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Culture Clashes

What’s the best response to a wedding cake request?

What do you say to a homosexual couple who asks you to bake a cake for their wedding a month from now? That was the question that Joel Belz posed in his WORLD magazine column a few years back. A little over a month later, he revealed the difficulty that both he and over 200 readers (including five in prison!) had in answering it – by the end of this second column, Belz was no closer to an answer. What made Belz’s challenge tougher were two of his conditions: it had to be a brief reply, and, like Christ himself was prone to do, the couple’s request had to be answered with a question. What further complicates the situation is the fact that we don’t know the couple’s motivations. Are they simply unaware of our Christian moral convictions? Or are they trying to cause trouble? That's why any answer to the question needed to challenge the couple to make their intentions clear, so that we need not cast pearls before swine (Matthew 7:6) if they hate the gospel and those who bring it. And our response needs to honor “Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15). So if this stymied Belz and his readers, how can we answer it? Well, we can start with what we’ve been given in the first question of our Heidelberg Catechism. Here is my response to, as Belz calls it, “the baker’s challenge”: "I am a conservative, Bible-believing Christian, and I believe that I belong, body and soul, both in life and death, to my faithful Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Do you want me to disobey my Savior?" The couple (one or both of them) have three possible responses: “Yes, we do!” in which case, you may still face a human rights tribunal, but you have made the issue clear and exposed their hostility to Christ and Christianity; “No, we don’t, so we withdraw our request!” which may keep you out of legal trouble and still give you a chance to explain your moral stance as an working out of your hope in Christ, rather than as simply an individual issue of conscience; “We don’t understand the problem” which may be the answer we should most hope for since it allows us, with gentleness and respect, explain how our hope in Christ compels us to honor the commands of God. There seems to be an increasing number of situations in which we might be pressed to do something that compromises our Christian convictions: Sunday work, using certain pronouns, shading the truth on a tax return, celebrating a homosexual wedding, etc. What is most important in any response is to love Christ more than even our conscience (because it’s about Him, not us), and to confess, as it says in Lord’s Day 1: “Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.”...

Apologetics 101

Not all T-shirts are created equal

Christian T-shirts and the trivialization of God  ***** Green is not my color, and I'm not a real fan of fedoras either so if someone wanted to get me the worst birthday present ever, it would be a green fedora. Of course, if I saw someone else wearing a green fedora, I wouldn't go up and tell him what I thought of it, because I know my opinion is just my opinion. Some people hate green fedoras, and hey, maybe there's someone out there who likes green fedoras. To each their own taste. But fashion is about more than just taste. As Christian we know there are some things we just can’t wear, and some things we should, for the sake of decency, always wear. We can wear red shirts, yellow shirts, and even green shirts, but no Cardi B t-shirts or see-thru clothing for us! It might not be something we think about all that often, but we’ve should be wearing our clothes to God’s glory! Lisa Klassen took the idea of wearing clothes to God’s glory to a new level. Some years ago, when she was an ardent 16-year old, she was suspended from school for wearing a sweatshirt which read, “ABORTION IS MEAN.” On the back the shirt read: “You will not silence my message. You will not mock my God. You will stop killing my generation.” At a school where fellow students walked around wearing shirts promoting sex, alcohol and nihilistic rock bands, only Klassen’s shirt was deemed offensive. Her actions, and subsequent suspension prompted almost 50 other students to wear similar shirts. Her bold, brazen fashion statement got the whole school in an uproar. What a gutsy gal! This type of enthusiasm should be encouraged, admired and imitated. Lisa Klassen is not embarrassed of her God. She proudly proclaims Him and His message. Many other young Christians are eager to emblazon Christian messages across their shirts as well. But while their enthusiasm should be praised and encouraged, their choice of shirts can benefit from a little outside input. Youthful enthusiasms must sometimes be tempered with the wisdom of the old (just as the wise old people must occasionally get their butts kicked with a dose of youthful enthusiasm – do not forget your first love of Christ!). Let’s proudly proclaim Christ, but let’s not forget that there are standards, so not all T-shirts, even Christian t-shirts, are created equal. God is not cutesy The flaw with many a Christian t-shirts is that they trivialize God. We sometimes imagine God as some sort of safe Entity. We focus on His love and forget about His wrath and the justice He demands. Instead of an awesome, holy, and yes, even frightening God (it is only through His Son that we can dare approach Him), we imagine a cute, harmless Deity. That is a serious error to make on a personal level, to have such a flawed idea of God in our minds. But it gets worse when we wear Christian T-shirts that proclaim this flawed idea of God to others. Let me give you some examples. There is a whole series of T-shirts and bumper stickers that talk about hell, salvation and God in the context of popular brand names. For instance, one shirt mimicks Coca-Cola’s well-known font and red background with the words “Enjoy Jesus Christ – thou shalt never thirst.” Pepsi too is transformed. Their blue and red color scheme is used to proclaim “Jesus Christ – He is my Saviour and my refreshment.” The new words are true, but from a distance the shirts still look like Coca-Cola and Pepsi shirts. It is only when you get nearer that the differences can be noticed, and the altered text can be read. Now imagine for a moment, that a non-Christian reads one of these shirts. “Oh wait a second!” he might say, “These shirts aren’t advertising cola, they’re advertising salvation." Is God’s grace, in this cola context, going to be considered seriously? There seems to be an endless variety of shirts with this brand name focus. Sneaker manufacturer Reebok’s “Life’s short, Play hard” slogan becomes “Reeborn – Life’s short, Pray hard.” The clothing chain GAP has their brand transformed into “God Answers Prayers.” Even CREST toothpaste is not spared. Their “Proven cavity protection” slogan was changed to “CHRIST – Proven Depravity Protection.” While these shirts are cutesy, they publicly "out" the wearer as a Christian which not every Christian is willing to do. So yes, we want to fix the message – God is holy, not comic relief – but we don't want to dampen that enthusiasm so let's praise what we can praise and congratulate them for their courage. Better choices But the best Christian t-shirts have a depth to them – they have a real weight to their message. They are often confrontational, and even offensive, just like the shirt Lisa Klassen wore. One good shirt I saw had a picture of 6 pallbearers carrying a casket. The caption below read, “Don’t wait for 6 strong men to take you to church.” There is humor here, but more too – it's a shirt that could get a man thinking. Other shirts ignore humor altogether and go for clarity. When I attended university several students wore shirts that said “Pro-life” in big and bold letters. They weren’t very thought provoking, but a lot of other students certainly found them offensive. In a hostile setting like university, standing out in the crowd is a powerful statement in itself. Another shirt read, “Stop Divorce – The basis of Marriage is Commitment, not just Romantic Love.” It didn’t rhyme, and there was nothing funny about it, but it contained some food for thought. One of the most daring shirts I ever saw simply read, “Ask me about God.” I want that shirt, and might have to make my own – I haven't found it online. But it would be an intimidating shirt to wear. What if people actually did ask me about God? Wouldn’t that be wonderful and terrifying? Maybe that’s the shirt we should all get after we do our profession of faith. Maybe that’s the shirt we should all have to wear, each and every day. Some of the other good ones I’ve seen include: Chapter and verse please! Preach the Gospel at all times. Always use words. Former fetus Make Orwell fiction again. Life starts at conception, no perception Every Christian is either a missionary or an imposter – Charles Spurgeon RPNT & BLV Luther nailed it Do you even exegete bro? The chief end of man it to glorify GOD and enjoy HIM forever God is Good Love God. Hate sin. Be killing sin or it will be killing you – John Owen Abortion is bad medicine Die daily I Bet the Pro-Choicers Are Glad their Parents Weren't Abortion - The Leading Cause of Death in America He who dies with the most, still dies Evolution Says Nothing times Nobody Equals Everybody Know Jesus, Know Peace – No Jesus, No Peace Lotteries: A tax on people who are bad at math. Some places I've found good shirts include Abort73.com, Missional Wear, Reformed Gear, Wrath and Grace, and Sola Gratia. If you know of others, please use the website contact form to let us know. Conclusion I hope I haven't come off as being negative about Christian t-shirts; my hope is that Christians will take up the opportunity to profess their faith using the clothes that they wear. My point is that if we are going to do it, enthusiasm is not enough. We also have to put some thought into the thoughts we are going to emblazon across our T-shirts. At the same time, older, more thoughtful Christians should hesitate before they criticize a younger brother or sister for wearing “cute” Christian T-shirts. Even as there is a need to uphold God as holy, it would be a shame if the younger brother or sister’s enthusiasm was stifled over something inconsequential. The last thing we need is another quiet Christian. A version of this article first appeared in the February 2002 issue....

Apologetics 101

C.S. Lewis's Apologetics: a Reformed assessment

Many Christians admire C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) and enjoy his writings. I was introduced to C.S. Lewis through my Grade 4 teacher who read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe out loud to us. I was hooked. Shortly thereafter I went out and bought my own set of the complete Chronicles of Narnia. That just got me started. I’ve long enjoyed his imagination and literary style and I’m by no means alone. But his influence goes further. He was a well-known and persuasive advocate for Christianity. Many people claim to have become Christians through the writings of Lewis. Books like Mere Christianity and Miracles are still widely-read and touted as powerful tracts promoting Christian truth. He was one of the most influential Christian apologists of the twentieth century. But what should a Reformed believer think about his method? Can we make use of his writings in Reformed apologetics? Some background Lewis was born in Ireland, but spent most of his life in England. He was a professor of English at Cambridge University. He wasn’t trained as a theologian, but did study and briefly teach philosophy. He’d been an unbeliever for much of his young adult life. He writes about this in his spiritual autobiography Surprised by Joy: I was at this time living, like so many Atheists or Antitheists, in a whirl of contradictions. I maintained that God did not exist. I was also very angry with God for not existing. I was equally angry with Him for creating a world.1 In the early 1930s, Lewis abandoned his atheism and professed to be a Christian. He became a member of the Church of England. Today many Christians believe C.S. Lewis to have been an orthodox, evangelical believer. However, it’s important to realize that Lewis had some serious theological problems. For example, he didn’t hold to the inerrancy of the Bible. In his book Reflections on the Psalms, he insists that the imprecatory psalms (like Psalm 137) are “devilish.” In Mere Christianity, he affirms some form of theistic evolution.2 In the same book, he writes about the possibility of Buddhists belonging to Christ without knowing it: “…A Buddhist of good will may be led to concentrate more and more on the Buddhist teaching about mercy and to leave in the background (though he might still say he believe) the Buddhist teaching on other points.”3 There are more such issues. On the basis of some of his statements, one might even wonder to what extent C.S. Lewis really understood the biblical gospel of Jesus Christ. For myself, I’m not sure. One thing that is certain is that Lewis has had a huge influence. In the last few years, this is definitely because of the Chronicles of Narnia books being made into films. As mentioned earlier, there are many people who claim to have become Christians because they read a book by C.S. Lewis like Mere Christianity or Miracles. Let’s briefly look at those books and the method Lewis uses. Mere Christianity Mere Christianity was originally a series of radio talks. It was an attempt by Lewis to argue for a basic (‘mere’) form of the Christian faith. Early in the book, Lewis uses the moral argument for the existence of a deity. He says that because there is moral law, there must be a law-giver. That law-giver must be a deity. At that point, he wasn’t arguing for the Christian conception of God, but only a generic divine being. His method becomes clear in what he says here: We have not yet got as far as the God of any actual religion, still less the God of that particular religion called Christianity. We have only got as far as a Somebody or Something behind the Moral Law. We are not taking anything from the Bible or the Churches, we are trying to see what we can find out about this Somebody on our own steam.4 Lewis was thus trying to reason to God apart from any revelation from God. He was asking readers to independently judge the existence of God on the basis of the arguments presented. This method is found elsewhere in Mere Christianity as well. Lewis tries to build up his case bit by bit. Eventually he gets to the question of what should his readers think about Jesus and his claim to be God: I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.” That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sorts of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.5 That’s a brilliant piece of writing, often quoted. You’ll sometimes hear it condensed down to the idea that people have to decide whether Jesus was Lord, liar, or lunatic. Yet note again that people are called to judge. You have to judge the claims of Jesus. C.S. Lewis wrote another book entitled God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics. In that book he gets to the heart of the problem with his own approach in parts of Mere Christianity. He writes: The ancient man approached God (or even the gods) as the accused person approaches his judge. For the modern man the roles are reversed. He is the judge: God is in the dock…The trial may even end in God’s acquittal. But the important thing is that Man is on the bench and God in the dock.6 That’s exactly what Lewis did in Mere Christianity. He allowed man to judge God. He flattered the unbeliever. Lewis gave him a position of authority over God. That method was and is not unique to C.S. Lewis. Many others before and after him have done exactly the same thing. I should also note that it can sometimes be persuasive. These types of arguments can work to get people thinking about the Christian faith, and maybe even convince them. However, just because they work doesn’t mean they’re right or pleasing to God. Miracles In his book Miracles, we do find Lewis using a different method at times.7 He discusses the philosophy of naturalism, the idea that nothing exists besides nature. Against naturalism is supernaturalism, which allows for the existence of other things outside of nature, and therefore also allows for the existence of miracles. Lewis starts off by rightly noting how the disagreement between the naturalist and the supernaturalist over miracles is not merely about facts. One needs to spend time considering the philosophy of facts held by each side. Lewis is saying that presuppositions matter. He writes, The result of our historical enquiries thus depends on the philosophical views which we have been holding before we even began to look at the evidence. The philosophical question must therefore come first.8 That could have been said by Reformed theologians like Herman Bavinck or Cornelius VanTil. Lewis recognizes that people have pre-existing philosophical commitments which must be exposed and discussed. So when it comes to naturalism, Lewis does exactly that. He does an internal critique of this philosophy and how it fails to account for logic, morality, and science. To illustrate, let’s just briefly look at what he says about naturalism and logic or reason. Lewis demonstrates that the naturalist cannot consistently hold to his position without undermining reason itself. His philosophy cannot account for reason and cannot support reason. Even though the naturalist tries to talk highly of reason, he actually destroys it. This is because our reasoning powers are not explainable with naturalism. Naturalism is materialistic – all that exists is matter. But what is reason? Is reason material or non-material? Because reason is non-material, naturalism cannot account for it, we have no way for knowing whether it’s true, and our reasoning has no legitimacy. Lewis writes: A theory which explained everything else in the whole universe but which made it impossible to believe that our thinking was valid, would be utterly out of court. For that theory would itself have been reached by thinking, and if thinking is not valid that theory would, of course, be itself demolished. It would be destroyed by its own credentials. It would be an argument which proved that no argument was sound…which is nonsense.9 Naturalism collapses under its own weight when it comes to reason. Later in the book, Lewis shows that naturalism also collapses when it comes to morality and science. Instead of naturalism, Lewis argues that supernaturalism can account for everything. While he doesn’t get to the point of affirming that only the Christian worldview’s supernaturalism can account for everything, he comes close. Elsewhere in his writings, he did reach that conclusion. There is this famous quote from his book The Weight of Glory: Christian theology can fit in science, art, morality, and the sub-Christian religions. The scientific point of view cannot fit in any of these things, not even science itself. 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.10 That is very well said – completely in line with Psalm 36:9, “For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.” Indeed, only Christianity can consistently account for everything. Christianity is true because of the impossibility of the contrary. Lewis didn’t always consistently work with this method, but when he did, he used it to great effect At the end of the day, Lewis is worth reading, not only to see some wrong ways of doing apologetics, but also to learn to use some right ways -- and brilliantly. Moreover, if you have non-Christian friends, reading Lewis with them might be a great way to bring Christian truth to bear on their lives. If you do that, I’d recommend Miracles over Mere Christianity. Endnotes 1) C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy, New York: Walker and Company, 1955, 170. 2) C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, London: Fontana Books, 1952, 181ff. 3) Lewis, Mere Christianity, 173. 4) Lewis, Mere Christianity, 35. 5) Lewis, Mere Christianity, 52-53. 6) C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics, ed. W. Hooper (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970), 244. 7) For this section on Miracles, I am indebted to an unpublished paper by Daniel R. Dodds, “Elements of Transcendental Presuppositionalism as Found in the Works of C.S. Lewis.” 8) C.S. Lewis, Miracles, New York: Fount Paperbacks, 1947, 8. 9) Lewis, Miracles, 18-19. 10) C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory, 1980, 92 Dr. Bredenhof blogs at yinkahdinay.wordpress.com where this first appeared....

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 to 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 conversation 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 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 spanking 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

6 responses to 1 very angry atheist

British scientist Richard Dawkins may be the world’s most famous atheist. And he has garnered his fame from, and used his fame for attacks on God and his people. To that end he founded the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science in 2006 and, five years later, hired Sean Faircloth to be the Foundation’s Director of Strategy and Policy. Like his mentor, Faircloth is aggressively anti-Christian in his perspective. In 2012 he authored a book (with a foreword by Dawkins) called Attack of the Theocrats: How the Religious Right Harms Us All—and What We Can Do About It. The anti-Christian agenda Faircloth proposes is both monstrous and unsurprising. There is nothing original in the book, and that is why it is worth a closer examination – the vision Faircloth shares is one we have heard in bits and pieces for some time now. There are lessons to be learned from responding to his points. 1. Don’t assume the attack has any basis To lay some groundwork for his agenda, Faircloth tries to discredit the Bible by claiming it was written during a time in history “when guys could simply hit or rape any women who dared to talk back.” He then continues: “Don’t believe that was the case? The Bible tells us such acts are A-OK.” Of course, the Bible nowhere says it’s “A-OK” for men to rape and hit women. Faircloth just made that up. He then proceeds to attack Christians themselves, insisting that the Christian mindset leads its adherents to steal things, and to hurt other people. According to Faircloth, Christians are prone to anti-social behavior because their religion causes them to reason in the following manner: You can hurt others – and terribly so – and be forgiven for that sin simply by asking a supernatural being for forgiveness. With the “forgiven” card, it’s so much easier to say to oneself, “I will grab this food now. I will grab this money now. I will grab and grab and grab.” Concern yourself with long-term consequences later. You can always be forgiven—and then you live forever! A convenient belief system indeed. If you missed hearing that preached off the pulpit you aren’t alone. Notably, Faircloth does not cite any sources to support his claim that Christians think that way. It’s very important to remember that when a critic attacks the Bible we shouldn’t simply assume their attack has credibility. As Faircloth’s attack illustrates, sometimes the critic is so desperate to slam Christianity that he’s willing to make things up. 2. Turn the tables Faircloth claims that in recent years religion has acquired special legal privileges that are harmful to American society. Allowing churches and other religious organizations to hire people who share their beliefs and lifestyles is one of these special privileges that he wants to eliminate. When he argues this point he does so in a particularly twisted way. In his view, …religions enjoy legal privileges that corrode our most basic American values. In most states, religious groups can say in one of their child-care centers: “You’re a Jew? You’re fired.” Similarly, in one of their charitable organizations, they can say to the administrative assistant or janitor: “You’re gay? You’re fired” True, religious groups that run child-care centers or charitable organizations often only hire people from within their own group. It is a basic principle of freedom of association and freedom of religion that religious organizations select employees based on their own principles. Christian schools want to hire Christian teachers, for example. They don’t say, “You’re a Jew? You’re fired,” as Faircloth puts it. There are Jewish organizations that hire exclusively Jewish employees. Why would a Jewish school hire a Christian teacher? Should it be forced by the government to hire non-Jewish teachers? In Faircloth’s world there may be situations where it would. His solution is for the government to prohibit such “discrimination.” As a result, the employee qualifications for Christian organizations would be determined by the government. Allowing religious organizations to hire only people who share their beliefs is, in Faircloth’s words, a legal privilege that corrodes “our most basic American values.” But turnabout is fair play. If Faircloth thinks it discrimination to have a religious test for Christian schools, then what about his own employer, the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science? Surely, in the name of tolerance, they should then be required to hire their share of Christians and maybe a creationist or two? We don’t need to be mind readers to know how Faircloth would respond to our suggestion. He would find a reason of some sort, very quickly, to explain that discrimination isn’t wrong in every circumstance, and, in fact, is sometimes the only reasonable course. 3. Highlight the conflict Faircloth is also very upset that Christian pharmacists are not compelled by the government to provide abortifacient drugs for women who want them. As he puts it, in the US: ...fundamentalist pharmacists in several states get special permission from state legislatures to ignore their professional duties and to even deny rape victims emergency contraception. In his view, Christian pharmacists should be compelled, against their conscience, by the state to provide such “emergency contraception.” This is justified because “Pharmacists work in the health-care profession, not in a church.” While little could be said to change Faircloth’s mind, we can, with a few pointed questions, highlight the severity of what he proposes. Will he let Christians who won’t violate their conscience have jobs? He wants us out of pharmacology, but what of the many other businesses where Christians’ conscience claims run up against other’s wishes? Would he want us out of the bakery business, wedding catering and photography, and bed and breakfast inns? What of Christian doctors and nurses who don’t want to be involved in euthanasia? And printers and T-shirt makers who want to refuse some jobs? Should they all be shown the door? Would the country be better or worse off if Christians were run out of these positions? We may not be able to change someone like Faircloth’s mind, but we can at least highlight his hatred, making it plain for even the most clueless to see. 4. Use the science Faircloth is further outraged by the fact that US foreign aid given to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) cannot be used to provide abortions or to advocate for or counsel abortion. Faircloth calls this prohibition on counseling abortion a “gag rule” and says it prevents women from receiving needed medical advice. In his view: Neither Congress nor the president should deny women accurate medical information. To impose a gag rule is to mandate a particular religious bias and to promote religious propaganda based on the views of specially privileged religious groups – and to use tax dollars to do so. Faircloth says the US government’s position is being based on “religious propaganda” and in one sense it is. The only reason the US has this overseas pro-life position is because of Christian voter’s influence. But God’s truth isn’t limited to the Bible. When we examine life’s beginning then we find the science backing up the biblical position: we find that the only real beginning we can talk about is conception. That’s when a new human life – genetically distinct from both parents – is started. It is smaller life, and with fewer abilities than adults, yes, but no less valuable because, as even an angry atheist knows, we don’t measure people’s worth by their size or ability. 5. Turn the tables again Christian schools constitute another problem for Faircloth. He objects to the Biblical Christian view that males and females have somewhat different roles. He claims such a perspective makes women subservient, and then asks, Why should even one child be taught that women should be subservient? Children make no adult choice to attend a sexist school. It violates their human rights to impose such views on them. Here we can, once again, turn the tables on this attack. God does call on a woman to submit to her husband (though not men in general) but is that the same thing as being subservient? Faircloth has to submit to the decisions of his employer, Richard Dawkins – would he equate submission with subservience in his case too? Does his submission to his boss mean he is less than his boss? I think Faircloth would agree, submission is very different from subservience. But let’s take this further. Christians know that whether male and female, we are all made in God’s Image. We know why women are equal. But on what basis would an atheist make that case? In a Darwinian, survival-of-the-fittest understanding, why would he view the generally weaker and smaller gender as being of equal worth? 6. Whence comes morality? Among other things, Faircloth is also against the corporal punishment of children in Christian schools. Interestingly, Faircloth acknowledges that all law is based on morality. As he puts it, You’ve heard the phrase “you can’t legislate morality.” In fact, the only thing you can legislate is morality. Legislative decisions embody the moral choices of a society. At last Faircloth gets something right. He understands that the policies he supports amount to an imposition of his morality on society through law. Yet he objects to Christian schools imposing their morality on students. But on what basis does an atheist speak of morality? Christians know that the moral code has its origins in the very character of God. Atheists dispute this but disputing is easy; coming up with a godless basis for an objective, applies-to-everyone moral code is difficult. Sometimes an appeal is made to consensus, as if morals are simply what we as a society agree is moral. But by that reasoning racism is only recently wrong, and a convincing PR campaign could make any evil good. When an atheist makes use of words such as “morality” and “right” and “wrong” we should demand from them the basis of their own supposedly superior moral code. Conclusion Sean Faircloth’s attacks on God’s people are unfair and unremarkable and far from unusual. We should expect to seem more like this in the years ahead. That’s why, for the glory of God and for the encouragement of his people, we should equip ourselves to offer a ready response....

Apologetics 101

Ready to reason: is apologetics even necessary?

A surge of pious agreement overcame me the first time I heard someone confidently assert that: "The word of God no more needs defense than does a lion in a cage. Just let the lion loose, and it will take care of itself!" There seemed something very right about that sentiment. It almost appeared irreverent to disagree with it. Well, something about that assertion is indeed right. God is certainly not in need of anything - much less the puny efforts of any particular man or woman to defend His word. He is the Creator of heaven and earth, almighty in power, and sovereign in controlling all things. The Apostle Paul, when reasoning with the Athenian philosophers, made that very point: he declared that God is not worshiped with men's hands "as though He needed any thing, seeing that He gives to all life and breath and all things" (Acts 17:24). If God were ever to hunger, for instance, He would not need to tell us since the fullness of all creation is His (Ps. 50:12)! He depends upon nothing outside Himself, and everything outside of Him depends upon Him for its existence, qualities, abilities, accomplishments, and blessings. "In Him we live, and move, and have our being" (Acts 17:28). So it is obvious that God does not need our inadequate reasoning and our feeble attempts to defend His word. Nevertheless, the pious-sounding remark with which we began is still mistaken. It suggests that we should not concern ourselves with efforts at apologetics because God will directly take care of such matters Himself. Need? No. Require? Yes. The remark is just as mistaken as saying that God does not need us as evangelists (He could even make the stones to cry out, couldn't He?) – and therefore efforts at evangelistic witness are unimportant. Or, a person might misguidedly think that, because God has the power and ability to provide his family with food and clothing without "help from us," he does not need to go to work tomorrow. Thinking like this is unbiblical. It confuses what God Himself needs from us and what God requires of us. It assumes that God ordains ends, but not means to those ends (or at least not the instrumentality of created means). There is no need for God to use our evangelistic witness, our daily work for a paycheck, or our defense of the faith – but He chooses to do so, and He calls us to apply ourselves to them. The Bible directs us to work, although God could provide for our families in other ways. The Bible directs us to evangelize, even though God could use other means to call sinners to Himself. And the Bible also directs us to defend the faith – not because God would be helpless without us, but because this is one of His ordained means of glorifying Himself and vindicating His truth. Christ speaks to the church as a whole through Jude, commanding us to "contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3). False and heretical teaching was threatening the church and its grasp of gospel truth. Jude very well knew that God was in sovereign control, and indeed that God would in time directly deal with wicked teachers, consigning them to everlasting condemnation. Still Jude also urged his readers themselves to contend with the error of false teaching, not sitting back and expecting that God would simply take care of it Himself. Paul wrote to Titus that overseers (pastors and elders) in the church are required to be especially adept at refuting those who oppose the truth of God (Titus 1:9). However this is not merely the assigned task of ordained men. All believers are commanded to engage in it as well. Addressing himself to all members of the congregation, Peter penned the following command: "sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to give an answer to anyone who asks from you a reason for the hope that is within you, yet with gentleness and respect" (1 Peter 3:15). It is God Himself, speaking through Peter's inspired words, who calls upon us as believers -- each and every one of us -- to be prepared to defend the faith in the face of challenges and questions which come from unbelievers -- any one of them. The necessity of apologetics is not a divine necessity: God can surely do His work without us. The necessity of apologetics is a moral necessity: God has chosen to do His work through us and called us to it. Apologetics is the special talent of some believers, and the interested hobby of others. But it is the God-ordained responsibility of all believers. What 1 Peter 3:15 isn't We should look at 1 Peter 3:15 again and notice a few things that it does not say. 1) Not a call to arrogance It does not say that believers are supposed to take the initiative and start arrogant arguments with unbelievers, telling them that we have all the answers. We do not have to go out looking for a fight. We certainly should not sport or encourage a "I'll prove it to you" spirit, an attitude which relishes refutation. The text indicates that we offer a reasoned defense in answer to those who ask for such from us, whether they do so as an opening challenge to the integrity of God's word or as the natural response to our evangelistic witness. The text also indicates that the spirit in which we offer our apologetic answer is one of "gentleness and respect." It is not pugnacious and defensive. It is not a spirit of intellectual one-up-manship. The task of apologetics begins with humility. After all, the fear of the Lord is the starting point of all knowledge (Prov. 1:7). Moreover, apologetics is pursued in service to the Lord, and "the Lord's servant must not strive, but be gentle toward all, apt to teach" (2 Tim. 2:24). Apologetics is not a place for vain flexing of our intellectual muscles. 2) No guarantee of persuasion Another thing that 1 Peter 3:15 does not say is that believers are responsible to persuade anybody who challenges or questions their faith. We can offer sound reasons to the unbeliever, but we cannot make him or her subjectively believe those reasons. We can refute the poor argumentation of the unbeliever, but still not persuade them. We can close the mouth of the critic, but only God can open the heart. It is not in our ability, and not our responsibility, to regenerate the dead heart and give sight to the blind eyes of unbelievers. That is God's gracious work. It is God who must enlighten the eyes of one's understanding (Eph. 1:18). "The natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot know them because they are Spiritually discerned" (1 Cor. 2:14). Until God in His sovereign grace changes the sinner from within, he will not see the kingdom of God or submit to the King. Jesus taught this to Nicodemus, reminding him that "the wind blows where it will... So is every one who is born of the Spirit" (John 3:8). Our task is to present a faithful and sound witness and defense. The task of persuasion is God's. That is why apologists should not evaluate their success or adjust their message on the basis of whether the unbeliever finally comes to agree with them or not. 3. Not based on a supposed "neutrality" Yet another thing that 1 Peter 3:15 does not say is that defending the faith has a different ultimate authority than does the task of expounding the faith. It is a common mistake among evangelicals to imagine that the authority of God and His word is the basis for their theology and preaching, but the authority for defending this faith must be something other than God and His word -- or else we would be begging the question raised by unbelievers. Accordingly, believers will sometimes be misled into thinking that whatever they take as the ultimate standard in apologetical thinking must be neutral and agreed upon by believer and unbeliever alike; and from here they go on to make the second mistake of thinking that something like "reason" is such a commonly understood and accepted standard. These ideas are quite obviously out of accord with Biblical teaching, however. Does apologetics have a different epistemological authority than expounding theology? Our theology is founded upon the authority of Christ, speaking by His Spirit in the words of Scripture. 1 Peter 3:15 teaches us that the precondition of presenting a defense of the faith (apologetics) is also that we "sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts." It would be a mistake to imagine that Peter is speaking of the "heart" here as though it is our center of emotions over against the mind with which we think. In Biblical terminology the "heart" is the location of our reasoning (Rom. 1:21), meditation (Ps. 19:14), understanding (Prov. 8:5), thinking (Deut. 7:17; 8:5) and believing (Rom. 10:10). It is just here – in the center of our thinking and reasoning – that Christ is to be consecrated as Lord, when we engage in apologetical discussion with inquiring unbelievers. Thus theology and apologetics have the same epistemological authority – the same Lord over all. Reason and reasoning Believers who aim to defend their faith make a serious mistake when they imagine, then, that something like "reason" should displace Christ as the ultimate authority (Lord) in their thinking and argumentation. They also fall into very sloppy and confused thinking due to misunderstanding over the word "reason." Christians are often befuddled about "reason," not knowing whether it is something to embrace or to eschew. This is usually because they do not pinpoint the precise way in which the word is being used. It may very well be the most ambiguous and obscure word in the field of philosophy. On the one hand, reason can be thought of as a tool – man's intellectual or mental capacity. Taken in this sense, reason is a gift of God to man, indeed part of the divine image. When God bids His people "Come let us reason together" (Isa. 1:18), we see that we, like Him, are capable of rational thought and communication. God has given us our mental abilities to serve and glorify Him. It is part of the greatest commandment of the law that we should "love the Lord thy God... with all thy mind" (Matt. 22:37). Reason not ultimate On the other hand, reason can be thought of as an ultimate and independent authority or standard by which man judges all claims to truth, even God's. In this sense, reason is a law unto itself, as though man's mind were self-sufficient, not in need of divine revelation. This attitude commonly leads people to think that they are in a position to think independently, to govern their own lives, and to judge the credibility of God's Word based on their own insight and authority; more dramatically, this attitude deified Reason as the goddess of the French Revolution. "Professing themselves to he wise, they became fools," as Paul said (Romans 1:22). This view of reason does not recognize that God is the source and precondition of man's intellectual abilities – that reason does not make sense apart from the perspective of God's revelation. It does not recognize the sovereign and transcendent character of God's thought: "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are. . . My thoughts higher than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:9). Reason as God's gift Should Christians endorse the use of reason? Two equal but opposite mistakes are possible in answering that question. Believers can recognize the appropriateness of using reason, taken as their intellectual faculty, but then slide into endorsing reason as intellectual autonomy. Believers can recognize the inappropriateness of reason as intellectual autonomy, but then mistakenly think this entails rejecting reason as an intellectual faculty. The first group honors God's gift to man of reasoning ability, but dishonors God through its rationalism. The second group honors God's ultimate authority and the need for obedience in all aspects of man's life, but it dishonors God through anti-intellectual pietism. Paul counterbalances both of these errors in Colossians 2. He writes that "all treasures of wisdom and knowledge are deposited in Christ" (Col. 2: 3). Accordingly we must "beware lest anyone rob you through philosophy, even vain deceit, which is after the tradition of men, after the elementary principles of the world, and not after Christ" (Col 2:8). This exhortation is not a diatribe against the use of reason or the study of philosophy. Paul makes it clear that believers have the advantage of the best reasoning and philosophy because Christ is the source of all knowledge – all knowledge, not simply religious matters or sentiment. Moreover, if there are many philosophies which are not "after Christ," there is also that philosophy which is. Anti-intellectualism throws the baby out with the bath. It destroys true wisdom in the name of resisting foolishness. On the other hand, it is equally plain from Colossians 2 that Paul does not endorse reasoning and philosophy which refuse to honor the ultimate authority of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is in Christ that wisdom and knowledge must be found. Any alleged wisdom which follows the traditions of men and elementary principles of the world – rather than Christ – is to be rejected as dangerous and deceitful. The Bible teaches us, therefore, that "reason" is not to be taken as some neutral authority in man's thinking. It is rather the intellectual capacity with which God created man, a tool to be used in serving and glorifying the ultimate authority of God Himself. Sharpening the tool Reason properly understood (reasoning) is to be endorsed by believers in Christ. In particular it is to be employed in defending the Christian faith. This is one of the things which Peter communicates to us when he wrote that we should always be "ready to give a defense to anyone who asks from you a reason for the hope within you" (1 Peter 3:15). A word of explanation and defense is to be offered to those who challenge the truth of our Christian faith. We are not to obscure the glory and veracity of God by answering unbelievers with appeals to "blind faith" or thoughtless commitment. We are to "cast down reasonings and every high thing exalted against the knowledge of God" (2 Corinthians 10:5), realizing all along that we cannot do so unless we ourselves "bring every thought captive to the obedience of Christ." In 1 Peter 3:15 Peter uses the expression "always ready." This is significant for those who wish to honor the Biblical necessity of engaging in apologetics. What the Lord asks of us is that we be prepared to offer an answer in defense of our faith, whenever anybody asks us for a reason. We are to be "ready" to do this – indeed, "always ready." And that means that it is imperative that we reflect on the questions that unbelievers are likely to ask and challenges which are commonly laid down to Christianity. We should study and prepare to give reasons for our faith when the faithless ask. Christians need to sharpen the tool of their reasoning ability so as to glorify God and vindicate the claims of the gospel. We should all give our best efforts in the service of our Savior, who termed Himself "the Truth" (John 14:6). Every believer wants to see the truth of Christ believed and honored by others. And that is why we, need to be "ready to reason" with unbelievers. This study and those which follow are intended to help us become better prepared for that necessary task. Endnotes 1) Apologetics is the term commonly applied to the defense of the Christian faith against the intellectual opposition and objections of unbelievers. 2) Epistemology refers to one's theory of knowledge (its nature, sources, limits). When we ask "How do you know that to be true? (or how could you justify that claim?)," we are asking an epistemological question. 3) Whatever originates beyond man's temporal experience or exceeds that finite experience is said to "transcend" man. This article was first published in the December 1990 issue of Penpoint (Vol. VI:12) and is reprinted with permission of Covenant Media Foundation, which hosts and sells many Dr. Greg Bahnsen resources on their website www.cmfnow.com....

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 and first appeared in the magazine in 2017....

Science - General

Your head is fearfully and wonderfully made

“A little science estranges men from God, but much science leads them back to Him.” – Louis Pasteur or maybe Blaise Pascal or perhaps someone else altogether **** It's unclear who exactly spouted this bit of wisdom above, but it is clear it isn't always true. Well-studied evolutionists, like a Richard Dawkins, or like documentarian David Attenborough (the fellow narrating those amazing Planet Earth videos), have looked at God's creation closely and remained evolutionists still.  So, the principle doesn’t work always work. But there's still something to it. The deeper we dig into God’s creation, the more we find out how amazingly it's all been crafted. And then it is by choice, and not evidence, that one remains blind to God's artistry. From the neck up Consider just the human head. The human brain has more than 100 billion neurons, connected to maybe 1,000 other neurons (though some estimates up that by a factor of 10), for 100+ trillion electrical connections in all, making the human brain more complex than all the wiring done for all the houses in the world combined. All those interconnections then route into a very rigid, yet strangely flexible housing – your spinal column – that delivers messages to the rest of the body. Staying with our head, if we were to compare the human eye to a camera it's one with auto-focus, aperture control, and paired up to allow for depth perception. It has more than 100 million light-sensitive rods and cones that convert images into electrical impulses that our brain has the proper “program” to convert into images. There is said to be a blindspot where all the nerves bundle together in the back of the eye to head off to the brain and this is understood by critics to be evidence of the sort of bad design one might expect from accidental unguided evolution. But do you actually see any "blindspot" in your vision? No...because your brain, and the overlapping fields of vision from your two eyes, wonderfully compensate for it, such that it is only a theoretical and not actual blindspot. Astonishing! Your ears also come in pairs, allowing us to hear directionally. They are precision instruments, able to differentiate between thousands of different sounds. Their inner workings also give us our sense of equilibrium – our sense of balance – without which we really couldn't get around except on our hands and knees. Still sticking with our head, the tongue houses 10,000 tastebuds, is deft enough to tie a cherry stem in a knot, and tough enough to guide our food towards the teeth where it can begin to be digested. Those teeth first show up in a set of 20 shallowly rooted models, sized just right to fit our infant mouth. As we get bigger, these baby buds get replaced with teeth that are bigger too, with more of them, coming in a set of 32 that fills out our adult jaw. What wonderful timing! Concealing those teeth are our lips, which have the ability to express our moods, produce music, and, with our best beloved, smush other lips in a very agreeable manner! Let's not forget the nose, with its extreme sensitivity, filtration ability, and self-clearing capability (i.e. sneezing). Anyone not already amazed simply isn't paying attention. And we haven’t even looked at the rest of our body, like how our heart pumps 1,500 to 2,000 gallons a day, for 75 years, and yet weighs a mere 12 ounces. We haven’t looked at the skin, just a 20th of an inch thick, yet our body’s biggest organ, self-repairing, infection sparing, touch sharing. And what of our bones, all 206 of them, flexible during birth when they need to be, then toughening up to function as the scaffolding for all our other parts, and also produce the white blood cells that help us fight infection. Conclusion Of course, if we were to venture south of the jawline to start exploring God's engineering genius on display there too, this article might never end. So we'll have to limit ourselves to just the neck and up, and that is more than enough to make our point. Yes, educated men and women can deny God's evident artistry, they can choose not to see it, but that's only because it is possible for Man to suppress and deny the truth (Romans 1:18). But any with eyes to see – creatively and brilliantly crafted eyes! – the deeper we look, the more evident it becomes that from the top of our heads down, we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Ps. 139:14)! ...

Apologetics 101, Pro-life - Abortion

Pro-life shirts that spark, spur, and speak

“Hey, what’s with the shirt? What’s Abort73.com?” “I could tell you, but better yet, why don’t you go online and check it out?” **** Fifteen years ago, on campuses across the US, Canada, and even in England, students started showing up to class in t-shirts emblazoned with a distinctive “Abort73.com” logo. And the next day they'd be back, with a different shirt, in a different color, with a different style, but also emblazoned with “Abort73.com” across the chest and back. What'd it be like to sit behind someone who, day after day, was outfitted this way? Would you start getting a bit curious about this website? Would you want to know more? Speaking up without saying a word That’s the brilliance behind Abort73.com. Through repeated exposures, people who otherwise would never check out a pro-life website go to this one. Their curiosity compels them. Day after day, week after week, month after month, shirt after shirt, the same short web address – eventually curiosity has to get the best of them. These shirts are also an aid – and really an answer to prayer – to the many Christians who want to speak out against abortion but don’t feel equipped to do so. Perhaps you’re the type to get tongue-tied, or maybe you always think of just the right thing to say twenty minutes after the opportunity has passed you by. Maybe you’re worried that if you do speak up no one will pay attention. Or you’re more worried that everyone will listen. Whatever the case might be, these shirts can help you speak up without saying a word. A two-pronged approach Most pro-life t-shirts have been designed to make a statement all on their own with slogans like “Abortion is Murder” or “Choose life - Your mother did.” Originally Abort73.com shirts weren't like that. They were focussed entirely on getting folks to the website, because that's where they would have the room to really make the case for the humanity of the unborn in a way that no single t-shirt ever could. That's why their early shirts just had the website address, albeit in all sorts of fonts, colors, and styles. When people did visit the site, what they found was a well-organized summary of the medical, philosophical/logical, and pictorial arguments against abortion and for the humanity of the unborn. The one notable downside to their approach is that none of their "first layer" arguments – those you can find off of their front page – are Christian arguments. God's thoughts can only be found by digging deeper into the site. Nowadays Abort73 has expanded their approach in that they also sell shirts with slogans. I suspect that's because, even as it's better to get people to the website for the full presentation, they now recognize that speaking to the humanity of the unborn via even brief t-shirt slogans can be a way of stirring things up too. Especially on today's college campuses. The shirts are $20 US each but if you buy a half dozen you can get them for just $10 per, and that is pretty impressive. Why not check it out? So, is your curiosity piqued? Then why not go to www.Abort73.com and check it out? Or go directly to their store to order a shirt...or thirty? A version of this article was first February 2006 issue under the title “A shirt a day…the vision of the folks behind Abort73.com”...

Apologetics 101

The case for bumper-sticker and T-shirt Christianity

We found the handprinted note tucked beneath the windshield wiper, as we returned to our car in the mall parking lot. “May you not be judged as severely as you judge others,” it said. The note, printed by some shaky hand, was a reaction to our Mazda’s bumper sticker: “A nation that kills its own children is a nation without hope – Pope John Paul II.” Whoever left the note definitely “heard” our message. Signs of the effect it had on them were present. Without writing paper on hand, the person tore off a piece of some box to pass on their reaction to us. Shaky printing suggested that the writer was emotional and wanted to say as fast as possible what they had to say, and wrote it on the palm of their hand only, not bothering to look for a firmer support. (Or, I wondered, could this be the shaky hand of an older person? But no, the elderly don’t print, they use handwriting. Only the new generation never learned how to write, so they print). Furthermore, the writer, unable to attack the message, attacked the messenger – another sign of emotionalism. They must also have had some rudimentary knowledge of God and of his Word since they called for some higher judgment on us. Yes, the writer was definitely not left unmoved by our bumper sticker’s message. They heard it well. The same sticker got us a handshake in front of our cleaner’s shop. A man in his 30’s commended us for the sticker, and made some comments on the prevailing apathy of western Christians to the ongoing slaughter of the innocent. A bouncing gelatin wall I believe in bumper stickers, in stickers and in T-shirt messages. I know they work. And they work because they catch people before they are ready, in the moments when their hearts and minds are open and ready like a freshly plowed field to receive a seed. That seed, once planted, sends out a tiny root and eventually can give life to something good. Let me explain myself. Human minds and hearts are wonderfully able to hear what they want to hear, and to be deaf to what they don’t want to hear. For example, I was at one time convinced my son did not hear very well. But when I dragged him in for a hearing test it turned out he had perfect hearing. But also selective hearing. I’m sure you experience this yourself many times every day. When our spouses, teachers, preachers, parents, children or the media communicate something to us it takes us only 30 seconds to figure out if the coming address is going to be uncomfortable to us, or request something from us, or be hurtful to us. And if we sense such a message, instantly our defenses come up and we erect a powerful wall. This wall will not let anything from the outside penetrate us. Everything we don’t want to deal with just bounces off. It is a bouncing gelatin wall! With our defenses up, we hear selectively and pick up only the weakest points of the address to eventually use for a counterattack. But we are deaf to the main points, the facts of the address because of our mighty bouncing “gelatin wall.” I remember the communist indoctrination lessons I had to learn growing up behind the Iron Curtain. I remember clearly that when my beloved history professor started to praise the achievements of the communist ideology and tear down everything that was built before it, something always happened to me. I erected my own “bouncing wall.” I, too, did not hear. This wall allowed me to distance myself from the responsibility I had to stand up and say, “Comrade teacher, this is a lie! You know how bloody and unjust communism is!” The wall let me pretend I did not hear, so I did not have to comment. But in truth I knew that speaking would get me in trouble and perhaps put my father back in prison, so I did not act. After all, when I once approached this professor privately to talk about some great historical lie, he commanded me not to listen to my father, but to believe instead the communist history books. Before the wall goes up This mental “bouncing wall” is real, and everyone has one. Through this wall, we are not heard. So, ladies and gentlemen, we must get our message to people before this wall gets up! Speed is crucial. The reality is you have no more than 30 seconds to reach people before the bouncing wall goes up. You have only 30 seconds to get to them! Repeat this to yourself and adapt your strategies to it. Learn from the businessman who knows that advertising sells! Their 30-second commercials cost millions, but they make millions. They sell. Why? Because these short commercials get TV viewers unprepared in the midst of some other story, before their bouncing wall comes up. The message sneaks in and they say, “Hey, didn’t I always like this song?” And they rush to the computer and order the gadget, tool, book, or DVD that will soon make an appearance at their next garage sale. I know that people read bumper stickers. I read bumper stickers too. They get at us with their short messages while our walls are still down. That’s why they work, like TV ads. That’s why they get our message heard. Now. you and I don’t have the money to go on TV and say, “Dear Canadians, abortion kills people. Abortion is the cruel execution of the innocent…” Even if we had the millions of dollars needed to put this message on TV as an ad, the CRTC (Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission) would not allow it on the air, because it is not politically correct. And if we tried a different approach and got permission to preach against abortion in the town square, nobody would come listen to it. The invisible bouncing wall would prevent all but the committed pro-lifers from coming and listening. In praise of red lights           But my bumper stickers? May our Lord be praised because of the one who invented them! My bumper sticker always catches the eyes of following drivers. They have to watch my bumper because that’s where the signal lights are. And while waiting for the green light with wandering eyes, bored by familiar scenery, they look eagerly for some distraction. My bumper sticker gives it to them – a definitely not common, nor boring, but rather clear message that sticks. They might get convicted and repent. They might get convicted and get angry. They might just process it as information and stay apathetic. Regardless, they are confronted with the truth and can never tell the Creator, “I did not know. Why did your servants, Christians, not tell me?” So when my dearest husband complains that he, “did not get even one green light today,” I say, “Thank-you Lord, for thou has created the yellow and red colors!” Those red lights mean that 16 people were confronted with the truth on the way to work. If we are lucky, 16 more will be confronted on the way home. Great! If we go to the city 3 times per week, we will reach 48 drivers (and some of their passengers). In one month that will add up to 200 people. Wow! In one year 2,400 people will read the $3 pro-life message on my bumper, a message we are not permitted to say aloud anywhere but in the street. I gave one of my most blatant pro-life bumper stickers to my brother. Soon somebody who worked at the hospital needed to borrow my brother’s car for one week. And it came to pass that the old red car was parked in the staff parking lot, standing in a predetermined strategic parking stall just next to the exit, where every car had to slow to stop and catch the message: “Abortion – the ultimate child abuse.” There it was, a witness to all the hospital staff, and I praised the Lord for it. I love small stickers too. I know that the message, “Abortion stops a beating heart” stuck just beneath the address on the envelope will be processed and read by 5-7 people. Its design is appealing and very interesting. With the 200–500 envelopes we mail every year I rejoice to reach large numbers of people who I would never have been able to speak to – especially members of the Canadian Postal Union, which donates lots of money for the advancement of the death culture in Canada! Now mind you, my local postal employees have read the sticker 2000 times already, but I still rejoice. After all, if Joseph Goebel’s idea – that a lie repeated often enough becomes the truth – worked in Nazi Germany, then the truth repeated 2000 times must work also. Try sticking a small “Abortion stops a beating heart” sticker on your mailbox. I bet you that when your paperboy or girl first hears the word “abortion” in one of their condom and banana sex education classes, the first thing jumping to their mind will be the words, “…stops a beating heart.” He or she might even speak it out loud and start a very interesting conversation in the class, or with their parents. Marvelous things can be done with one-liners like “Beware of Dog!” or “Stop!” or “Don’t drink and drive!” It is time for us to use that power. Backward T-shirts With T-shirts I have one problem – its effectiveness is best when it is backwards. I have found that any message is lost on me when it is printed on the front of a T-shirt. Our culture avoids eye contact; we do not stare, or prey on privacy. While we may read the logos on T-shirts while they are still in the store, and may love to wear some that enhance our stands or our personalities, we hardly ever read what others carry on their bellies or across their busts. It is invasive. C’est un faux pas. On the other hand, we feel free to read what people carry on their backs as we walk behind them. This does not force on us any contact or seem as invasive. So should you wish to print up some great T-shirt message, print it on the back of the shirt. Just imagine that you are strolling in the fresh air and in front of you walks a person with a message on her back that you now have all the time to read: “Polluted by sin? Hardly breathing? Fresh air will not do. I might know the remedy. Feel free to ask.” Our most beloved T-shirt was given to me by my daughter, a University of Alberta student then. It listed on the back the “Top Ten Reasons to be Pro-life.” Aimed at university students, it read: 10. Equal rights for unborn women too. 9. All the best babes are pro-life. 8. You were a fetus once. 7. Diapers are disposable, babies aren’t. 6. Pampers stocks are up 1/8 on the TSE. 5. Nine out of ten babies do not pee on your rug. 4. Babies don’t talk back. 3. You’ll need someone to support you when you’re old and want a home in Florida. 2. Babies don’t drive up the !@# Grade Point Average. 1. 1,336 unborn babies will be killed in Canada today. While this was not a short 30-second message, the first 30 seconds of it were so amusing for any reader, except the committed pro-abort, that people continue to read on about these cute, friendly creatures – babies. And then, when they were already sold by the cute message, they were hit with number 1! Everywhere they look? I understand from the latest statistics that close to 30 percent of Canadians regularly attend some Christian church. Wouldn’t it be great if our politicians, media people and academia found out, as they traveled to work one day, that 30 percent of the vehicles they saw had some sort of Christian or pro-life message on them? And that 30 percent of the T-shirts they saw, as people strolled down Main Street, had some message showing off adherence to God and Christian morals? Don’t you think they would act accordingly? Don’t you think businessmen would soon sell them in any mall? Or that the editor of the paper would not leave out the name of Jesus Christ from my Christmas story he recently published? I bet you many things would look very different. Priests for Life has said that now, when Christianity and the Pro-life message are almost completely pushed out of the press, TV, and culture generally, the street is our media! They are right. The last frontier left to us is the street. Let’s make the best of it. But will we? Does it make any sense to try and figure out how best to get our message heard if there are no takers for the positions of criers and watchmen? Does it make any sense when people are not even willing to use bumper stickers? Lame excuses People say it does not change anything. I have a sticker for them that reads, “Did you try it?” They respond, “No, but others did.” Like who? Here in Grande Prairie there are only 10 cars carrying a meaningful message. (But we have lots of cars running around with the latest “angst” bumper sticker which reads, “I am a bitch.”) Some Christians say that while the message is true, it offends people, especially those who have had an abortion. “Jesus was and is always a gentleman, so we must follow his example and not offend people. After all, how would you like it, if somebody tried to impose their set of beliefs on you?” I have a bumper sticker for these people that reads, “The truth will make you free.” And I ask them how they would bring the message to the world in a better, less offensive way. “We would wait to be asked,” is their reply. And so most of them are still waiting for their first customer to show up and ask. Others don’t want their employers to get mad at them. I have a sticker for them that reads, “If you are ashamed of me, I will be ashamed of you before my Father” (Luke 9:26). The most honest admit, “I don’t want to get my car vandalized.” I would recommend to such honest people to continue their honesty and not to sing, “All to Jesus I surrender, all to him freely I give.” All these and many, many other “reasons” are perpetuated in Christian circles, so the message does not get out simply because there are no messengers. But these are not real reasons, they are just excuses for our laziness, our cowardice and our lack of love for God and our fellow man. This is a point worth repeating – the three real reasons we do not get out message out are cowardice, laziness, and lack of love for God and our fellow man. The moment we repent and start to proclaim our God and His morality to the world (even if only by bumper stickers), that is the moment we start to obey God, and thus become courageous. In that moment we also return to our first love for God and we love our fellow men again. And at that moment we’ll get our message heard because there will finally be messengers to carry it, and no matter how it will be received it will be heard! I pray for that. Ladies and gentlemen, I now rest my case. You can find pro-life bumper stickers at Life Cycle Books Canadian store or American store. Pro-life t-shirts can be found at Abort73.com and other online retailers. A version of this article first appeared in the February 2002 issue. ...

Theology

Bill, and The Brothers Karamazov, on the Problem of Evil

“All right, so this passage shows Jesus’ lordship and control over all creation.” Bill glanced at his watch. It was already 3:45 and his class started at 4:00. It was at least a 10-minute walk across the campus. “Are there any questions?” Bill hoped that the passage was clear enough to Victor, the only visitor at the Bible study. The group of four sat in silence staring at their Bibles briefly. Then Peter spoke up, “Well, there aren’t any questions, I guess we can close in prayer. Steve, could you close with us?” During the prayer, Bill felt his stomach tighten. The next two hours were going to be rough. As Steve finished, Bill added a few extra words asking God to strengthen him for what was coming. “Well, I’d love to stick around and talk, but I really gotta get going. My class starts in 10 minutes. See ya!” Bill walked briskly into the cold October air. The darkening dusk added to the tension in Bill’s body. He quickly ran through in his mind the topic for the Intellectual History seminar. He thought of whether he should just keep his mouth shut. “Maybe,” he thought, “maybe I should just go home and skip.” But then he remembered how many classes he’d already missed. It wasn’t an option. ***** In the seminar room, the prof and most of the students were already seated. The professor, Dr. Hamowy, was a short man, but he compensated for his stature with an antagonistic personality and sharp tongue. He gloried in debate and loved the thrill of the attack. Bill took his place at the end of the long table, opposite Hamowy. With two minutes left, Bill quickly reviewed the book to be discussed. A couple more students drifted in – it was time. “Okay, today we’re looking at Dostoevsky. You guys’ll like this. Always creates a good debate. Who’s giving the introduction? Miss Hogan? All right, go ahead.” Hogan launched into it. Bill had heard her talking with some of the other students and she mentioned something about going to a Lutheran church. Could she be a Christian? Bill listened intently. Not a word about Dostoevsky and Christianity. “Thanks, Miss Hogan, but that was rather superficial. I’m wondering, why didn’t you mention anything about Dostoevsky and Christianity?” Hogan’s face bleached. “Umm…I just didn’t think it was that important.” “Miss Hogan, did you even read the book?” “Sure, but I didn’t really see anything religious.” “Miss Hogan, next time you better do a closer reading of the book. If you’d thought about it or even done some research, you’d see we can’t understand this thinker apart from religion. Come on guys, get your act together.” The first part of the class was over. It was now completely dark outside. “Okay, let’s get the discussion going here. We’re especially interested in what Dostoevsky has to say about the problem of evil. You’ve read the book, so you should know that Dostoevsky approaches the problem religiously. Open your books to page 240 and we’ll start reading that second paragraph and go to the end of the following page. Mr. Kosinski, could you read it for us?” Bill opened his copy of The Brothers Karamazov and followed along. Ivan was complaining to his brother Alyosha: “People sometimes talk of bestial cruelty, but that’s a great injustice and insult to the beasts; a beast can never be so cruel as a man, so artistically cruel. I’ve collected a great deal about Russian children, Alyosha. There was a little girl of five who was hated by her father and mother…” Ivan went on to describe how this little girl had been horribly abused by her parents. He concluded by asking Alyosha if he would design the world in such a way that little children suffer so terribly. Kosinski stopped reading and looked up. Hamowy started the discussion. “Okay, what’d you guys think of this?” Silence. “Come on, somebody must be thinking in this room!” More silence. Bill felt his stomach tighten more. He leaned against the table and slightly pulsated back and forth with the rhythm of his thumping heart. One of the other students raised his hand. “Good, Mr. Bosley. You’d like to comment?” “Yeah, this book pretty much nails it right on. How could anybody believe in God when there’s so much evil in the world? Think of the Holocaust, all those Jews dying, where was God then? How could anyone believe in a powerful good God who could control all this evil, but doesn’t?” “Thank you, Mr. Bosley. Anyone else? Surely you don’t all agree with Mr. Bosley?” It was time for Bill to strike. He slowly raised up his hand, but Evans beat him to it. “Okay, Miss Evans, enlighten us.” “I agree. Believing in a good God in a world where there’s suffering is completely illogical. I don’t get all these god-freaks. Are they even thinking with their brains? We aren’t going to get anywhere in dealing with evil as long as those brain-dead ideas are around. We’d be better off with something like when we’re all god and we all work together.” “All right, thanks Miss Evans. There seems to be a consensus developing. What’s wrong with you guys? Mr. Gordon, I saw your hand. What do you think?” Finally, Bill had his opportunity. “It intrigues me that everyone agrees there’s such a thing as evil and wickedness.” Bill’s heart beat faster and harder and his voice trembled. “I’d like to just ask a question to all of you: can we all agree that sexually abusing children is absolutely immoral?” Most students nodded their head in agreement. Only Bagchee didn’t. “Mr. Bagchee, you disagree with Gordon? Why?” “Well, there may be some societies where adults having sex with children is completely normal. In my country, in some of the cultures, it was at one time custom to make mothers sleep with their boys. In other cultures, teenage girls must be deflowered by tribal leaders to prepare for their arranged marriage.” Hogan couldn’t restrain herself. “I think that’s completely disgusting! Sexual abuse is wrong no matter what!” Dr. Hamowy smiled as the class finally heated up. “Miss Evans, you have something to add?” “Yeah, Subhash you can say that about your country or other cultures, but what if part of their culture was to smash their children’s head against rocks while sexually abusing them, would that be okay too? And what if it was you or your child?” Bagchee shrugged. “Mr. Gordon, where’d you want to go with this? “Well, pretty much everyone agrees there’s an absolute moral rightness or wrongness to certain things, like sexually abusing children or brutally murdering them.” Bill’s voice was quivering again. “But when you ask how can there be a God with so much evil in the world, you’ve missed the hidden assumption in your question – that there is such a thing as evil. And the fact that you get upset about evil in the world shows that in your hearts you know there is such a thing as absolute good and evil. But when you deny the God of Christianity, you deny the possibility of there even being absolute right and wrong. Apart from God, morality is an individual or cultural matter, and like Subhash’s examples, sexually abusing children could conceivably be acceptable. But we’ve agreed that it’s absolutely not. When you ask the question, you’re stuck. You’ve betrayed yourself and the real nature of your problem with Christianity.” “Umm, thanks Mr. Gordon. Okay, what’d the rest of you think of those comments?” Kosinksi leapt in again. “Yeah, I think Bill’s wrong. You’ve got a contradiction in your idea here. You say God is good. You say God is powerful, right?” Bill nodded. “But you say evil exists! You’ve got a contradiction, ‘cause if God was all-good and all-powerful, there’d be no bad stuff. So, ya see, Christianity isn’t so true after all.” Bill thought carefully for a moment. “Joe, you just said God is all-good and I completely agree with that – it’s found in the Bible. His character defines right and wrong. God is all-good and because I’m a Christian, I look at everything in the light of that. And so when I see evil, I can be consistent by inferring God has a morally good reason for the evil we see around us. Any evil we see must somehow fit with God’s goodness. Look at Jesus for example. Jesus was crucified. It was an act of evil – he was 100% innocent. But the cross fit in with God’s good plans to rescue those who’d believe in him. God therefore has a good reason for the wickedness in the world and there’s no contradiction. It all fits.” Bill took a long deep breath and carried on. “But within the non-Christian way of looking at the world, you can’t justify your contradiction between having absolute moral standards and not having an absolute source for those standards. If all we are is ooze, what difference does it make if one glob of ooze sexually abuses another glob of ooze? Who cares? Only with Christianity can absolute standards of good and evil have any meaning. And I think that was the point Dostoevsky was trying to make too.” “Okay, thanks Mr. Gordon. Anyone have anything to say? Mr. Bosley?” “Yeah, this is stupid. What about the influence of Dostoevsky on feminist scholarship?” ***** The rest of the seminar rambled in inanities. Bill’s heart rate and blood pressure were still coming down 20 minutes later when the class ended. As he got up to leave, he tried to make eye contact with some of the other students. He made his way out and walked down the hall of the history department. Hogan came up behind him and stopped him. “Bill, I really liked all those things you said. That was really good.” “Thanks.” Bill walked away wondering why no one ever spoke up in class to support him. As he stepped out into the chilly darkness, he still felt the aching of his chest and the tightness in his stomach. The only thing not bothering him was his conscience. Dr. Bredenhof blogs at yinkahdinay.wordpress.com where this first appeared....

Book excerpts, Book Reviews

When C.S. Lewis was an atheist...

An excerpt from Douglas Bond’s novel War in the Wasteland Editor’s note: This excerpt takes place during a prolonged Germany artillery barrage that has the British hunkering deep down in their trenches. Private Nigel Hopkins ends up deep underground with his two of his Company’s junior officers, 2cnd Lieutenant Johnson and 2cnd Lieutenant C.S. Lewis. With nothing to do but wait the two officers restart a conversation they began some days before about the meaning of it all. Lewis, at this point in his life, was an atheist, and, in some ways, a thoughtful one. But in this exchange (in which we come mid-way) Johnson exposes how Lewis’s argument against God is not, as Lewis seemed to suppose, a matter of cold logic, but rather emotion. **** For several moments, listening to the continuing barrage, sitting in total darkness, no one said anything. Lewis broke the silence, his tone sober, brooding, almost simmering: “My mother was a rock, the fortress of our existence. When she died our fortress crumbled.” “I am so terribly sorry,” said Johnson softly. “You were how old?” “Nine. Almost ten.” “Tender age,” said Johnson. “Such a pity. How did you cope?” “I became an atheist.” “Why an atheist?” “Why not? I had prayed – nobody could have prayed more earnestly than I. She died, my praying notwithstanding. God did not answer.” “I am truly sorry for you,” said Johnson. “You need not be,” said Lewis. “It’s just the facts. Facing them is the same as growing up, leaving childish ways behind.” “‘God did not answer,’ you say,” said Johnson, picking his way cautiously, so it seemed to Nigel. ”Ergo, He does not exist? It sounds to me as if you do believe in God, but want Him on a leash, dutifully at your side, a tame lion, coming when you call, doing your bidding.” “Balderdash,” said Lewis. “‘Facing the facts,’ as you call it,” continued Johnson. “I’m rather fond of facts myself. Enlighten me. Did you decide not to believe in God because you had grappled with the evidence and had concluded that no such divine being existed? Or did you – I mean no offense, mind you – did you decide not to believe in such a being because you were angry with Him for not healing your mother? Put simply, was your unbelief in God to spite Him?” “That’s more balderdash. It was –“ Lewis broke off, saved by a rapid staccato of exploding ordinance above them. After another uncomfortable silence, Johnson cleared his throat and began again. “One wonders if it makes rational sense to organize one’s metaphysics around the notion that by simply choosing not to believe in someone that this someone, thereby, no longer exists. If that actually worked, I’d commence not believing in the Kaiser – Poof! Away with him. Poof! Away with the firing their ordinance at us right now. Poof! Away with the whole dashed war.” “All right, all right. Perhaps, strictly speaking,” said Lewis. “Perhaps, I did not become an atheist. I do not know.” “I used to think I was one,” said Johnson, striking a match. “But at the end of the day, Jack, atheism is too simple, wholly inadequate to explain the complexities of life, a boy’s philosophy. That’s what it is.” Lewis, mesmerized by the flickering match light, sat brooding, seeming not to hear him. “Perhaps I had become something worse.” As he proceeded his voice was a strained monotone, each word coming like a lash. “Perhaps it was then that I began to think of God, if He exists at all, as malevolent, a cosmic sadist, inflicting pain on his creatures for sport. Or an eternal vivisector, toying with his human rats merely for curiosity or amusement.” It was pitch dark again. Listening to the exploding artillery rounds above them, no one said anything for several minutes. Nigel concluded that, furious as it yet was, clearly the main force of the bombardment was winding down. He wondered if one of the German howitzers had jammed, or if the British counterbattery fire had managed to take out some of the enemy’s big guns. It was Lieutenant Lewis who broke the silence. His voice was barely audible in the dark. “I wish I could remember her face.” If you’ve enjoyed this excerpt, be sure to pick up a copy of Douglas Bond’s novel “War in the Wasteland” which can be found at any online retailer. And you may also like "The Resistance," a sequel of sorts, which takes place during World War II....

Apologetics 101, Satire

The Triangle Curvature Inclusion Bill

A controversial bill to redefine triangles was presented in the British Parliament this past month. Debate was opened by the Culture Secretary, Valerie Brimble, who began by setting out the case for expanding what she sees as an oppressively restrictive definition. “Times change,” she began, “old customs and habits which may have served society well in the past need to be constantly reviewed. It is my contention that the traditional view of triangles, as having three straight sides, joining at three corners and forming three internal angles which aggregate to 180 degrees must urgently be reviewed. There is no reason why this configuration need remain, and a modern society ought not to be hidebound by antiquated customs.” Unusually for a Commons debate, she then whipped out a visual aid from under the dispatch box in order to demonstrate her proposals. Figure 1, she told a packed House, was an example of how triangles have been traditionally defined. FIG 1. She then went on to explain that this traditional definition of triangles could no longer be tolerated in a modern, diverse and inclusive society. “If we are to be a compassionate people, then we must include shapes that we’ve previously pushed to the margins.” She then sought to reassure some of her more traditionalist colleagues that what the government was proposing was merely a change to allow just one of the sides of the triangle to be redefined, to allow for the introduction of a wiggly line. Figure 2 was then presented to her fellow MPs, which depicted a “triangle” with this wiggly short side. FIG. 2 As she sat down after her opening remarks, Mrs. Brimble faced a barrage of criticism from opponents of the bill. It was pointed out to her that once you redefine triangles to include one wiggly line, it was only a matter of time until other self-interest groups demanded their right to add a second or even a third bendy line. Mrs. Brimble responded by reassuring the House that the government had no plans to allow any further redefinitions. “We are only, I repeat, only, legislating to allow either one of the two shorter lines to be redefined,” she said. “We are not, I repeat, we are not legislating for the redefinition of the hypotenuse.” However, this failed to satisfy her opponents who one by one got up to denounce the redefinition. One of the most vocal said this: “Can my Right Honourable friend tell the house this: once she has redefined the triangle to include a wiggly line, what reason can she give to those who then want to redefine it to include four straight lines, or multiple bendy lines, or even as many lines, bendy or otherwise, that they choose?” Not to be outdone by Mrs. Brimble, he then whipped out his own visual aid and showed the House what could well happen to the triangle if this legislation passes. FIG. 3 “Oh come off it,” scoffed a clearly exasperated Mrs. Brimble. “Don’t be ridiculous. They don’t look anything like triangles. Even a fool can see that.”...

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

Some pro-life arguments are not pro-life arguments

Editor's note: the short pro-life film Crescendo is very well done – it is compelling, emotional, and has wonderful musical accompaniment. It’s very clear why it has won so many awards.  But this pro-life film is also notable for what it is missing, or, rather, what it gets wrong. As Rob Slane explains below, while the argument in the film is a common one in pro-life circles, it is a message completely at odds with the truth. https://youtu.be/CafJJNETvqM ***** Have you ever heard the Beethoven argument against abortion? It runs something like this: "If you knew a woman who was pregnant, who had 8 kids already – three who were deaf, two who were blind and one who was mentally retarded – and she had syphilis, would you recommend that she have an abortion? You would? Well congratulations – you just killed Beethoven!" I have heard this argument used many times as an argument against abortion and I must say it tends to leaves me with a thoroughly unappealing taste in my mouth. The problem with it is that in trying to establish the dignity of human life by using the idea that you might end up killing a genius if you abort babies, the argument ironically ends up completely undermining the dignity of human life. That's not what we believe The reasoning behind this little nugget is that by killing the unborn, you might just kill someone who, had you let them live, would have been great and who may have possibly brought great joy and happiness to millions. But the subtle subtext behind this argument is that the value of human life can be measured by success, or accomplishments, or by a person's genius. This contradicts the whole pro-life argument, which is based on the principle that all human life is special and of great value, not because of what a person may or may not do, but rather because each person is made in the image of God and so is automatically sacred – irrespective of future accomplishments and successes. Human dignity does not come from us. Ours is an objective dignity, given to us by our Creator and not by ourselves. It is not earned on the basis of what we do or by what we achieve, and it cannot be forfeited by reason of our sin. It is true that we often appear to do all we can to forfeit this dignity by our sinful nature and behavior, yet no amount of sin can alter our status as bearers of the Imago Dei, so we remain the possessors of great value. All sin does is to highlight how far we fail to live up to the dignity that God has given us. The proper perspective Having said this, I don't think we ought to abandon this line of reasoning completely. With a little tweaking and tinkering here and there, it could be used to good effect. Something like this: "If you knew a woman who was pregnant, who had 8 kids already, three who were deaf, two who were blind, one who was mentally retarded, and she had syphilis, would you recommend that she have an abortion? You would? Well congratulations – you just killed Mrs. Dorothy Anne Tweed of 55 Jameson Street, Edinburgh, Scotland. "What? You've never heard of Mrs. Tweed? Did you expect to hear that a somebody had been killed off, rather than this nobody? Maybe Beethoven or Einstein, for instance? Well sorry to disappoint you. I have to admit that Mrs. Tweed's resume doesn't look quite as impressive as Ludwig's. No choral symphonies to be found! No string quartets! No fate knocking at the door at the start of an awesome fifth symphony! "Yet despite not being one of the greatest geniuses the world has ever known and despite her clear lack of musical accomplishments, I am confident that Mrs. Tweed is as fully human as Ludwig ever was and has as much right to life as Ludwig ever did. "So tell me – would you consign her, along with millions of others just like her, to death just because they aren't Beethoven?" Rob Slane is the author of “A Christian & an Unbeliever Discuss: Life, the Universe & Everything” which is available at Amazon.ca here and Amazon.com here....

Apologetics 101

One simple question: "What do you mean by that?"

In the May 17, 2016 Breakpoint Daily, John Stonestreet shared a few questions he uses when he finds himself in a tough conversation. The first and most helpful is: “What do you mean by that?" The battle of ideas is always the battle over the definition of words. Thus, it’s vital in any conversation to clarify the terms being used. For example, the most important thing to clarify in the ongoing gender discussions is the definition of "gender." So when the topic comes up, ask, “Hold on, before we go start talking about personal pronouns, puberty suppression, or surgeries, I want to ask, what do you mean by gender?” Often, when it comes to these crucial issues, both sides are using the same vocabulary, but not the same dictionary. So to present the antithesis – to speak God's Truth to a confused culture – we have to begin by defining our terms. Defining terms can also serve as a good defense when you're getting attacked, not with an argument, but simply with an insult. When someone tries to dismiss you by calling you a name, the best response is to question the insult. "You're just a homophobe!" “What do you mean by that?” “Um, I mean you hate gays.” “But I don’t hate gays. I do disagree with their lifestyle – I think it harms them by separating them from God. Is disagreeing the same thing as hating?” “Yeah, of course!” “But you’re disagreeing with me? Wouldn’t that mean you’re hateful?” "Well...um....but you deserve it!" As in this dialogue above, defining the terms might not win you the argument, but it can expose the vacuous nature of what the other side is saying. And even when you don't win over your debate partner, clarifying the terms is one way to help bystanders see through the name-calling. However, the most important reason to lead with this simple question – "What do you mean by that? – is because showing the anthesis, making plain what the two sides actually are, brings glory to our God. And who knows how He might use the seed we plant? ...

Apologetics 101, Science - Creation/Evolution

God is visible to any with eyes to see

Our universe, if just slightly different, would never have been able to support life. For example, a proton’s mass is 1,836 times greater than that of an electron, but it carries a positive charge that is exactly equal to that of the electron’s negative charge. How very strange that the two, so different in size, would yet be perfectly matched in charge! If they weren’t paired just so, then the vast array of elements could never have formed and life could never have existed. This is but one example of the fine-tuning that so troubles atheists that they’ve resorted to “what if” stories to explain it away. Yes, they acknowledge, the universe is too finely tuned to have come about just by chance…if we’d had only one role of the dice to get here. But wait, what if this wasn’t the only universe? What if there were billions and trillions and gazillions of universes out there somewhere? What if we could stack the odds in our favor by supposing as many universes as we might need? Then it wouldn’t seem so very improbable that at least one of these might be suited to life…right? However, there's a problem. As physicist Frank Tipler notes, there's as much evidence for these other universes as there is for the existence of leprechauns and unicorns. None at all. So on what basis do scientists propose this theory? Because they need it to be true – otherwise the odds are so obviously against them. And these same atheists will mock Christians because we speak of faith! The only case that can be made for this "multiverse" theory is that the alternative is too terrible for them to consider – that a Fine-Tuner brought the balance, order, and wonder to our universe. Atheists can be inventive, but God won’t leave them with any excuse. As Psalm 19 explains the heavens declare His glory. Want to explain away fine-tuning by postulating a multiverse? Well, then answer this: why would the Sun just happen to be roughly 400 times bigger than our moon and also 400 times further away? This precise pairing means that the moon and sun appear to be the same size in our sky. This allows us, during a solar eclipse, to study the Sun’s corona in a way that we just can’t any other time and wouldn’t ever be able to if the two celestial bodies weren’t sized just so. As the moon passes in front of the Sun only the corona is still visible – flaring fire crowning the moon in the dark daytime sky. Yes, dear atheist, we are not only in a universe impossibly finely tuned for life, but implausibly suited for us to study our own Sun. Why would that be? The multiverse doesn’t explain it. There is no reason that the one universe in which all the dice rolled just right for life would also be the same universe in which we’d be gifted with a moon that was sized exactly right to study our own Sun. Atheists have no explanation. But we do. We know our God created us as the very pinnacle of His creation (Psalm 8:3-9, Genesis 1:26-28) and that our purpose is to glorify Him. So it isn’t surprising to us that God would so arrange things that the precise sizing of the moon enables us to study our Sun – God is showing us His wonders! A version of this article was first published in the May 2016 edition of Reformed Perspective. A related article by Eric Metaxas, of Breakpoint Ministries, called "Observatory Earth" can be found here. Also, be sure to check out this great 6-minute clip below about more amazing interactions between our moon and the Earth. ...

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

Babies are murdered here

Documentary 2014 / 54 minutes Rating: 8/10 This must-see is first and foremost an encouragement for anyone sitting on the sidelines to get active and start saving the unborn. Where the film gets controversial is in the producers' argument that we must name the sin that is going on behind clinic doors. They want Christians to start using stark, clear terms, like "murder" and "murderer" to clearly and accurately identify these shameful deeds. As one commentator in the film explains early on: We want to go into these neighborhoods – if we go into these neighborhoods – and whisper and invite and plead. And what we need to be doing is shaming this behavior. We need to be showing people what's going on... Friends I've spoken to who are actively involved in pro-life activism have questioned whether using the word "murderer" will shame women, or simply make pro-lifers look hateful, condemning and graceless. That's a good question, and good reason to watch this film. The men and women we see witnessing are carrying large signs that read "Babies are Murdered Here" but there isn't a hint of self-righteousness about them. They are clear, and generally pretty winsome too; truth is being coupled with grace. I find their approach comparable to pro-lifers who make use of large graphic pictures and pair that with soft-spoken words. There are many other ways we can present the Truth, so we don't have to use the words "murderer" or "murderer." But the film makes a convincing case that we must not shy away from these words, or deny their accuracy. According to the conventional pro-life presentation, abortionists are murderers, and the mothers are victims. That's a lie we have to stop repeating. It's a lie that obscures the crime these women are setting out to do. As RC Sproul Jr. explains: It is, perhaps, the most heinous crime I can imagine. It is the most "against nature thing" I can imagine, for a woman who has been gifted by God and called by God to nurture and protect her children to instead turn around and murder that child. It is not just an ordinary murder. When we commit an ordinary murder the other person can fight back. When we commit an ordinary murder it's notthe very fruit of our own bodies. It is a wicked, wicked, vile thing and we need to say so... without diminishing the depth and the scope and the power of the grace of God in Jesus Christ. We need to be clear about the crime we hope to prevent. We want to save these mothers from becoming murderers. We want to save those who have already become murderers. This is why they need the Gospel. And this is why we need to be there sharing it with them. You can watch Babies are Murdered Here for free below or at BabiesAreMurderedHere.com. Since this film was released in 2014, one of the commentators interviewed, RC Sproul Jr., had to resign from his position at Ligonier Ministries, related to two public sins. However, the points he makes in the film stand on their own....

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, 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. ...

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