you should be a Mormon. The burden of proof is right where you want it…on them. In other words it is up to them to make their case and defend it, while you are free to go on the offensive and challenge their assertions with good questions. Maybe that doesn't sound like it's going to be all that effective – how can simply asking questions help you evangelize to Mormons? The key is the burden of proof. Even a four-year-old can confound her parents as long as the burden of proof is on the parents, as long as they have to answer her questions. “Time to got to bed dear.” “Why?” “Because it’s dark out.” “Why?” “Because the sun set.” “Why?” “Um…it has something to do with the earth’s rotation I think…Hey, honey! Where did we put the encyclopedia?” The point, of course, is not just to ask questions, but instead to ask questions with purpose. The four-year-old’s purpose is to stay up a little longer while your purpose will be to expose the errors and weaknesses in Mormon belief. Questions are key In his apologetics book Tactics, Greg Koukl outlines some questions that can be used in just such an occasion. The first is a question of clarification. When you’re first learning about their beliefs you should be sure you understand what they are saying. You might ask them, “What do you mean by that?” or, “So are you saying…?” Clarification is important because it forces the Mormon (or Jehovah's Witness, or atheist, or whomever) to restate and explain what they really mean. They’ll have to drop their script and actually think about what they are trying to say. And more than anything, what you want to do is force them to think. Clarification also allows you to learn from this encounter and start to understand what their beliefs are, which could help you the next time you end up in a similar situation. Secondly, question their assertions. The Book of Mormon is the revealed word of God? “Now how did you come to that conclusion?” The explanation may lead to yet more assertions that you can again challenge. After a while you may learn enough and feel comfortable enough to try and make a few points of your own. The questioning technique works here too. Instead of telling a person why they are wrong, ask them, “Have you ever considered…?” The use of a question here is a more gentle challenge to their beliefs, and more likely to get a thoughtful, rather than reactive response. Shifting it back It’s a simple approach but there is one thing to watch out for…the dreaded switch back! The non-believer answers your question with a question of their own and before you even realize the burden of proof shifts back to you. “So you don’t think The Book of Mormon is God’s word? And yet it seems you think the Bible is. Why is that?” If you’ve got an answer this is a great opportunity to provide them with some information. But if not, don't worry. Remember they’re the ones making assertions here, and so it is up to them to back them up. Just play it straight, admit your ignorance, and repeat your original question, “I’m not the one making any claims here. You said The Book of Mormon was God’s word and I’m just wondering if you have any reasons for that.” Study still needed This technique can be used in any number of settings, with all sorts of people: it might be an atheist professor in your university classroom, or maybe a Muslim friend at your local coffee shop, or maybe an encounters with door-to-door cultists. Any time someone is trying to prove a point to you, the burden of proof is theirs. Don't mistake the point being made here. That we can witness without knowing it all doesn't mean we should neglect to study God's Word. To do so is to neglect God. And, of course, evangelism and apologetics will be easier when we know our Bible. This same questioning technique works much much better if we know a little something about the beliefs of the person we are talking to. Then our questions can become directed, and we can direct the non-believer towards the weaknesses in their beliefs. Then, if the Lord wishes, this person will see those weaknesses, and start looking elsewhere for answers about God. He may just ask why he should believe what we believe. And as unprepared as we may be for all their other questions, this is one question we must be ready for. But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence. (1 Peter 3:15)...

Assorted

Report of a meeting which was never held

What I am going to tell you is pure fantasy, but it might be useful to pause a moment, because it can teach us something. It was some years after our Lord and Savior had risen from the dead, and the congregation of Jerusalem had already become quite large. One evening there was a meeting, held with the elders of the congregation, and as was usual, also the apostles who were resident in Jerusalem. Even though it was a dangerous time, and the enemies were keeping a sharp lookout, the brothers had gathered from all parts of the city. No one was absent when the chairman, James, the brother of the Lord, opened the meeting. The matter to be discussed that evening was of vital importance, hence the full attendance. In those days none of the four gospels, as we know them, had yet been written, but various accounts of events that had occurred during the Master's time on earth had been recorded. These included accounts of miracles He had performed, accounts of discussions He had held with the young men and accounts also of some of His speeches both at Jerusalem as well as in Galilee. At that time, they were still short, loose notes; they had not yet been put together into one book. It stands to reason that these written accounts were extremely valuable to the congregation. They were eagerly read by the members in the city and they were even beginning to be distributed outside Jerusalem. They were also starting to be used during the worship service, here and there. Well, the issue, the question that was before the meeting of the elders and apostles this evening, concerned these loose notes. The question was, should these bundles of loose notes be accepted as trustworthy reports of what had taken place and could they be recommended for use in the worship services. All present appreciated the importance of the decision that had to be made. If these accounts were officially accepted and openly used then they would spread far and wide, and give direction to the life of the congregations. After the chairman opened the meeting with prayer, he outlined the great importance of the decision that had to be made and then asked if any of the elders or apostles had any objection to the written accounts in circulation. They were all amazed that it was Philip who requested the floor first of all. "If you ask me if I have objections," he said, "then I can only say that the notes before us are totally trustworthy. I have not found anything in them that has not really happened. “Another question to ask though, is whether it is desirable to use them in this form. Is it really necessary, brothers, that in these writings there is such extensive attention paid to how Peter, more than once, did deeply grieve the Master? I think of the occurrence, also related in these writings, when they were going to Caesarea Philippi. The Master turned round and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan!’ “I know that is what happened. I was there myself and I heard what was said, but I have to ask, is it really wise to air this happening for all and sundry? I think of that terrible night when Jesus was condemned and how Peter denied Him three times. It is true, it did happen, but again I ask myself is it really necessary to air these things openly? We here in Jerusalem, we know Peter and have a high regard for him, but if these papers spread to other countries where they have never seen Peter, wouldn’t this give an entirely wrong impression of Peter? Aren’t these really matters of an intimate nature, which concern only Peter in his relationship with the Savior? Considering how well everything has turned out, shouldn't we just forget what happened in the past?" When Phillip finished speaking those present couldn't help but look in the direction of Peter. They expected Peter to jump to his feet and say something. But that didn’t happen. Peter sat silent, frowning and looking at the table, and not saying a word. The sides of his mouth trembled, and from the way he held his hands, with his white knuckles showing, it was clear that he was extremely moved and was involved in a severe internal struggle. For some moments everyone in the meeting was absolutely silent. Not one of the apostles spoke. In the end it was one of the elders of the congregation who broke the silence. "I am entirely in agreement," he said, "with the previous speaker. I would like to go even further. I have noticed in all the writings the apostles really play a rather sad role. It repeatedly says that they did not understand the Master. It is told once, when they came back from the north to Capernaum, that they had a serious tiff between themselves about who was the greatest among them. It is written that, even in the Passover room, when the Master instituted the Holy Supper, the apostles were at loggerheads about who should take the place of honor. The story is also told of how three of the apostles, our beloved Peter, James and John, were asleep in that terrible moment when our Savior fought His most bitter struggle in Gethsemane. "Is all this necessary, do we really want to broadcast this throughout the world? “Won’t this cause a lack of respect, which we all owe, to our office bearers? Can we really expect that the people who will read this, who will see how the first disciples often didn’t acted as faithful servants of the Master, can we really expect that they will have great reverence for the founders of the Church? Is it not rather to be feared that such stories will lead to damage in the congregations? I ask myself would it not be wiser if we kept all such stories to ourselves and didn’t to pass them on to others." Again it was one of the apostles who now began to speak. He also judged that there was a dangerous aspect to such stories. He reminded his listeners that one of the accounts related that the brothers of Jesus did not believe in Him and that they were even at enmity with Him. "Is it right," he asked, "to broadcast this story? We all know that the chairman of this meeting, James, the brother of the Lord, also belonged to them, but that after the resurrection he repented. Does his dark past have to be revealed to all eyes? Might that not lead, in time, to a deterioration of the relationships within the congregation?" When this third speaker had finished there was a painful silence in the meeting. One could feel that most of those present labored under a great strain. The chairman who otherwise was quick to encourage the members to deal speedily with the matters at hand now sat silent. It was obvious that he also had a struggle within himself. The silence lasted for some minutes. It came as a great relief when finally Peter stood up and started speaking. It was clear he was extremely moved; while he spoke he time and again had to hold the table, as if he needed its support. The words that he spoke came as if pushed from the deepest part of his heart. "Brothers," he spoke, "humanly speaking I am thankful for all that has been said this evening, but I also realize, that these words are at the same time a dangerous temptation for me. It is true that years ago the Master once said to me, 'Get behind me, Satan.' I therefore feel that tonight I must say it myself, 'Get behind me, Satan.' How could I ever make my Master great if I am not prepared to make myself thoroughly small? How could we apostles ever proclaim the glory of Jesus Christ throughout the world, if we did not at the same time tell of all our foolishness and cowardice and all our egotistical and self seeking deeds and thoughts with which we made the suffering of the Master so much heavier? Only in that way can our message become the Gospel, the happy tiding for the people of all nations and of all ages. Then they will see that we, the young men of the Master, are just as weak, dumb and self seeking as they are themselves, and that we are only what we are today because He with His love surrounded us. “You ask me, if by these stories the respect for the office will not suffer? That could well be so, if the respect for the office depended on our status as great men. But the glory of the office does not lie therein that we are great, but that the Master, who had mercy over us, is so great. "When I remember how the Savior told us that this Gospel should be preached to all people, then I know that gospel should also include how I with my self conceit often deeply hurt my Lord. It should include how we, young men, often argued among ourselves as little children about the place of honor, that we slept when He struggled His fight to the death, and that I, in a terrible way, three times denied Him. That should all be included, but this one thing more should also be included that the Master said: ‘On this petra I will build My church, tend my sheep.’ “Though there is nothing nice to say about us, nevertheless we may do something, we may serve in God's Church, and that is only because He never for a moment abandoned us and prayed for us right to the end. Brothers, let us not hesitate for a moment, but let this Gospel, as it lies before us be distributed throughout the ages to all the people in this world. Then we diminish, but He is made all the greater". When Peter had finished speaking a deep holy peace descended on the whole meeting. The chairman, who for the whole time had just stared straight ahead, looked up. "Brothers," he asked, "shall we act as proposed?" And although no one of those present answered aloud, it was more than clear that this word was agreeable to all. And so these loose papers were distributed, later they became the Gospels as we have them today. Dr. J.H. Bavinck (1895-1964) was a Dutch minister, missionary, and theologian. This article first appeared in the October 1999 issue of Reformed Perspective. It has been translated by Rene Vermeulen and is reprinted with permission from 15 Paasverhalen, no 18 Zaklantaarnserie, published by Voorhoeve/Kok, Kampen, The Netherlands. ...

Adult non-fiction

5 quotes from Greg Koukl's "The Story of Reality"

The following quotes are from Greg Koukl's new apologetic book "The Story of Reality: How the world began, how it ends, and everything important that happens in between." You can read Dr. Bredenhof's review of it here. GOD'S STORY IN ONE SENTENCE “It’s a story I can tell in a single sentence, though it’s a bit long. Here it is: God, the Creator of the universe, in order to rescue man from punishment for his rebellion, came to earth and took on the form of humanity in Jesus, the Savior, to die on a cross and rise from the dead, so that in the final resurrection those who receive his mercy will enjoy a wonderful friendship with their sovereign Lord in the kind of perfect world their hearts have always yearned for.” IT"S NOT ABOUT ME “The Story is not so much about God’s plan for your life as it is about your life for God’s plan. Let that sink in. God’s purposes are central, not yours. Once you are completely clear on this fact, many things are going to change for you.” WHAT EVERY WORLDVIEW SHARES “Every worldview has four elements. They help us understand how the parts of a person’s worldview story fit together. These four parts are called creation, fall, redemption and restoration. Creation tells us how things began, where everything came from (including us), the reasons for our origins, and what ultimate reality is like. Fall describes the problem (since we all know something has gone wrong with the world). Redemption gives us the solution, the way to fix what went wrong. Restoration describes what the world will look like once the repair takes place.”  THE PROBLEM OF EVIL FOR ATHEISTS “…given a Godless, physical universe, the idea that things are not as they should be makes little sense. How can something go wrong when there was no right way for it to be in the first place?” WE ARE THE PINNACLE OF GOD'S CREATION “If you have ever asked yourself the question ‘Who am I?’ you now have your answer. The Story says you are a creature, but you are not just a creature. You are not a little god, but you are not nothing. You are made like God in a magnificent way that can never be taken from you. No matter how young or old or small or disfigured or destitute or dependent, you are still a beautiful creature. You bear the mark of God. He has made you like himself, and that changes everything.”...

Apologetics 101, Politics, Sexuality

"Am I A Chinese Woman?" How questions can defend the Truth

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xfO1veFs6Ho&feature=youtu.be It was a political science class in my first year in university, with a hundred-some students spread out around the large auditorium. When the professor asked us, by show of hands, to indicate who was pro-life I popped my arm up quickly. It was only then I realized, mine was the lone hand up. The prof scanned the room, and when he saw me tucked up against the back wall, 20 rows away, this 50-something-year-old came sprinting down the aisle, then scampering up and over the last few rows of seats, until we were face to face. “Why,” he asked, “are you pro-life?” He waited, and I could see my classmates twisting in their seats to get a good look. This was no debate between equals. He was a world-renown lawyer, a drafter of United Nations agreements, and he’d been teaching this class for years. I was an 18-year-old student, who had never had to defend the unborn before. I don’t recall the exact answer I gave, but I do remember how easily the prof slapped it aside. He made me feel foolish. More importantly, he made the pro-life position seem foolish. Let the teacher teach It used to be that this sort of on-the-spot inquisition would only happen if you signed up for something like a political science class. Nowadays we can expect hostile questioners in settings from the coffee shop to the workplace. Whether you proudly walk around wearing a pro-life shirt, or quietly decline having a rainbow flag decorate your cubicle, the world is going to want some answers. What we should offer are some good questions. The key here is to realize what the world is up to. They think we’re wrong and want to correct. They want to show us the error of our ways. They want to re-educate us. So we should let them try. The mistake I made with my university professor was when I let him swap his role for mine. He wanted me to teach the pro-life position to the class – he wanted me to take on the role of teacher. Now he’d had a few decades of experience, and maybe some hours of preparation to get ready for his lecture, but he expected me, on a moment’s notice, to be able to teach the class. How fair was that? And yet I accepted the role-reversal, gave it my best go, and failed miserably. But what if I had refused his job offer? What if, instead of trying to mount an on-the-spot defense of the unborn, I had simply asked the teacher to teach? “I’m just a student – I’m paying the big bucks to hear your thoughts. So what I’d like to know iswhy are you so sure the unborn aren’t precious human beings?”  You want me to teach? I decline. This is a great strategic move, but also a humble one. It’s strategic because asking questions is a lot easier than answering them. That’s why our kids – back when they could barely string a sentence together – could still stump us by simply asking one “But why?” question after another. It’s humble because in adopting this approach we’re not setting ourselves up as the ones with all the answers. As I recall it, my professor believed there was some gradual increase in the fetus’s worth as it grew bigger and became able to do more things. If he’d offered that as his explanation – the unborn isn’t worth as much as an adult because it can’t do as much – my follow-up would have been easy: “But why?” The Columbo Tactic Christian apologist Greg Koukl calls this the Columbo Tactic, naming it after the famous TV detective. Lieutenant Columbo, as he was played by actor Peter Falk, was a slow-talking, slow-walking, middle-aged man, perpetually unshaven, and as Koukl put it, who looked like he slept in his trench coat. His unassuming manner was the key to the detective’s success. He wasn’t aggressive. He wasn’t pointed. He only asked questions. "Just one more thing…" "There's something that bothers me…" "One more question…" “What I don’t understand is… As he followed up his quiet question with another and then another, the murderer’s story would fall to pieces, bit by bit. Columbo’s approach was meek, but also merciless. And the killers never saw it coming. Question the re-education This quiet questioning was put to masterful use by the director of the Family Policy Institute of Washington. Joseph Backholm headed down to the University of Washington campus to talk to students about gender identity. His position? Men are men and women are women. But rather than begin by sharing his own thought he asked others for theirs. His first question had to do with whether men should be able to use women’s washrooms, and the students agreed with one another that “whether you identify as a male or female and whether your sex at birth is matching to that, you should be able to utilize” whichever locker room you like. That when things got very interesting. Space doesn’t permit sharing all the students’ answers (and they were all quite similar) so we’ll focus on just one. Joseph Backholm: “If I told you that I was a woman what would your response be?” Enthusiastic girl: “Good for you. Okay! Like, yeah!” JB: “If I told you that I was Chinese what would your response be?” EG: “I mean I might be a little surprised, but I’d say, good for you! Yeah, be who you are!” The next question made our energetic girl pause. She wasn’t ready with a quick answer but after thinking it through she tried to maintain consistency. JB: “If I told you that I was seven years old, what would your response be?”EG: “If you feel seven at heart then, so be it, good for you!” JB: “If I wanted to enroll in a first-grade class, do you think I should be allowed to?” EG: “If that's where you feel mentally you should be…then I feel like there are communities that would accept you for that.” This final question stymied several other students…for a few moments. Then they too headed into the ridiculous, just to maintain consistency. JB: “If I told you I'm 6 feet 5 inches what would you say?” EG: “I feel like that's not my place, as another human, to say someone is wrong or to draw lines or boundaries.” As Backholm concluded: It shouldn't be hard to tell us 5’9” white guy that he's not a six foot five Chinese woman. But clearly it is. Why? What does that say about our culture? And what does that say about our ability to answer the questions that actually are difficult? The video was effective, funny, and popular – it’s been viewed well over a million and a half times already. (A Swedish version, in which a petite blond girls asks students whether she could be a two-meter tall seven-year-old Japanese male, has been viewed by another half million.)  Backhom took the students’ stand – that identity is whatever a person says it is – and exposed it as ridiculous by asking half dozen simple questions. But did the questions do anything to convince the students? After all, none of them seemed to change their mind. Well, most of them were giggling by the end – they couldn’t help but laugh at the bizarre stand they found themselves defending. Few of us are able to change our minds in a moment, even when all the facts are against us, so it’s no surprise these students didn’t do an on-camera about-face. However we have reason to hope that once they had time to reflect, they too may well have realized the enormous problem with their thinking. Beyond self-preservation How might this questioning approach work in our day to day? Let’s try it in an office setting. Imagine that your company has sponsored the local gay pride parade and the boss has handed out little pride flags so employees can decorate their cubicles. You decline. Shortly afterwards you find yourself summoned to the boss’s office. How can quiet questions be a help here? First, it’s important we first understand the goal we should have for this interchange. Unprepared we might conclude our objective is self-preservation – we want to save our job. That’s a good goal, but it shouldn’t be the goal – our primary goal, as the Westminster Shorter Catechism puts it, “is to glorify God, and enjoy Him forever.” As our country takes a perverse turn, we are going to start losing our jobs because of our beliefs and it won’t matter what we say or how we say it. When we’re called to explain ourselves, we need to realize there may be no God-glorifying way of preserving our job – the only options maybe to profess or deny. So we need to prepare ourselves to profess…regardless of what happens afterwards. Do you really believe what you say you believe? Still, saving our job can be a goal and questions can help here too. Your boss wants to know why you aren’t waving the rainbow flag? Ask him whether the company really believes what it says it believes. If they want to celebrate tolerance and diversity how about they do so starting with you? Boss: “Why don’t you have your flag out? You know we’re an inclusive company.” You: “Hey boss, as a Christian, and I have some views that differ with the company’s. I knew that might cause some problems but I also know that we’re a super inclusive company, so I was confident we could work something out. Sir, how can the company’s inclusiveness be applied to me? How is your non-judgmental, life-style-affirming, politically correct boss going to be able to answer this one without his head exploding? That’s for him to figure out. Conclusion A question isn’t the best response in every setting. Questions are very helpful in poking holes in other people’s incoherent worldviews – they’re good tools for demolishing lies – but when it comes to teaching people the truth, we need to do more than ask questions. We’ll need to share God’s Word, let our listener question us, and offer explanations. That’s how we should talk to anyone interested in an honest dialogue. But for all those shaking their fist at God, a good question may be the best response. We live in a time where every one of God’s standards is being attacked and it’s about time we were asking why. Picture is a screenshot from the Family Policy Institute of Washington’s video “College kids say the darndest things: On identity” posted to YouTube.com on April 13, 2016. This article first appeared in the June 2016 issue. If you want to know more about the Columbo Tactic you should pick up a copy of Greg Koukl's "Tactics" which we review here....

Assorted

"So what you're saying is..."

In January Jordan Peterson was interviewed by journalist Cathy Newman, on Britain’s Channel 4 News. The exchange quickly went viral, with more than 9 million watching the half-hour interview, and millions more watching clips from it. Why did so many watch? Because here we had a battle of heavyweights – a politically incorrect professor who wouldn’t let his words be twisted vs. a mainstream media journalist who wouldn’t stop trying. Her favorite trick was to restate whatever Peterson had said in her own words. But every time she did so – each time she led with a “So you’re saying…” – what followed was never an accurate summary of Peterson’s position. A clip from this interview gives a good illustration of why so many Christians admire the courage of this man. He was bullied and unfairly treated, just as Christians often are by the mainstream press, but he never let it bother him, and he never let her get away with it. Newman: Is gender equality desirable? Peterson: If it means equality of outcome, then almost certainly it’s undesirable! That’s already been demonstrated in Scandinavia. Because in Scandinavia, … Newman: What do you mean by that? Equality of outcome is undesirable? Peterson: Well, men and women won’t sort themselves into the same categories, if you leave them alone to do it of their own accord. We’ve already seen that in Scandinavia. It’s twenty to one female nurses to male, something like that. It might not be quite that extreme. And approximately the same, male engineers to female engineers. And that’s a consequence of the free choice of men and women in the societies that have gone farther than any other societies to make gender equality the purpose of the law! Those are in ineradicable differences! You can eradicate them with tremendous social pressure and tyranny! But if you leave men and women to make their own choices you will not get equal outcome! Newman: Right, so you’re saying that anyone who believes in equality, whether you call them feminists, call them whatever you want to call them, should basically give up, because it ain’t gonna happen! Peterson: Only if they’re aiming at equality of outcome. Newman: So you’re saying give people equality of opportunity, that’s fine? Peterson: Not only fine, it’s eminently desirable for everyone, for individuals and for society. Newman: But still women aren’t gonna make it! That’s what you’re really saying…. This is a sidebar to Dr. Joel McDurmon's feature article on Dr. Jordan Peterson that appeared in the March/April issue. The top picture is one of the many memes that quickly appeared all over the Internet soon after the interview concluded....

Adult non-fiction

BOOK REVIEW: Greg Koukl's "The Story of Reality"

The Story of Reality: How the World Began, How It Ends, and Everything Important That Happens in Between by Gregory Koukl 2017 / 198 pages There are two types of apologetics books: there are the ones that tell you about defending the faith and then there are the ones that show you how to defend the faith. Greg Koukl’s new book falls into the latter category. It’s a book written with two main types of readers in mind. It’s for Christians who are struggling for answers to the big questions that come with the Christian faith. It’s also written for unbelievers who are open to considering the claims of the Christian faith. For both readers (and others), I think Koukl has something powerful to offer. The Story of Reality is a basic overview of most of the key elements of a Christian worldview. When I say it’s basic, I mean that it’s not written at a highly academic level. A high school or college student should be able to manage it. However, behind the basic level of communication, one familiar with the issues will recognize that Koukl is no slouch. The deeper stuff is in his grasp, but he has distilled it into something readily understood. A story but not fiction The concept of “worldview” is increasingly being criticized in Christian circles as something created by modern philosophy. Perhaps it’s for this reason that Koukl recasts the notion in terms of a story. In this story, there are characters and there is a plot. The main characters are God and man. The plot involves creation, fall, redemption, and restoration. But unlike other stories, the Christian story (laid out in the Bible) is objectively true — it is reality. Koukl addresses other competing “stories” such as: materialism mysticism/pantheism Islam He critiques these stories and shows how they’re inadequate for explaining the state of things as we see them. He then also provides ample argumentation to illustrate that it’s only the Christian story (or worldview) that can be true. Christianity is true because of the impossibility of the contrary. Readers familiar with Reformed presuppositional apologetics will recognize what Koukl is doing. His method is generally in that school. As I’ve noted before (in my review of his previous book Tactics), Koukl is a student of Francis Schaeffer, who in turn had been a student of Cornelius Van Til. Van Til was one of the pioneers of Reformed presuppositional apologetics. One of the key features of that school is a commitment to the place of Scripture in apologetics, not only as a foundation, but also as part of the actual method. Similarly, throughout The Story of Reality, Koukl is constantly either quoting or, more often, paraphrasing the Bible. This is highly commendable! Couple of cautions This is not to say that Koukl is always consistently in the Reformed school of apologetics. There are a couple of places where I put some question marks. In chapter 21, he discusses faith. He correctly notes that faith, in itself, does not save. Rather, faith is the instrument through which we are saved. Then he writes this: "This is why reason and evidence matter in the story. It is critical to get certain facts right. Put simply — reason assesses, faith trusts. That is the relationship of reason to faith. Reason helps us know what is actually true, leading to accurate belief. Faith is our step of trust to rely on what we have good reason to believe is so." There is some truth in this. You can say that faith needs and uses reason as a tool. However, there are also important limits to this. Above all, the unregenerate mind misuses and abuses reason because of sin. Unregenerate reasoning is not going to assess facts correctly. Deadened by sin, reason does not help you know what is actually true. Moreover, even when regeneration comes into the picture, human reason is going to run stuck with certain pieces of the Christian worldview (or story). Think of the Trinity. Reason assesses that doctrine and says, “Sorry, it doesn’t make sense.” Does faith then stop trusting? Faith has reasons for believing in the Trinity, but those reasons come down to the faithfulness and reliability of the One who revealed it to us, not the logical self-evidence of it. There were a few other questionable statements. In this blog post, I interacted with his suggestion on page 51 that the Big Bang is compatible with Genesis. In chapter 11, he opines that the Bible teaches that animals have souls. The biblical evidence offered for this is debatable. One addition would have been good I also want to draw attention to an omission. The subtitle tells us that the book will tell us “everything important that happens in between” the beginning and the end. But in Koukl’s story, an important part is missing. It’s the part where the lives of believers are transformed by the gospel. It’s the part where the Holy Spirit works to change us and make us into new people who take every thought captive for Christ in every area of life. I was hoping to read at least a paragraph, preferably a chapter, about that vital and wonderful part of the Story. It’s incomplete without it. A book worth buying for – and reading with – a friend Despite my criticisms, overall this is a well-written and well-argued book. Koukl deftly anticipates questions and objections. He uses helpful illustrations. The chapters are of such a length as not to be intimidating. If you know an unbeliever who is showing interest in the faith, I’d suggest buying two copies — one for yourself, and one for her or him. Offer to read it together and discuss it. You’d for sure find yourself enriched and, who knows, perhaps it would be God’s instrument to work faith in the heart of your friend too. For 5 great quotes from "The Story of Reality" click here. Dr. Bredenhof blogs at Creation Without Compromise and Yinkahdinay where this article first appeared. It is reprinted here with permission....

Adult non-fiction, Book Reviews

Tactics: a game plan for discussing your Christian convictions

by Greg Koukl 2009 / 208 pages What would you do? You’re in a public place and you encounter a woman with a pentagram hanging on a necklace. Maybe it’s a fellow student at university. Perhaps a neighbor. You see this pagan five-pointed star and what would you say? For most of us, we probably wouldn’t say anything at all. But that would be a missed opportunity, according to author and apologist Greg Koukl. When Koukl encountered a store clerk with a pentagram pendant, he used the moment to ask some key questions of the young woman. His well-placed questions challenged her to think about her way of looking at the world. Koukl’s book Tactics teaches how to use the same method in all kinds of circumstances. Koukl wants to help Christians learn to share their faith in a winsome and Christ-like manner. He wants us to be confident in promoting the Christian worldview and its values. An upgrade on what I had For some years I’ve been teaching my pre-confession students a short unit on apologetics, teaching them how to defend and promote the Christian faith. I don’t just want to them to know what they believe; I also want them to know why they believe it. They should be equipped to deal with people who don’t believe and who might challenge them on their faith. For this apologetics unit, I’ve been using Richard Pratt’s Every Thought Captive as a textbook. Pratt’s book is good in many ways, but I’ve been looking for something better. Koukl’s Tactics recently came across my desk and I thought I might explore that as an alternative. At first I was skeptical. I’ve explored other options over the years, some even from Reformed authors, and I’ve been disappointed. So far as I know, Gregory Koukl isn’t a confessionally Reformed fellow, so how could this possibly work out as my new apologetics textbook? After all, I believe it is crucially important for our apologetics to be grounded in our Reformed theological convictions. Reformed in approach… Well, what a surprise! If Koukl isn’t Reformed, his approach sure sounds Reformed in most places. As mentioned above, he teaches readers to ask carefully crafted questions. He calls this the “Columbo Tactic,” after the famous bumbling-but-very-effective TV detective. These Columbo questions are meant to dissect the unbeliever’s worldview and poke holes in it so that they see that their worldview is incoherent and inconsistent. He wants us to help the non-believer see that even if they have a very nice house, it has no solid foundation. Anyone familiar with Reformed presuppositional apologetics is going to recognize the language and approach. Besides asking well-crafted questions, Koukl also suggests a few other strategies. One of them he calls “Taking the Roof Off.” This involves getting into someone else’s worldview or argument and taking it for a “test drive” to see where it ends up. In the words of Proverbs 26:5, it is “answering a fool according to his folly.” In this excerpt, Koukl shows how that might work: The story is told of an atheist philosophy professor who performed a parlor trick each term to convince his students that there is no God. “Anyone who believes in God is a fool,” he said. “If God existed, he could stop this piece of chalk from hitting the ground and breaking. Such a simple task to prove he is God, and yet he can’t do it.” The professor then dropped the chalk and watched it shatter dramatically on the classroom floor. If you meet anyone who tries this silly trick, take the roof off. Apply the professor’s logic in a test of your own existence. Tell the onlookers you will prove you don’t exist. Have someone take a piece of chalk and hold it above your outstretched palm. Explain that if you really exist, you would be able to accomplish the simple task of catching the chalk. When he drops the chalk, let it fall to the ground and shatter. Then announce, “I guess this proves I do not exist. If you believe in me, you’re a fool.” Clearly this chalk trick tells you nothing about God. The only thing it is capable of showing is that if God does exist, he is not a circus animal who can be teased into jumping through hoops to appease the whim of foolish people. Later in the book, one learns why Koukl’s approach is reassuringly comfortable to a Reformed apologist: by and large he learned it from Francis Schaeffer, who in turn learned it from Cornelius VanTil (the father of modern Reformed apologetics). What I appreciate most about this book is that it isn’t top-heavy with theory. Koukl provides the basic approach and then spends the greater part of the book illustrating how to use it. And he illustrates well. His writing is clear, concise, and enjoyable to read. I think my pre-confession students are going to love it! One caution Were there any issues or concerns? Let me mention one. In chapter 2, Koukl discusses the use of our minds and logic. A lot of what he says there is good and true. However, on page 32, he makes what he recognizes will be a controversial statement to some: “Therefore the mind, not the Bible, is very first line of defense God has given us against error.” This is because, he says, the mind is first in terms of the order of knowing things. I know what he is trying to say, yet he seems to create a false dilemma between the Bible and the human mind when it comes to our knowing. For us to know rightly, we need to have our minds regenerated by the Holy Spirit and our thoughts guided by the Word of God. It’s not a case of either…or, but both…and. In the words of Psalm 36:9, it is in God’s light that we see light. Our thoughts are meant to follow after God’s thoughts. Conclusion Obviously I’m going to highly recommend this book to anyone else teaching apologetics, whether to young people or others. In school Bible classes or church catechism classes, this little book could add some extra punch to your instruction. Moreover, for anyone just interested in becoming better at sharing our Christian hope with others – which should be all of us – you need to read this book too....

Apologetics 101

I love apologetics

Don’t be intimidated; sharing the good news isn’t as complicated as we make it  **** The Evidence Bible is filled with my favorite apologetical arguments. I love to use these arguments to pursue the lost. I also enjoy watching instructional videos about the subject of apologetics. One of my favorite Bible teachers explains how to defend the faith. He is so eloquent and has such a brilliant mind, it makes me want to never open my mouth again. Plus, he is incredibly gracious and humble. I say that because I want you to know that what I’m going to say is not a criticism. It simply illustrates a very important point when it comes to sharing our faith. I remember him speaking of the importance of truth when reasoning with the unsaved. He spoke of five critical grades to keep in mind when it comes to reaching the lost. He said that when testing truth there are two theories – the “correspondence theory” and the “coherence theory” – plus there is consistency, empirical adequacy, and experiential relevance. Then he added, “There are four questions to be dealt with – our origin, meaning, morality, and destiny – and to deal with those questions there are five disciplines you have to pull together: theology, epistemology, metaphysics, ethics, and anthropology.” He also spoke of three cultures that we deal with: the theonomous culture, the heteronomous culture, and the autonomous culture, which dictates a “mutual autocracy.” Got it? If you did, you’re more intelligent than most people. Most people have trouble even pronouncing those words, let alone knowing what they mean. And that’s okay. That’s because proclaiming the gospel can be as simple as doing what Jesus did: use the Ten Commandments to stir the conscience, and show the sinner that he needs the Savior. I rarely get into arguing about apologetics, the infallibility of Scripture, the deity of Christ, evolution, why there is suffering, etc. When I do enter that territory, I am always aware that there is a way out, and I take it. I can get out, because I have learned the importance of having control of the conversation. I know our ultimate agenda; it’s to “preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). If I wanted to teach you how to fish, I could take you to a quaint little pond and catch a nice small fish. But I’d rather take you deep-sea fishing and let you see some action. If you watch a deep-sea fisherman, when he gets a marlin on his line he will let it run. He does this because he knows that at any time he chooses he can pull back the rod and get the hook deeper into the fish’s jaw. The “hook” that Jesus used was the moral Law (the Ten Commandments), and the “jaw” is the sinner’s conscience. It is because of this knowledge that I can let him run off in any direction he wants to, because I know that any time I choose I can take complete control, simply by asking the question, “Do you think you’re a good person?” and bringing out the Ten Commandments as Jesus did in Mark 10:18–21. That gives me a level playing field because I’m not talking to his contentious intellect. I have moved to his conscience. This puts even Einstein on the defensive. Never be intimidated by so-called intellectuals. Our Creator has put something infinitely more powerful into our hands: the gospel. It is “the power of God to salvation” (Romans 1:16). This article is reprinted with permission from LivingWaters.com....

Apologetics 101

The theology of dirty jokes

In his book, I Was Just Wondering, Philip Yancey recounts one of C.S. Lewis’ most interesting arguments for God’s existence. Lewis claimed that only a theistic worldview could explain the existence of dirty jokes. The argument was pretty simple. If you observe the animal world, reproduction is a rather mundane affair: animals certainly don't get bashful or embarrassed about it. But we humans, with juvenile smirks and double entendre jokes have always treated it as something out of the ordinary. But why? Evolutionists don’t have any rationale for this different treatment. Are we supposed to believe that dirty jokes help perpetuate the species? In fact, there is no natural reason to treat sex as anything other than routine. And if there is no reason to see as something special, then there is no reason to tell dirty jokes about it. We don’t tell jokes about common ordinary events. The Christian rationale for this different treatment is much clearer. Reproduction is something special because God has set it apart from normal human activity and guarded it with rules and requirements. And even while society ignores those rules they still can’t help but recognize that reproduction is something special. They don’t want to honor the rules God has set out, but they can't help but acknowledge His rules when they set out to mock them with dirty jokes....

Parenting

Spanking on trial: how to make a public defense

If spanking were to be put on public trial how would the jury rule? In countries like the Netherlands, Germany, New Zealand and more than 40 others the verdict has come down firmly against – they’ve all instituted spanking bans. In Canada we could say the jury is out – we’re allowed to spank children over two. But what’s worrisome is that spanking opponents keep pushing the issue: since 1997 various members of Parliament have tried to pass anti-spanking amendments eight times, the latest happening just this year. In the court of public opinion spanking should win any test it’s put to because, after all, it works. It is a God-ordained means of discipline, and it is no coincidence that it is also an effective means of discipline. The trial is rigged But spanking never gets a fair trial. Just consider these three issues it has to overcome… 1) Mistaken identity The act of a raging drunken father beating up his son bears little resemblance to a loving calm dad giving his son a spanking. Unfortunately members of the jury don’t seem able to tell the difference between the two. Some of this confusion is understandable. Raging fathers will call what they do “spanking,” but of course abusers often lie so the jury should know better than to trust their testimony. Another source of confusion is that many of the abused also use the term “spanking” to describe what happened to them. This is a horrible case of mistaken identity that we need to clear up if spanking is to win its day in court. 2) Witnesses intimidation The very same people who will publicly attest to their love of God by wearing a cross, or who will speak up for the unborn by wearing a pro-life T-shirt, or speak out against gay marriage via social media, don’t dare advocate for spanking. Why? Because we’ve all heard stories about how various child protection services have taken people’s kids. How’s that for intimidation? Spankings best witnesses don’t want to take the stand – we know this is an important discipline tool, but few of us see it as important enough to risk losing our kids over. So those who do it right keep that such a closely guarded secret that even their neighbors don’t know. The end result is that when claims are made that spanking is the worst sort of abuse, the witnesses that could best correct this case of mistaken identity don’t want to – we’ve been intimidated into silence. 3) Offers of immunity are rejected A second group of parents is staying silent for a different reason. They’re not intimidated; they simply feel too guilty. These are parents who have given spankings in anger and out of frustration. To be clear, we’re not talking about child-beaters – though the parent’s motivations are all wrong their actions still look quite like godly spanking. Restraint is still used in both where the spanking is directed – to the child’s back end, where no damage will be done – and in how much is administered. This is not a parent losing it. But it is a parent punishing rather than disciplining, a parent meting out justice without love. Some in this group know all about loving discipline, and sin anyway. That leaves them feeling guilty and then, when the topic of spanking comes up, they’d really rather talk about something/anything else. But this is no way to address our guilt – wallowing in it silently is no solution. If you’ve spanked the wrong way, God wants you to repent, both to Him and to your child, and to turn from your sinful behavior. And, praise God, He offers forgiveness! Other parents simply don’t know how to spank properly, though they can sense there is something wrong about how they are going about it. There is a need for repentance here too, but also education – to turn away from our sinful ways we need to know how to act. Parents who don’t know better need dedicate themselves to finding out what God has told us, and there are some excellent resources to be found (including three I recommend here). It’s a given that Christian parents who do spanking right are also parents who at some point have done spanking wrong. We shouldn’t minimize our sin, but we also shouldn’t minimize the grace given us when God and our children accept our repentance. To hold on to guilt then, and let it silence us, is to reject what the grace we’ve been offered. Spanking needs its imperfect practitioners to speak up on its behalf, because if we won’t, there is no one else. Keys to a public defense These three issues put spanking in a tough spot, with accusers aplenty but few defenders. So even as we can be cautious about how we go about it, we do need to become public defenders of spanking. Or rather, we need to become public defenders of spanking done biblically. Spanking isn’t the sort of topic that can be addressed with “I spank my kids” T-shirt slogans or “Spanking is not abuse” bumper stickers. The extent of the confusion is more than can be addressed via those short-form mediums. What’s needed are conversations. Conversations over backyard fences. Over coffee. And maybe even over social media. And, more than we might imagine, conversations at church: Christians, too, are being swayed into equating this biblically-mandated practice with abuse. So what might such a conversations involve? And what might it look like? What follows is a mock conversation (based on real ones) between a Christian, Daniel, and two liberal-thinking friends who don’t spank and don’t really know anyone who does. Daniel understands that his position will be very new to his friends so he’s prepared to be repetitious – he knows he may need to make the same point a few different ways. He also knows that on such a contentious issue things could get heated fast, so he wants to, whenever possible, make his point by asking questions rather than making assertions. Questions also help when faced with an insulting point – an insult can be defused by simply asking the insulter to clarify their insult. “You’ve said spanking is abuse because both involve hitting, so do you think lovemaking is rape because both involve intercourse?” Another important technique is to use analogies whenever possible. Jesus taught using parables in part because stories can help make hard to understand points much more clear. *** Leo: I was raised in an era where they still practiced corporal punishment in schools. So I got hit at school and then my heavy-handed dad would beat me when I got home. Why would anyone think spanking is a good idea? Ariel: I grew up in a home where spanking and screaming were the norm and I remember how, even at 6 I said, “I’m not going to do this to my kids.” I felt ashamed. I just wanted my parents to love me. Now I do discipline by the golden rule: I treat my children how I want to be treated. There’s no way I’d spank my kids. Daniel: We do spank. It is important for a child to be taught limits - be taught to listen and submit to authority - but it is just as important that they know they are loved. So whereas my daughter is regularly given spankings, they are conducted calmly. Her mom or dad is controlled, and not angry, and after the spanking comes hugs and a talk. So there is no confusion about whether mom or dad still loves her. Meanwhile the substitute that I've most often seen substituted for spanking is screaming. I’ve seen parents who would never consider smacking their child's bottom think nothing of yelling at their toddler. Now that can be confusing – on the one hand Mommy will say she loves them, and on the other hand she regularly screams at them. As the Bible says, we must discipline, but in love (Prov. 13:24). I think that can be done with calm spanking. I don't understand how it can be done with screaming. Ariel: Don’t call it spanking. It’s hitting. If you're going to hit a tiny, defenseless human, own it. Don't use cutesy euphemisms. Abuse is abuse. Daniel: Wow, this got nasty fast – you’re really going to call me a child abuser? Are you comparing a father who in a controlled measured way smacks his child on the bottom with a father who in a drunken rage punches his son in the face? Ariel: There’s a difference, but it’s still the same kind of act – in both cases it’s hitting. Daniel: Do you believe that shoving someone out of the way of an oncoming train is the same kind of act as shoving them in front of one? In both cases there’s pushing. Ariel: That’s different because in the first case the intent is to help the person and in the second it’s to hurt them. Daniel: Exactly. The different purposes of the pushing make them completely different acts. I spank my kids so that they will learn right from wrong, learn self-control, and learn to respect authority. I want to help, not harm. And since my intent is so completely different from that of an abusive father, the very act itself bears no resemblance to abuse – instead of punches to the face I give smacks to the bottom, where it will sting but not harm. How much more different could it be? Leo: I wouldn’t call it child abuse, but I do think spanking sends mixed signals. If I tell my child that hitting is wrong, but when he does something wrong he gets hit/spanked it tells him that when he feels wronged he can hit. Daniel: It’s important for children to learn there are some things that mommy and daddy can do that he is not allowed to do. For example if I tell my child she can't watch a program, but I say it is fine for me and mommy to watch, it is clear I am setting different standards for us than for her. And when it comes to spanking, a child is able to tell the difference between when she tries to solve something with her fists, and when daddy, calmly and in control, spanks her for hitting someone. But what you say about mixed signals does come into play when a parent isn't controlled or calm. Then what the parent is doing would seem very much like what the child does when she strikes out at another child for annoying her. Leo: I’m not accusing you, but the majority of people that I know do not spank when they are calm and controlled. Daniel: Therein lies the problem - when a child is spanked in anger, this is vengeance, not discipline. As one pastor put it, "Discipline is corrective and is applied for the sake of the one receiving it. It is not punitive, and is not rendered for the sake of the one giving it....When you are highly motivated to discipline your kids, you are not qualified." Or to put it another way, if you want to spank your kids right now, that is a good reason not to do so. Ariel I just don't see how it’s not hypocritical to say, “Don’t hit anyone” to our kids, but then spank them. I don't see how that is logical. Daniel: I will, on occasion, drink a glass of wine in front of my children. And when they ask for a taste I tell them no. It is not hypocritical to have different standards for children than for adults. Ariel: Here is a thought to consider, if other non-physical options exists why use spanking? Daniel: The reason I spank is because God tells us corporal punishment is a helpful way of disciplining our child. And it’s no coincidence that the method God prescribes turns out to be an effective and quick corrective. All discipline (time outs, stern warnings, lectures, etc.) is going to involve "emotional trauma." But with a spanking it can often be brief: willful disobedience happens, the corrective is explained and applied, the child says she is sorry, forgiveness is given, hugs and kisses are exchanged and play then continues. I want to add, spanking is not the only discipline we use - we talk, we explain, we send them to their room, etc. But when our daughters do something they know they are not allowed to do - when the disobedience is clear (it isn't a matter of confusions, misunderstanding, immaturity) then we spank.  Leo: Does spanking always work? What about when it doesn’t work? Daniel: You’re right, spanking doesn’t always have the immediate result we’re hoping for. And that’s often when one of our kids has been up late a few nights in a row and now they’ve gotten themselves so worked up they are completely out of control. Then, instead of a spanking, the best thing might be to send a child to their room, or cuddle with them, so they can have time to regain their composure. The goal is always the same – to teach and guide them, and sometimes it is better to offer mercy than justice. It can be tough being a parent and trying to figure this all out. But I’m very thankful God has offered so much guidance in his Word on disciplining children and offered up the very effective, though not fool-proof tool or spanking. To answer your question, when spanking doesn’t work we’ll try something else. It isn’t the only form of discipline we use. Leo: Isn't the intent if spanking to cause pain in order to gain compliance? I fully acknowledge that spanking is not child abuse done properly, but its intent is still to cause harm whereas with timeouts the intent is to cause discomfort as well as help them figure out what to do better next time – it gives them time to think through things and improve their problem solving skills. Daniel: “Discomfort” is a good word. The intent of spanking is not to cause harm (and no harm is done - that is why it is done on the behind - discomfort is done, but no harm). The goal is teaching. I talk with my daughter after a spanking, we work through what she could have done differently and what she should do in the future. So like your child, she learns problem-solving skills, and also what is wrong and what is right. The goal is to teach. Leo: Couldn’t you do that all minus the spanking part? Daniel: Ah, but why would I? Spanking is an effective form of discipline, and I have found it more so than many others. Ariel: How do you know for sure that the effective part of the ritual isn't the talking through? Leo: Ariel beat me to it… Daniel: Ariel, I’ll answer your question, but I also want to turn it around and direct it back at you. If you’ve never tried spanking, or tried it once, or tried it in ways that were not careful, considered and controlled. I want to ask you, how do you know that spanking, properly done, and implemented consistently, isn't more effective than the approach you use now? As for which part is the more effective, the spanking or the talking, well, both are necessary. So are the hugs, so is the repentance and forgiveness. But spankings occur when my words are being ignored. As I've shared spanking is not the only form of discipline I use, so I am able to contrast and compare for what works best with each one of my kids. Leo: But when do you stop? What age? Daniel: It peters out as they get older for a few reasons. First, it’s because the goal of parenting is to "graduate" a self-discipline adult, so the reins are loosened more and more as they get older. But when they are young things are a good deal stricter. Some people try to the reverse - little discipline early, and then find themselves trying to get strict later and regulate their rebellious teen's every waking moment. Won't work - this is when he should be taking on responsibility, not when he should be treated like a 3-year-old. Another reason spanking stops is because there are other more effective ways of causing older children “discomfort” – taking away their driving privileges, or smartphone. A third reason spanking isn’t needed as children get older is because they do learn empathy and are better able to understand the wrong they have done. There’s no need to discipline a penitent sinner. Ariel: I bet if you asked a 3 year old why she got a spanking, she would say it was because daddy was mad at her. Spanking equals control and dominance, not love! Daniel: You would lose that bet with my daughter. My children understand what God tells us in Proverbs 3: “…the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.” My kids know that discipline equals love, and a lack of discipline would equal a lack of love. Leo: I’ve got to run, but I’ve enjoyed the discussion. Ariel: I’m going too, and I have to say I’m happy to be done with this conversation.  Daniel: It doesn't look like I've convinced either of you to take up spanking I do hope I've given you reason to stop equating a spankings done in a controlled loving manner with the abuse that happens when an enraged parent beats up a child. I hope you’ll acknowledge that the two are so very different that they really shouldn’t be spoken of in the same breath. *** Spanking is being tried in the court of public opinion and the trial is rigged. That's why we need to speak up. We can speak cautiously, and wisdom might dictate that those with an empty roost should take the lead because they have the least to lose. But we all need to speak, whether over the back fence with a neighbor, or more publicly in a political setting. Spanking is being equated with abuse, but God says loving fathers will use this corporal punishment. So speak out, and spank in love. Let us be a light to our friends and neighbors on this issue showing how in this – as in all things – God’s ways are better than anything the world has to offer. Spanking does have some public defenders, including ARPACanada, who in 2013 released an excellent policy report about corporal punishment which they sent to every Member of Parliament. You can find it here.  ...

Apologetics 101

The don't and do's of answering fools

In Proverbs 26:4-5 God says we shouldn’t argue with fools…except when we should. Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him. Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes. Don't get in flame wars The danger in responding to fools is in descending to their level. If a fool is a dishonest questioner – peppering you with one after another, but with no interest in interacting with or listening to your answers – stop responding. In these situations the longer we talk, the more we make it look like the fool has a legitimate point. And if an online troll hits you with an ALL CAPS EXCHANGES, don't indulge in any sort of flame war. Here the louder we talk the more we end up looking like just another angry fool. Shouting matches aren't going to glorify God. All they do is make it hard for anyone listening to tell the difference betwixt the two combatants. Do answer real arguments The danger in not answering a fool is to leave his foolishness standing. When a fool offers an argument – misguided, shortsighted, naive, but genuinely offered and open to response and rebuttal – we need to answer him. Our goal is to show him his folly by explaining where his argument will logically take him. After that we can point him to real answers. Here’s how this looks in real life. In an online forum an abortion advocate wrote: "I don't get why a human that lives 80 years with modern medicine is more important than a tree that lives 500 years." A tree rates above people? How do we expose this for the folly it is? There are three keys: Do follow his argument to its logical end - What would it be like if we actually lived that way? Do contrast his foolishness with God's wisdom - How does his position compare and contrast to what God says? Do end on a question - This isn't must, but it is a good idea. Greg Koukl says a good question can be like putting a stone in someone's shoe: it's not big, but it sure is hard to ignore. A question can challenge them to think through what you've said. And it can be more winsome than ending on a statement. "Aren't you wrong?" is challenging enough, but it sure sounds nicer than "You are wrong." How that looks When it comes to our tree and abortion-loving debate partner, our response might look something like this: "God says that man is the pinnacle of creation, but you place us somewhere behind trees. Do you live your life consistent with that belief? How do you treat trees? Do you read books? (You do know what those are made of, don’t you?) Have you sat around a campfire and enjoyed watching the flames dance over countless wooden carcasses? What is your home made out of? Your coffee filters? Do you use tissues? How about toilet paper? "God says we matter more than trees. You say trees matter more than us. But if, in your day-to-day routine, you’re participating in the slaughter of trees, doesn't your lifestyle show that even you don’t believe what you're saying?" Now how about a more common example, say someone railing against the 1% not because of anything wrong these rich folk have done, but simply because of how much money they have. God says we should help the poor, but He doesn't want us looking at our neighbor's goods - He calls that covetousness. You argue that because someone has much more than you, that's obscene, and their wealth should be "redistributed." But do you live your life consistent with that belief? If you make more than $35,000 US you are a part of the global 1%. Just consider how much more wealth you have someone in Venezuela; when are you going to redistribute your wealth to them? God said we should help the poor, so redistributing our own wealth is a wonderful idea. But it's not our job to redistribute other's wealth. If you think others having more is a reason to take it from them, then what reason can you give that it shouldn't start with you? It's not likely you'll have someone do an immediate about-face, but you'll have exposed his foolishness to any others listening in. And you've given him something to chew on. Who knows but that God might use this seed you sow today to bear fruit at a later date?...

Apologetics 101, Book excerpts

A Christian & an Unbeliever Discuss Life, the Universe & Everything

This following is an excerpt from Rob Slane’s new book, A Christian & an Unbeliever Discuss: Life, the Universe & Everything. We’re joining a conversation, already in progress, between an committed atheist, Alex, and the Christian who is trying to talk him down. “Look,” said Alex, “everyone knows that the Bible was cobbled together in some shadowy council 300-odd years after Jesus was supposed to have died.” “Hold on a minute, Alex,” I replied. “Are you suggesting that the Bible is the product of some kind of conspiracy?” “If that’s what you want to call it,” he replied. “So let me get this straight,” I said. “A moment or two ago, you were calling the Bible a hotchpotch of writings by men who never knew each other, which kind of suggests that the literature involved was diverse, to say the least. But now you are telling me, unless I’m very much mistaken, that when the canon of Scripture was agreed upon, it was done so by people whose aims were to brainwash people. Is that about right?” “In a nutshell,” he retorted. “But you must see that it can’t be both.” “I do not see that,” he replied. “Why should I see that?” “Well, on the one hand, you’re charging the Bible with the heinous crime of being written by a group of very different people over a very long period of time, but now you’re charging it with being effectively “published” by another group of men who were somehow able to take this bunch of totally different literature written in very different styles and cobble it together in order to control the masses by asserting that it is divine in origin.” Once again, Alex looked distinctly unimpressed, so I put it to him that he should try the same experiment with other forms and periods of literature to see if it could be done. Choose a period of history, say the Greeks and the Romans. Take a large dollop of Plato and Aristotle, add some Homer and Virgil, stir in Julius Caesar’s Gallic Wars, mix it together with some Seneca and Cicero and finally season with the letters of Pliny. When you’ve mixed it all together into one book, go out and sell it to men as a revelation from God, replete with complete unity of purpose and message. Or if the ancients don’t appeal, try a more modern recipe. Take the “prophetical” writings of Orwell and Huxley, chuck in some songs by maybe Bob Dylan and John Lennon, put it in the blender with a bit of Dylan Thomas, stir in a speech or two by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and then add a pinch of something bitter, like a bit of Solzhenitsyn. Again, try to sell it as a book with a single theme written under divine inspiration. You can’t do it, because there is no unity there. But somehow the Bible does exactly this: it takes the writings of a hotchpotch of different men, living over a 1,500-year period and writing in a range of literary genres and styles, and still manages to come up with a book which has a unity of theme throughout. “Tell me, Alex, the writers of the Scripture and the men who met to agree the canon – who were they attempting to brainwash?” “Anyone gullible enough to swallow it,” he replied. “Okay, so can you tell me what was in it for those you are talking about? I mean, when Moses wrote the Pentateuch or when Solomon wrote the Proverbs, were they thinking to themselves, ‘Ha! This’ll force those gullible fools several millennia down the line into subservience’? If so, why? What was in it for them? And what about those who met to agree on the canon? Have you ever read the book of Ruth? What on earth is a book about a woman returning from abroad with her mother-in-law and eventually getting married doing in a book compiled together by fourth-century propagandists? And what did they think they were playing at when they included the Song of Solomon, a book condemned by many Jews and later the Victorian moralists as impure and dirty? If there’s brainwashing there, I’m not entirely sure how it is done, why it is done and what exactly its goal is. But then again, I suppose if I’ve been properly brainwashed by it, I wouldn’t know, would I? So perhaps you can tell me.” “The purpose is to make us all good little citizens who do exactly what we’re told without ever questioning anything. Just like Marx said – the opium of the masses.” When he said this I’m afraid I just couldn’t stop myself from bursting out laughing. Somewhat taken aback, Alex asked what exactly it was that was causing me so much mirth. So I replied that here I was, living in a world that is currently adopting practically every doctrine of Marxism without even knowing it, where the State is virtually worshipped by millions, and here he was using Marx’s charge of brainwashing and oppression against Christianity. He asked me what on earth I meant, so I gave him just a few examples: Whom do we look to for the education of our children? The State. Whom do we look to for healing when we are sick? The State. Whom do we look to for provision in our old age? The State. Whom do we look to for “advice” on what is and what isn’t healthy? The State. Who comes up with miles and miles of regulations to make sure we are safe and happy? The State. Who deliberately destroys the family and then takes it upon itself to become a surrogate father to the millions of fatherless children it creates? All this and more, in direct accordance with the ideology espoused by the man who claimed that Christianity was a tool used by those in power for brainwashing and oppressing the people. A Christian & an Unbeliever Discuss: Life, the Universe & Everything, is available at Amazon.ca here and Amazon.com here. This excerpt is reprinted here with permission....

Apologetics 101

Four things you can do when someone challenges your faith

Have you ever felt “the big chill”? It’s the term I use for the cold shiver that runs up your spine when you’re confronted with what seems at first glance to be a persuasive challenge to your Christian convictions, that terrible suspicion that begins to settle in your bones that the challenger has a point. And it seems convincing. And it shakes you. I have those moments, too, and they’re not fun. Over the years, though, I’ve learned a simple, practical system to deal with the “chill” and I want to pass it on to you. It’s not especially clever or novel – thoughtful people have been using it for ages. But it works well to sort things out and help you get to the truth of the matter. A) Don't panic First, don’t panic. Don’t let the problem overwhelm you before you’ve had a chance to carefully assess it. There are almost always answers to these issues that are within reach if you pause, take a deep breath, then apply some thought to the matter. B) Clarify the claim Next, take a moment to reconnoiter. Get the lay of the land, so to speak. What exactly are you facing? What is the substance beyond the rhetoric that may be making the challenge look more compelling than it is? That takes two steps. Here’s step one. Clarify the claim. Ask, “What’s the big idea?” What is the point the challenge is meant to persuade you of? That there is no God? That Jesus never existed? That the Bible is not reliable? That Christianity is false? Whatever it is, get a clear fix on that point since it’s the bridge to the next step. C) Add in "because..." Step two is to add the word “because” after the big idea. “There is no God because…” or “The Bible is not reliable because…” etc. The point here is to now get a fix on the reasons that allegedly support the big idea. Make a list of them. Don’t rush this step. Sometimes it takes a little work to sift through the rhetoric to uncover the specifics. Don’t be surprised if, when you look closer, there’s nothing there but noise. It happens. No real reasons, just bluster. These two steps – clarifying the claim, then listing the reasons for it – allow you to quickly summarize the whole challenge – the basic point and the rationale behind it. If there’s more than one claim, then take each challenge individually. This is important: Deal with one point at a time. D) Do an assessment Finally, with the full argument in view do an assessment. Simply ask if the reasons offered legitimately support the big idea. An easy way to do this is to link the reasons with the basic claim by using the word “therefore.” This step of assessment can be difficult (if the argument is a technical one) or it can be incredibly simple. Let’s look at some examples. Take the claims, “Christians are hypocrites,” or, “Religion causes violence and suffering in the world,” or, “Belief in God is a crutch.” Each is meant to implicitly undermine our confidence in Christianity (i.e., “Christianity is false because Christians are hypocrites”). And these challenges seem all the more forceful since – on my take at least – these statements are each true in some measure. Even so, do they justify the (implied) big idea that Christianity is false? Let’s see. Consider our assessment: Many Christians are hypocrites, therefore Christianity is false. Religion causes violence, therefore Jesus’ view of the world must be wrong. Belief in God satisfies an emotional need, therefore God doesn’t exist. Hmmm. None of these work, do they? When stated clearly, these challenges all turn out to be conclusions that simply do not follow from the evidence. These charges – even when true (and many are not true, but that’s a different problem) – may tell us something about anthropology or sociology or even psychology, but they tell us nothing at all about God or Jesus or Christianity. The reasons do not support the big idea. There’s nothing to fear here. Conclusion So there it is. When you feel the big chill – when you’re shaken by a conversation, or an article, or a presentation that challenges your core convictions – don’t panic. Instead, use the system. First isolate the claims. Second, list the reasons. Third, do the assessment. You’ll be amazed at how effective this simple tool can be. Greg Koukl is the author of Tactics, an apologetics primer, and is the founder and president of Stand to Reason, an organization that seeks to equip Christians to be knowledgeable, wise, and godly ambassadors of Christ. This article is reprinted with permission....