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News

Saturday Selections - January 25, 2020

The Gospel vs. Sorcery in Papua New Guinea (30 minutes) In Papua New Guinea the fear of  "sanguma" – sorcery – is such that it leads people to stone and kill supposed witches. What is the answer to such fear? We know Jesus can defeat demons both supposed and real. But how can the people of Papua New Guinea know unless someone tells them? In this half-hour video, we get to follow along as seven men squeeze themselves into one Land Cruiser and, over the course of one week, take the Gospel to thousands who show up and listen in the marketplaces. As Pastor Ryan Dejonge notes at one point, "We have this window of opportunity in Papua New Guinea. You can't do this in Australia...you can't do this in Canada. You would just get people fighting you – you're not going to get people hearing the Gospel . God has given us a window of opportunity. He's given us this open door. And we've realized this is a real and a useful way to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ....Our moment is now." (The link below might look broken but give it a click because it does work.) If you won the lottery, would you be at work tomorrow? Most people, if they came into a fortune, would quit their job instantly. But what about Christians? Harvard study shows the dangers of early school enrollment The Foundation for Economic Education's most popular article this decade wasn't about economics. Instead it asked: "Are ADHD rates rising because we send children to school at younger ages?" Man to "woman" to "non-binary" and back again James Shupe declared himself a woman, then declared himself non-binary, but has now asked to be legally recognized once again as the man he is. The Darwin Dictionary Seemingly inspired by Ambroise Bierce's Devil's Dictionary, Keaton Halley has crafted his own Darwin's Dictionary to highlight the creative ways evolutionists employ language. Here are a couple of examples: Abiogenesis, n. – Rocks begetting life, in violation of the most basic, observed law of biology. Big bang, n. – The logic-bending theory that everything was produced when nothing at all exploded. Each entry includes a link to a great article explaining the creationist perspective. How does the Women's March define what a woman is? (3 minutes) Joseph Backholm has a history of asking questions the Left can't, or won't, answer. A few years back he hit a college campus asking "Am I a 6-foot-5 Chinese woman?" This time around he went to the 2020 Women's March in Washington D.C. to ask the marchers three things: How would you define what a woman is? Are there any innate differences between men and women today? Do you think anyone can be a woman? They found these tricky questions. Why? Because the modern feminist movement celebrates women as something special, even as it holds that men and women are identical which means there has been a longstanding conflict between the answers feminists give to questions 1 and 2. Question 3 only exasperates the problem: if men can now become women, it makes it all but impossible to celebrate the distinctly feminine. In fact, when there are no differences between men and women, and men can become women, then the term woman is rendered meaningless – a word that can mean anything at all means nothing at all. There's one other reason his interviewees were reluctant to chat. I think, on some level, they were worried about the question that would come next: this white male asking them, "Can I be a woman?" And what could they answer to that? (WARNING: One of the marchers in this video takes God's name in vain.) ...

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, 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....

News

Saturday Selections - October 13, 2018

Conservative group confronts students with a smile and a $100 bill Campus Reform offered college students $100 to name just one time that conservatives shut down a liberal speaker on campus - no one could do it. Campus Reform is not a Christian group, but if you've ever wondered what Christ meant when he sent out the twelve with instructions to be "shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves" (Matt. 10:16) this may well be what that looks like. Campus Reform's quiet, confident, and humorous questioning approach allows the students to discover for themselves that what they believe about liberals being more tolerant simply isn't so. The power of gentleness Parents, are you gentle? Or to ask the same question another way, parents, do you want to be the one your children turn to when they have problems? British bakers win case against at the UK Supreme Court level In 2014 Gareth Lee requested that Ashers Baking Company make a cake with Ernie and Bert on it, and the message "Support Gay Marriage." The Christian couple who owns the bakery refused, and this past week the UK Supreme Court sided with them, though at a cost. Some scientists fudge facts - the fall of Brian Wansink Science is sometimes given God's place as the final arbiter of Truth. It's good, then, to be reminded that Science is the findings of fallible men. And sometimes those men are not only fallible, but dishonest. The New Fall TV Season - should we tune in? What would happen if we watched TV with our kids and hit the pause button now and again to discuss what we were seeing? Sign up to watch "Tortured for Christ" online for free Oct. 22 and Oct 23 Voice of the Martyrs has made a movie about their founder, Pastor Richard Wurmbrand, who spent 14 years in a Communist camp for preaching the Gospel. From the trailer this looks like a well-done and important film to see, and for two days – Oct. 22 and 23 – you can do just that if you provide them with your email address at the link above (they will add you to their email list, but you can always unsubscribe later). In the trailer below, Wurmbrand explains to his wife the cost of telling others about God: "You know if I speak now, you will have no husband." Her answer? "I don't need a coward for a husband." ...

Sexuality

Why won’t safe-sex advocates advocate safe-sex?

A new strain of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI’s) are proving to be resistant to treatment. Here is an extract from a BBC report: "Doctors have expressed 'huge concern' that super-gonorrhea has spread widely across England and to gay men. Public Health England acknowledges measures to contain the outbreak have been of 'limited success' and an official said: “The huge growth in sexually transmitted infections has come about as a result of promiscuous lifestyles. Previous advice has been about encouraging people to practice safe sex but I’m afraid this hasn’t worked in the past and it’s not working now. The only truly safe-sex approach that will stop the spread of STIs is rediscovering the idea of pre-marital chastity and a lifelong commitment to marriage.” Okay, so the government health official didn’t really say that. You can relax again and take a deep breath, fully reassured that our culture hasn’t actually discovered a dose of sanity. That would be really disorientating, wouldn’t it? What the head of the Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) unit at Public Health England, Dr. Gwenda Hughes, actually said, according to the real BBC report, is that we should be “encouraging people to practice safe-sex to minimize the risk of STIs.” Okay, so Dr. Hughes wants to minimize the risk of STIs. That’s good. We can probably all assent to that. But what’s the best way of actually minimizing the risk of STIs? According to Dr. Hughes, it is for people to “practice safe-sex”, by which she means that people should protect themselves when they go about their promiscuous lifestyles. But is this the safest way? If not, why didn’t she mention what that is? A CALL FOR TROUBLEMAKERS I imagine a teenager in a sex education lesson asking the following question: “Miss. Assuming I take precautions, would it would be safer for me to have 3 partners or 300?” No brainer of course, and even the most progressive of teachers would have to admit that 3 is “safer” than 300. Simple mathematical probabilities this one: the lower the number, the “safer the sex.” In which case a really mischievous teenager – a true rebel you might say – might ask the following question: “Miss, is it safer to only have 1 partner for life, or multiple? And if it’s 1 – which it is – and if this is a safe-sex lesson – which it is – why do you not advocate it?” But of course Miss can’t advocate it, even if Miss privately knows it to be true, for fear of something that apparently involves clocks and their being turned back. However, in reality Miss can breathe a sigh of relief; she is unlikely to have to undergo the embarrassing ordeal of being asked such hard questions since the number of truly rebellious teenagers prepared to challenge modern orthodoxy is not really very high. THE COUNTER-ARGUMENT Now I know the counter argument. It runs something like this: about 60 per cent of teenagers who pledge to remain celibate until they are married end up engaging in pre-marital sex and are one-third less likely to use contraceptives than their peers who have received sex education. Well that’s what Wikipedia says at any rate. So this proves that abstinence programs don’t work and therefore it is better to deal with the reality and try to prevent STIs through safe-sex education. If ever you heard a spurious argument, that was it. Of course abstinence programs don’t work. Why would they? We have created a culture where pre-marital sex and multiple partners is absolutely expected and teenagers that try to go against the grain are called weird/stupid/backward (amongst the politer names that is). They are up against a cultural juggernaut. If they fail, pointing to their failure as evidence that this approach is wrong is plain bad logic. Was the problem really that abstinence doesn’t work? Or was the real problem that our sex-obsessed culture makes pre-marital and extra-marital sex so utterly normal, that those who do try to be different come up against such enormous pressures and unpleasant taunts that only the most determined will stand? (I can’t recall hearing much about tackling Chasteophobic bullying recently, can you?) In other words, it’s no good arguing that abstinence programs don’t work in a culture that has been designed to make them fail. And telling children that they need to make sure they are wearing safety gear when the cultural juggernaut comes hurtling towards them is not really what you would call “a solution.” The problem is the cultural juggernaut itself, and the real issue is whether we want to continue thinking that pre-marital and extra-marital sex are the norms, or whether we are prepared to make a wholesale shift in the way we think about sex. The latter is of course the unthinkable concept, since it would apparently result in clocks going back. On the other hand, though the former approach won’t mess with the clocks, it will guarantee your culture a plethora of STIs. That’s the trade-off. Now make your choice. CONCLUSION Here’s the thing. Two cultures. One treats sex as entirely separated from procreation and marriage, and most people accept that view and live accordingly. The second links sex with marriage and procreation, and most people accept that view and live within its parameters. Question: Even if the first one has all sorts of “encouragements to safe-sex” going on, which one is more likely to have the most STI’s? Clocks notwithstanding, that’s not a hard question, is it? This article appeared in the September 2016 issue under the title "Miss? I have a question...." Rob Slane is the author of A Christian and Unbeliever discuss Life, the Universe, and Everything. ...

Sexuality

The world doesn't always think "abstinence" is a four-letter word

Eric Metaxas wants to know why does the world think "abstinence" is a four-letter word when it comes to sex, but not when it comes to cigarettes? In his August 10, 2016  BreakPoint column he wrote: …nobody says smoking cigarettes or drinking huge amounts of sugary drinks is healthy and normal – or distributes pills in schools to off set the effects of tobacco and sugar. Instead, we urge young people to avoid cigarettes altogether, and cut down on the soft drinks. But heaven forbid we tell them to avoid sex. These are the sorts of troublemaking questions we need to ask our friends, neighbors and classmates. And from there we can highlight how God's design for sex is wonderful…and safe. Let’s ask pointed questions and then encourage the world to compare and contrast the heart-breaking, disease-spreading, child-fearing sort of sex that they're proposing, with God's wonderful design for disease-free, heart-binding, child-embracing monogamous married sex....

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)...

News

Saturday Selections – May 26, 2018

I want to buy your cheapest phone Tim Challies has bought a "dumb" phone to help him regain balance and control over his "digital assistant." No, the eye is not badly designed The claim that the eye is badly designed - and that this bad design is evidence of it chaotic unplanned evolutionary origin – is a myth that keeps popping up: by Richard Dawkins 30 years ago, to Dr. Nathan Lents this year. But, all we need is a closer look at the eye to see the critics have been blinded by their worldview – what they see as a design problem is actually a design feature! The biblical way to fly a plane? Is there really a Christian way to fly an airplane? You bet! As Kuyper once said, there is not one square inch of creation that Jesus doesn't declare as His own. So whether flying planes, or doing math, there is a Christian way to do it. Math? Yes, that too: "As the apologist Cornelius Van Til once said, paraphrasing, it is not that the unbeliever cannot count, but that his worldview cannot account for counting." Alfie Evans not alone: Hundreds of patients starved to death in the UK every year Those of us with Dutch relatives have heard the reports of elderly folk in the Netherlands who are scared to go to their hospitals – they don't trust that the staff will look at their lives as worth extending and fighting for. The same fear exists in some places in Australia, and as this article illustrates, it would seem the British elderly also have a reason to fear their public healthcare system. When all life isn't regarded as precious, then it might just be your life they don't find precious. More on the importance of questions Joseph Backholm asks "How can we have civil discourse when the other side isn't willing to have ANY discourse?" God says the law is written on our heart, and one bit of that - Proverbs 18:17 - says that one side seems right until the other comes and tests it. So when people are unwilling to share the reasons for why they believe what they believe, we can use questions to point out to them that their ideas are untested – that they believe what they believe, not because they have weighed both sides, but only because someone told them what to believe. (Warning: there is some bleeped out language) School shootings: the cause and cure Ray Comfort's new 20-minute movie is worth watching for the first few minutes alone. Comfort interviews young people and asks them if they can call a school shooter evil...and they can't! Our culture doesn't want to condemn evil because then they would have to own up to their own. But God's law is written on their hearts... ...

Apologetics 101, Politics, Sexuality

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

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

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....

News

Feminists vs. transgenders? Why the Left is turning on itself.

In Judges 7 Israel is faced with a fearsome foe, and God decides to use that foe's strength against it. Gideon and his 300 get to watch as "the Lord set the sword of one against another even throughout the whole army." Might God have something similar in mind for today's liberal Left? Consider the case of Gabrielle Bouchard. This past December, Bouchard made news, and drew the ire of a small number of vocal feminists, when he became head of Québec’s largest feminist group. Bouchard is a man who identifies as a woman, and the group he now heads, the Fédération des Femmes du Québec (FFQ) has the typical feminist stands: abortion is good, capitalism is exploitive, the patriarchy is evil. It's on this last point – men running too much of the world - that the FFQ is getting attacked. Diane Guilbault, the head of a rival feminist group, told the National Post that she doesn't appreciate a man being in charge of a feminist group because:  “the experience of a woman who is born a woman is completely different from the experience of a man who decides one day to present himself as a woman.” While the protest against Bouchard has been limited, it has garnered some favorable coverage from a mainstream press that isn’t sure which side they should pick when one leftwing group takes on another. A month earlier a similar sort of conflict occurred south of the border. An American white man, Ja Du, publicly identified as a Filipina woman and the mainstream press didn’t know how to handle that either. The liberal Huffington Post decided to accept he was a woman, but wasn’t yet ready to do the same for his transracial claims. Their headline read: “Filipinos aren’t happy with this white woman claiming to be a Filipina.” Their hesitancy is puzzling: once you grant a man can become a woman, what logic prevents us from acknowledging a white man can become an Asian woman? Why is that a bigger leap? Of course we knew it wasn't going to be long before "transracialism" was going to be embraced too, and this past week the National Post's Barbara Kay reported that the State of Delaware is going to allow students to self-identify not only their gender, but their race too. But the more the Left embraces this craziness, the sooner the infighting is going to get serious. The conflicts we see here – one feminist group vs. the transgender head of another, and the liberal media picking transgenders over transracials – might not seem to matter. But the problems these groups have with one another are only going to grow. Why? Because at their core, feminist, transgender, and transracial views contradict. And it's only a matter of time before these unnatural allies turn on one another. Are the differences real or not? The divide between feminists and transgenders comes down to how each answers this question: are the differences between the sexes real? The typical feminist is going to answer with a "no." They'll acknowledge reproductive differences only because those are impossible to overlook. But when asked why there are far fewer female CEOs, or why the overall average wage for women is lower than that for men, the standard feminist line attributes the difference to discrimination. It is most certainly not a result of men and women having different interests, or different strengths and capabilities – after all, anything a man can do a woman can do too! To put it another way, the predominant feminist take is that the differences between men and women are only outward and insignificant - we look different, but we aren't actually different. Meanwhile when a man like Gabrielle Bouchard claims that, despite how he looks, he feels like a woman then he is, unavoidably, attacking the feminist position. After all, he's implying that there is something, outside of the outward appearance, that makes a woman different than a man. In making his claim to be the other gender, Bouchard is acknowledging that there are differences between the genders that are both real and significant. What exactly those differences are, isn't generally discussed. That's where Christians need to press the issue and ask: what does it mean to feel like a woman? What does that feeling involve? Imagine if a man said he knew he was actually a woman because he felt more sensitive and emotional, liked dresses and the color pink, and felt so very nurturing. What would feminists think of that? It doesn't really matter what differences a transgender might point to, feminists are going to either deny the differences are real, or that they are important. So we can see the rupture already starting. We can tear it wide open if we press that question: what exactly does being female or male mean? Are the groups fixed or not? When it comes to transracialism, it might seem surprising that even a liberal-leaning publication like the Huffington Post is slow to embrace the idea. Why would any on the Left have a problem with accepting that a person can swap ethnic identities? Maybe it's because, on some level, the Left understands that transracialism (along with transgenderism) undermines identity politics: minority groups pressing for preferential treatment to compensate for past wrongs (real or supposed) done to their group. After all, what happens to identity politics when it becomes possible to switch groups? What happens to demands for preferential treatment when a white man can be acknowledged as black and female? What happens to hiring quotas when an applicant can choose to identify as whatever combination of special identities a company is looking to check off? It becomes hard to pit one group against another when the lines between them are being erased. The tipping point Christians might be discouraged at just how fast our culture is embracing ideas that, only a few short years ago, would have been dismissed as crazy by just about everyone. But there is a bright side to the speed at which the Left is adopting one incoherent idea after another: the more craziness they stack on their shaky foundation, the sooner the whole mess is going to tip over. We can hasten that tipping point by asking questions that highlight that incoherence, like: Are the differences between the genders real and significant? What does it mean to feel like a woman, or feel like a man? What does it mean to be of a different race? And if I can be a different race, can I be a different age? Or a different height? How about a different weight? Or socio-economic status? Why, or why not? We can also point our culture to the one worldview that's built on a firm foundation. We can begin by teaching them that God made us male and female, and that can't be changed (though our feelings about our gender can be). We can share that gender-based differences do exist and they are significant, but they aren't scary, and don't have to be ignored or diminished. We can explain that acknowledging men are physically stronger than women isn't an attack on women's worth, because our worth doesn't come from our muscle size, or any other ability. We can point out that there is only one way in which we are all equal, and so, only one basis for any claim to equality: we are all made in God's image. We can clarify that while there are all sorts of ethnicities and cultures, there is just one race – the human race – and the denial of that truth has led to untold discrimination and persecution. And we can explain that the reason this all makes sense in a way that their secular worldview just doesn't, is because it is God's truth, and it is trustworthy because He is. Ryan T. Anderson has a similar, longer take, titled "Transgender ideology is riddled with contradictions. Here are the big ones." available here....

Human Rights

The world doesn't dare ask why we have human rights

As Christians we understand that our rights come from God. For example, our right to life comes from God’s prohibition against murder – no one has a right to kill me. Our right to equality – to fair treatment – comes from our understanding that we are all made in God’s image (in what other sense are we equal?) and also from God’s call not show favoritism to the rich or poor (Leviticus 19:15, Ex. 23:3, Deut. 16:19, James 2:9) or partiality to any (Deut. 1:16-17, Proverbs 28:21, and etc.). But the secular world also speaks of rights. So on what basis do they make their claims to there being universal human rights? According to unbelievers, why do we have human rights? What reasons can they give? R. Albert Mohler, in a 2014 address at BYU, explained that the secular case for human rights can only stand so long as no one asks those questions. The United Nations Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in 1948, fresh after the horrors of World War II. It was adopted in a spirit of hope and desperation. The French intellectual Jacques Maritain, one of the leading Roman Catholic philosophers of the century, was one of the drafters of the statement. That Declaration is now cited as the definitive statement of the modern affirmation of human rights. The Declaration affirms that all humans possess “inherent dignity” and states: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and in rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.” That is an eloquent statement indeed, but upon what does it rest? Maritain saw the problem. In his words, “We agree upon these rights, providing we are not asked why. With the ‘why’ the dispute begins.” And the dispute has never ended…. If we are biological accidents – just another primate – why should any individual human life matter? And why should we respect an abstraction called human rights? ….There is no secular ground that can support and defend human rights. The full 26 minutes speech can be viewed below https://youtu.be/nm2-lnswp_M?t=3m22s...