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Saturday Selections - April 27, 2019

Real men exercise David Murray's Christian Man Academy offers men, young and old, straightforward advice on what it means to be a godly man. And in this edition he shares why "Real Men Excercise." What does coal have to do with the Flood? "What Kurt was talking about...was unimaginably big: a log mat the size of a continent." Your middle schooler lied Don't just stop your children's bad behavior - make Christ's resurrection personal for them. Why some Christians refuse vaccines on moral grounds This Christianity Today shares the moral objections some Christians have with some vaccines – specifically those that were propagated using tissue from aborted babies – and offers answers to many of those objections. 5 ways the Bible and Economics connect In the Capitalism vs. Socialism debate, the Bible has something to say... 3 simple steps to making your point Greg Koukl gives an overview of 3 simple strategies to use in discussions and debates with unbelievers. This is a 5-minute overview of what he covers at length is his super-user-friendly apologetics book Tactics. ...


Saturday Selections - Oct. 20, 2018

How our sun and atmosphere show evidence of being Intelligently-designed (3 minutes) A different take on pro-abortion bully Jordan Hunter When Jordan Hunter kicked pro-life protester Marie-Claire Bissonnette on a street in Toronto, video of his attack went viral. That viral video led to Hunter losing his job, and to the police pressing charges. Both results were unusual – though violence and destruction of property are regularly committed against pro-lifers, it's probably more common that pro-lifers are arrested by the police than the police arrest someone for attacking pro-lifers. It felt good to be on the winning side for once. But one commentator questioned whether the pro-life camp came out looking good. On a related note, even as this was all about the unborn – Hunter kicked Bissonnette for speaking up for the unborn and the unborn were the reason Bissonnette was out there protesting – what got lost in the news coverage was the unborn themselves. The press presented this as being about the principles of freedom of speech, and peaceful protest. Jordan Hunter was certainly attacking those principles, but those principles don't need defending like the unborn do. So, when attention comes our way, how can pro-lifers direct the media spotlight towards the unborn? Most importantly, we have to stick to our own talking points, about the humanity of the unborn, no matter where a reporter might want to take us. The media wants to do something on freedom of speech? We talk about how important it is that we be free to tell the country about the humanity of the unborn. They want to talk about peaceful protest? We talk about how it isn't our own peace we most want to ensure, but peace for the unborn. Of course, sticking to our message is no guarantee that the unborn's humanity will make it to the nightly news – we can't control reporters – but by ensuring all our answers are about the unborn (even as the media tries to take us in other directions) we can make it more likely the media will pass along at least some Truth about the unborn. A warning for parents: Instagram is full of porn Reformed commentator Jonathan Van Maren shares a secular magazine's warning about Instagram, and then shares a helpful resource – Social Media and Teens: The Ultimate Guide to Keeping Kids Safe Online – that parents may appreciate. The deadly Canadian M.A.I.D Three Canadians doctors are promoting the idea of euthanasia for children without their parents' permission. That's where you end up when life is no longer understood as intrinsically valuable. Man wins women's cycling race A man who says he is a woman just won a women's cycling race. How is that fair? The transgender winner argued that because he's lost to the women he was competing against more times than he's beat them, that makes it fair. That might make it competitive in much the same way that if a 40-something-year-old on foot raced his 8-year-old daughter on her bike, it might be close for the first 50 meters or so. But that doesn't make it any less a matter of apples competing against oranges. What was the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah? Some are arguing it wasn't homosexuality but was really about inhospitality or rape. Koukl shows how an honest look at the text says otherwise. (5 minutes) ...

Apologetics 101

What is Man?

Three thousand years ago, an ancient sage gazed at the world and asked the most important question anyone could ask about our corporate humanity: When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained; What is man that You take thought of him…? (Ps. 8:3–4) Indeed. What is man? What does it mean to be human? You cannot answer a single question of consequence regarding human beings without answering that question first. Everything vital, meaningful, and moral about us hangs on its answer. It is the quintessential query regarding the nature of human existence. MANY OTHER QUESTIONS FLOW TOWARDS THIS ONE Is gender fixed or fluid? Is homosexuality natural or perverse? Is there a right to abortion? What about capital punishment? Or sexual slavery? Or social justice? The answer to each of these questions depends upon an answer to a prior question: What is man? There are three ways to respond. 1. NATURALISM: WE ARE NOTHING Here is the first way, the response of naturalism — the religion currently governing science. According to pop “Science Guy” Bill Nye, “We are just a speck, on a speck, orbiting a speck, in the corner of a speck, in the middle of nowhere.” “We emerged from microbes and muck,” Carl Sagan declared. “We find ourselves in bottomless free fall…lost in a great darkness, and there’s no one to send out a search party.” And they are right, of course. In a world without God, humans are nothing but cogs in the celestial machine, cosmic junk, the ultimate unplanned pregnancy, left to build our lonely lives on the “unyielding foundation of universal despair,” as atheist Bertrand Russell put it. Nihilism — bleak “nothing-ism.” 2. NEW AGE: WE ARE GOD There is a more cheerful alternative, though: the New Age answer to the question “What is man?” There is a God, according to Rhonda Byrne, and he is you. In The Secret, her celebration of human divinity, she writes: You are God in a physical body. You are Spirit in the flesh. You are Eternal Life expressing itself as You…. You are all power. You are all wisdom. You are all intelligence. You are perfection. So the secularists have given us two options. Either there is no God, or there is and we are Him. Cosmic debris or divine perfection. In either case, we are alone — solitary nothing or solitary everything. Scylla or Charybdis. 3. A THIRD WAY: NEITHER GODS NOR GARBAGE Our ancient sage, though, provides a third answer. No, we are not God, but we are not garbage, either. There is another alternative, a path between those two monsters. It is also one that makes complete sense of our deepest intuitions about what it means for us to be human. THE ODDITY THAT IS EARTH DAY Something has always confused me about Earth Day celebrations. They seem to be based on a contradiction. Earth Day is a fete enjoyed by naturalists, on the main, who celebrate nature as ultimate and man’s unique moral responsibility to protect it. There, did you see it? Did you catch the contradiction? In order to see the misstep, you must see something else first. Worldviews come in packages. They are like puzzles with particular pieces fitting together into a coherent whole. Foundational concerns either fit crisply with other details or foreclose on them. In a naturalistic worldview, nature is all there is — physical things in motion strictly governed by the deterministic laws of physics and chemistry. In this package, then, there is no place for actual moral obligations of any kind because morality is based on free choices, not on physical determinism. Further, Darwinism is a strictly materialistic process that produces strictly material goods. No pattern of genetic mutation and natural selection can cause an immaterial moral obligation to pop into existence.  Thus, no living thing can have an obligation to protect another. The locusts take what they can and leave nothing for the hapless boll weevil. Nor should they. May the best bug (the “fittest” critter) win. That’s the program. Nature’s “balance” is maintained by the corporate tug o’ war for survival that all living things engage in (on this view), not by one species acting responsibly towards another. There are no moral hierarchies in nature since nature has no resources to build them. Thus, the notion that a specific animal, even a human one, has responsibility of stewardship over any other — much less over nature’s entire project — is completely foreign to Darwinism and, thus, to naturalism. In short, there is nothing in an atheistic, naturalistic world that makes sense of man’s obligation towards nature. That’s the contradiction. MY FATHER'S WORLD As I said, it confuses me, and it ought to trouble naturalists, too, but it doesn’t appear to. There is a reason for this, I think. To them it just seems obvious — regardless of their underlying worldview — that humans are different in a qualitative way, making us responsible as stewards over the world entrusted to us. That’s not the exact language they’d use, of course, but it’s what the intuition driving Earth Day amounts to. And they are right about this intuition, of course, but certainly not in virtue of naturalism. Naturalists can talk all they want of human obligations, human meaning and purpose, human value, human significance — even human rights — but it’s all chaff in the wind given their foundational understanding of reality. There is a worldview, though, in which each of these features of human worth makes perfect sense. Ours. Here is what the Earth Day crowd gets right: Man is different. Humans are special. People are responsible precisely because they are not the same as anything else in nature. And we all know this, which is why the fact continues to stubbornly assert itself even with people whose worldview package cannot justify it. That’s because this world is not Mother’s world (“Mother Nature”). It is Father’s world. Here is what Father says about human beings. Humans are beautiful, but they are also broken. They are good, but they are also guilty, and so they are lost. But it hasn’t always been this way, so there is hope for rescue. These are things we all know, it turns out. They reflect our deepest intuitions about ourselves and the world we live in. BEAUTIFUL... Carl Sagan says we are cousins of apes. That is Mother’s assessment, of course. Father says different: God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. (Gen. 1:27) This is the starting point for the answer to our question, “What is man?” At the core of our being lies a mark, an imprint of God Himself — not on us, as if foreign and attached, but in us, as a natural feature built into our natures. This mark is part of what makes us what we are, who we are. We would not be humans without it, but only creatures. Because of this mark, we are not kin to apes. We are kin to the God who made us for Himself. I do not want you to miss the significance of this simple statement, “God created man in His own image,” the very first thing said about humans at the outset of God’s Story. It means that anyone reading these words — indeed, every person who has ever lived or died or hoped or dreamed anywhere on this planet at any time in history — bears something beautiful at their core, a beauty that can never be lost and cannot be taken from them. No, we are not gods, but we are like God in an important way. God’s image in us is what makes abortion a homicide and sexual slavery a travesty. It is the reason we are not free to treat each other like animals. It is why certain “inalienable” rights belong uniquely to us. It is also the basis for our friendship with God. We are like Him so we can be near Him in an extraordinary, intimate way. In a very real sense, then, you have never met an “ordinary” person. Because of the mark of God within our souls, we are each extraordinary in a way that no disfigurement — physical or moral — can ever change, no circumstance can ever alter, no thief can ever steal. It is God’s forever gift to humanity, His image on our being. Thus, we are precious to Him as nothing else is. Jesus said, “Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows” (Matt. 10:29–31). Notice something else about Father’s world. God says He made us “male and female.” God made gender binary, not “fluid.” There are two and only two, not a vast array. This is a good thing — one made to match the other, each designed to fit the other physically for reproduction (obviously) and soulishly for oneness when paired together in lifelong relationship. The two make one, each “fearfully and wonderfully” made, man for woman, woman for man — the one as the other’s proper, lifelong complement and companion. There is another reason for our binary sexuality. Only in the combination of those unique characteristics germane to each gender is the image of God fully manifest. Though in God’s essential nature He is Father, God is neither male nor female, strictly speaking, but shares and manifests the magnificent glories of both genders. Note one thing more. God said to them: Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth. (Gen. 1:28) This is the accurate insight of the Earth Day crowd. We are both masters and stewards; regents on earth, yet servants of the Most High God. But there is a problem. Something went south. ...BUT BROKEN I want to tell you another thing everyone knows. Something has gone terribly wrong. We call it “the problem of evil,” and it prompts us to ask, “Why is there so much badness in the world?” There is a wrinkle to this concern, though, another detail each of us also already knows. The world is broken, true enough. But we are broken, too, and our brokenness is a huge part of what is wrong with the world. The world is broken because we are broken. Though man has inherent dignity, he is also cruel. The evil is “out there,” as it were, but it is also “in here” — in us. Things did not start out that way, though. At the very end of the very beginning, once God had set everything in its proper place, we find this summary of all He had done: “God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good” (Gen. 1:31). All was as it was supposed to be, just as God intended, everything working according to its purpose, man and woman one with each other and the world, resting in their friendship with God. In that peaceful paradise, though, there was a lone prohibition — a test of fidelity to a Friend, of love to a Father, of loyalty to a King. There was also a tempter who told a terrible lie and a devastating disobedience that changed everything. When our first parents chose to follow the deceiver rather than their Sovereign, they broke fellowship with their Father, they broke communion with each other, and they broke harmony with the earth they’d been entrusted with. Indeed, when Adam and Eve sinned, they broke the whole world. Human badness made the world go bad. Because our parents became broken, each of us is now broken like them since they reproduced children just like themselves, and their children have done likewise, one broken generation cascading down to the next. Each of us is still beautiful, to be sure. God’s image cannot be erased. However, it can be defaced and disfigured, sullied and spoiled. And that is what has happened. Where there was freedom, there is now slavery and struggle. Where there was spiritual life, there is now spiritual death and decay. Where there was friendship with God, there is now enmity and strife. This is the second part of our answer to the question, “What is man?” Yes, man is beautiful, but man is terribly broken. And it gets worse. GUILTY To say we are broken is accurate, but it is also easily misunderstood since it does not go far enough. We are not machines that are malfunctioning. We are not bodies that are ailing. We are subjects who revolted, rebels who are now morally corrupted. We are guilty, and for this we must answer. Again, each of us knows this deep down inside. Years back, I lectured to a sold-out crowd at the University of California at Berkeley. I made the case against moral relativism simply by observing how frequently we object to evil deeds done by others. This tendency, I pointed out, explains something about ourselves, too, since we are the “others” doing those evil deeds we object to. And we know it. Deep inside of us is a gnawing awareness of our own badness, producing a feeling we universally recognize. That feeling has a name. I asked them what it was. All over the auditorium I heard their response. “Guilt,” they said, one by one. Yes, we all feel guilty, don’t we? At some point or another, if we are honest with ourselves, we feel the pain of our own brokenness. “But why?” I asked. “Why do we feel guilty? How about this,” I suggested. “Maybe we feel guilty,” I said, “because we are guilty. Is that in the running?” This, of course, is exactly what the Story tells us: There is none righteous, not even one; There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God; All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, There is not even one. (Rom. 3:10–12) Humans are beautiful, yes. But humans are also broken. And in our moral wretchedness we are also profoundly guilty. We owe. We are in debt, not to a standard, not to a rule, not to a law, but to a Person — to the One we have offended with our disobedience. And this is not good news, since our guilt has severe consequences. LOST At the end of the Story we find a dark passage. It tells of the final event of history as we know it, a great trial on a great plain where a great multitude of the accused — the guilty ones — stand before a Judge. The books of death are opened, each of our moral lives laid bare for all mankind to see — the record in the books the basis for a final reckoning, a last judgment. Nothing is missed or overlooked. From massive acts of evil to minor moral missteps, no sullied deed passes. “There is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known,” Jesus warned (Matt. 10:26). “Every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment,” He said (Matt. 12:36). It is not a pretty picture. Before the Judge stand all the beautiful, broken, guilty ones, each shut up under sin. Every mouth is also shut, each voice muted, silenced from any defensive appeal or any excuse, all the world accountable to Him with whom we have to do. The record in the books speaks for itself. Here is Sagan’s “bottomless free fall” — mankind “lost in a great darkness.” He is right about that, since we are all guilty, and no judge owes a pardon. Atonement must be made. The debt must be paid. Justice must be perfect. There is one more detail to the Story, though. I did not leave the students at Berkeley in despair, abandoned under the weight of their own guilt — culpability that we all shoulder, blame that we all share. “The answer to guilt is not denial,” I told them. “That’s relativism. The answer to guilt,” I said, “is forgiveness. And this is where Jesus comes in.” Sagan is right when he says we are lost. But he is wrong when he says, “There’s no one to send out a search party.” Clearly, man needs rescuing, and he cannot rescue himself. Help must come from the outside. From outside of ourselves. From outside of Sagan’s closed cosmos. From outside of this world. And the search party has arrived. The Rescuer has come: Therefore, when comes into the world, He says, “Sacrifice and offering You have not desired, but a body You have prepared for Me; in whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You have taken no pleasure. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come…to do Your will, O God.’” (Heb. 10:5–7) Because our souls bear God’s own image, we are wonderful. Because we have rebelled against the God who gave us our beauty, we are broken, guilty, and ultimately lost. “For the wages of sin is death…” the Story tells us (Rom. 6:23). In the darkness, though, there is hope, because it then adds, “…but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” He is the One who calls to us: Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest…for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matt. 11:28–29) END NOTES Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space (New York: Random house, 1994), 6, 51.  Rhonda Bryne, The Secret (New York: Atria Books, 2006), 164. In a previous issue of Solid Ground, I explain why Darwinism as a system is completely incapable of generating actual, objective moral obligations. See “God, Evolution, and Morality,” parts 1 and 2, at Sagan, ibid. I owe this insight to C.S. Lewis. Note Jesus’ comment in Matt. 19:4–6. Rev. 20. Gal. 3:22. Rom. 3:19. Greg Koukl is the author of Tactics, an apologetics primer, and The Story of Reality, which is a lot like this article. He 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. ...

Apologetics 101

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

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

Apologetics 101

Witnessing without knowing it all

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

Adult non-fiction

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

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


Saturday Selections - June 30, 2018

A refresher on the Columbo Tactic This past Spring, RP brought Tim Barnett around Canada to teach a couple of very effective apologetic tactics. In this clip his boss, Greg Koukl, gives a short refresher on one of them, the "Columbo Tactic." (4 minutes) Babylon Bee founder Adam Ford on how to bypass Facebook and Google's control of the Internet Facebook and Google are filtering the news you read. But it's not hard to bypass them...though few are bothering. How to share the Gospel with someone "My first question is generally, “Who do you think Jesus is?” This keeps the conversation on the person and work of Christ, which I find hard if we begin with a broader topic. It also gives people an opportunity to pull out of the conversation early, rather than after five minutes when they finally realize you want to chat about Jesus..." The Atlantic reports that some transgender surgeries are regretted Jonathon Van Maren on the controversy that occurred after a secular magazine reporting that some transgender folk have changed their minds about their gender....even after having surgery. Dangerous people are teaching your kids Jordan Peterson on the college/university experience on some secular universities in Canada. (5 minutes) Is heading to college more hazardous than joining the Normandy invasion? New St. Andrews (a Reformed college) President, Dr. Ben Merkle (speaking on the Glenn Beck Radio Program) on the hazards involved in sending our kids off to college. “We've seen a number of surveys that have demonstrated that of kids who are attending church regularly in their senior year in high school, by the time they finish their freshman year in college three out of four of them will have walked away from their faith and they're no longer involved as Christians….One of the statistics, a visual image that I think helps parents to think about it is, if you were to sign your children up to be in the boats on the Normandy Beach Invasion they would have a better chance of surviving that than surviving spiritually in colleges now. That experience is not something most parents are eager to sign their children up for, but we do it in a pretty unthinking way right now.” For the longer version, see the 1-hour presentation below. ...

Apologetics 101, Politics, Sexuality

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


Saturday Selections - May 12, 2018

5 questions to ask a book before you read it Tim Challies lists 5 questions to "help you filter the few books you will read from the thousands you could read." Marvel's latest supervillain sounds like some respected scientists and doctors Thanos thinks death is preferable to a life of suffering. This is the same kind of thinking that motivated Alfie Evans' doctors. An "animal salad" of bones points to catastrophic demise A massive collection of fossils bones gives evidence of a massive flood. Some of the facts on transgenderism A new picture book by a transgender television star is reviewed by an endocrinologist who highlights the misinformation being pitched at kids. Greg Koukl on a powerful tactic for defense of our faith This spring Reformed Perspective brought Tim Barnett to congregations across Canada to teach "Tactics in Defense of our faith." His talk was based on a book, Tactics, by Stand to Reason president Greg Koukl and in this half hour video Koukl gives his own presentation of the very useful "Columbo Tactic." This is the first session, available for free, of a six-session set you can buy here. The Log Driver's Waltz A bit of nostalgic canadiana for Canucks 30 and over. ...

Adult non-fiction

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

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

Adult non-fiction, Book Reviews

Tactics: a game plan for discussing your Christian convictions

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