Tag Archives: faith

Everyone relies on eyewitness testimony for their beliefs, even Darwinists

The question is whether you have good reasons to trust those witnesses.

Skeptics often claim that we believe that Jesus really rose from the dead based on blind faith and that you shouldn’t trust anything you can’t prove via scientific experiments.  But they haven’t thought carefully about how their own beliefs are formed.  You can also ask those raising that objection whether they have created all their own test equipment and replicated every single experiment upon which they rely.  Since no one has done this, you can then point out how they rely on the credibility of eye witnesses all day, every day.  You can also point out how many frauds we’ve seen even in peer reviewed publications.

Here is an excellent example of this reasoning, via Everything You Believe Is Based on Personal Experience and Testimony:

In other threads, certain people have claimed that personal experience and testimony are not as valid as other forms of evidence. In fact, some would dismiss thousands of years and the accumulation of perhaps billions of witness/experiencer testimonies because, in their view, personal experience and testimony is not really even evidence at all.

The problem with this position is that everything one knows and or believes is gained either through  (1) personal experience (and extrapolation thereof), or (2) testimony (and examination thereof), for the simple fact that if you did not experience X, the only information you can possibly have about X is from the testimony of others.

In a courtroom, for example, the entire case depends on testimony, even when there is physical evidence, because the jury relies upon the testimony of those that produce and explain what the physical evidence is, how it is relevant, and explains why it is important to the case. Unless the jurors are swabbing cheeks and conducting DNA tests themselves, the DNA evidence is in principle nothing more than the testimony of an expert witness. The jurors have no means of ascertaining the DNA “facts” for themselves; they entirely rely upon the testimony of what they assume to be a highly credible witness.

. . . Similarly, unless one is a research scientist in fields where one believes certain theories to be valid, he is (and we are as well) entirely dependent upon testimonial evidence – found in the form of research papers, books and articles written by such scientists. “Peer review” is nothing more to the reader than the testimomy of supposedly credible sources that the testimony of the authors is not blatantly false or contain factual errors.

Outside of what we personally experience, virtually all of our knowledge comes from testimony delivered via some form of media or another. We consider the source of the testimony, and the media it is delivered through, credible or non-credible to one degree or another – but that doesn’t change the fact that when we read or hear it, it is nothing more than testimony. If you are a scientist conducting research, you are personally experiencing the process and accumulation of data.  Beyond that, it is only testimony to others unless they perform the same experiments.  Often, the conclusions of scientific research hinge upon the testimony of other researchers, which may turn out to be fraudulent or mistaken.

We have very good reasons to trust the testimony handed down to us through the Bible. For those interested in why we find the Gospels and the rest of the Bible so reliable, here is an interesting book by a former atheist and cold-case homicide detective: Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels.

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Decision, decisions

My favorite apologist linked to this so I thought I’d re-run it.  Still the most practical biblical lesson I know of for daily living.  As Greg Koukl says, we are constantly either making decisions or living with their consequences.  I use this method and share it regularly.  I just used it with the high school kids at church to talk about careers, dating, marriage, college, etc.  

Click here to download a set of PowerPoint slides to read or to teach others.

And here is a new video of this lesson!

—–

Decision Making and the Will of God is one of my all-time favorite lessons to teach.  This is such a crucial topic, because we make big and small decisions all the time and are constantly living with the consequences of past decisions.

Does God speak to you about specific decisions when you are reading the Bible, such as whether you should pay off your mortgage, whom you should marry, what job you should take, etc.?  I think this is about how you apply the Bible to decision making and not about whether God sends individual messages through his word.

For example, if you want to know whether paying off your mortgage is the right thing to do, you have a couple options:

1. Ask God for a supernatural sign for the answer, whether it is a yes or a no (a la Gideon).  My guess is that He won’t decide for you that way, but it is always his option.  One thing we know about God is that if He wants to tell you something directly He isn’t very subtle.  There are zero examples of him trying to tell someone something in the Bible and not getting through.

2. Use the wisdom model of decision making.  You don’t have access to God’s sovereign knowledge (Will I lose my job?  Will interest rates go up or down?  Etc.).  You do have unrestricted access to his moral will via the Bible. Example: Is it immoral to pay off your mortgage early?  No, unless that means you won’t have enough money to feed your kids.  After moral considerations, look to the wisdom angle.  Ask God for wisdom, as He promises to deliver.  But as with Solomon, He doesn’t promise to decide everything for you.  Read Proverbs (and more).  Seek the counsel of others.  Consider the pros and cons.  That’s how to make wise decisions.  Finally, provided the options are moral and wise, consider your personal preferences.  We have tremendous freedom in Christ to do many things with our time and money.  Will paying off your mortgage make you happy?  If so, then do it.

Here’s a picture of what is looks like:

Decision making and the will of God

Really short version: Aside from direct and clear personal revelation from God, you don’t have access to his sovereign will when making decisions.  Therefore you must look at other factors.  If it isn’t moral, don’t do it.  If it is moral but not wise, don’t do it.  If it is moral and wise, then use your personal preferences.

Using this model you can end up with a wise and biblical decision, but you have avoided the traps of the “God told me to ____” routine.  People who run around saying that God told them this and that convey a super-spirituality that can leave less mature believers wondering if they really have a relationship with God (i.e., “God doesn’t tell me every little thing to do, so maybe I don’t really know him.”).

The “God told me ___” routine can also be outright blasphemy, as when “Christians” claim that God is moving in a new direction counter to what He revealed in the Bible.  The United Church of Christ “God is still speaking;” theme is a good example of that.  They didn’t believe what He said the first time around, so why trust them on allegedly new revelations?

Saturating yourself in the word is a key success factor in making good decisions. If we focus on worldly wisdom things go badly:

Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?

But if we repent and do everything we can to see things from God’s point of view we will make better decisions.

Psalm 37:4 Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Romans 12:2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

This model will help you make good decisions in all areas of life — dating, marriage, college, careers, purchases, giving, ministry and more.  You can also use it to help friends, children, etc. make good decisions.  I even use it at work as a “faith flag” at times.  If people ask career advice, for example, I pull out this diagram and share it with them (i.e., “At the risk of getting all religious on you, here’s the method I use to make decisions like that.”)

Click here to download a set of PowerPoint slides to read or to use yourself to teach others.

P.S. A kid came into my wife’s elementary school library yesterday and asked if she had any books on how to make good choices.  She thought of the diagram above and laughed.  Let’s just say I refer to this model now and then.  She thinks I should write a children’s book on decision making.  I think she is kidding.

Hat tip to Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason for much of this, including the diagram.

Decision, decisions

Decision Making and the Will of God is one of my all-time favorite lessons to teach.  This is such a crucial topic, because we make big and small decisions all the time and are constantly living with the consequences of past decisions.

Does God speak to you about specific decisions when you are reading the Bible, such as whether you should pay off your mortgage, whom you should marry, what job you should take, etc.?  I think this is about how you apply the Bible to decision making and not about whether God sends individual messages through his word.

For example, if you want to know whether paying off your mortgage is the right thing to do, you have a couple options:

1. Ask God for a supernatural sign for the answer, whether it is a yes or a no (a la Gideon).  My guess is that He won’t decide for you that way, but it is always his option.  One thing we know about God is that if He wants to tell you something directly He isn’t very subtle.  There are zero examples of him trying to tell someone something in the Bible and not getting through.

2. Use the wisdom model of decision making.  You don’t have access to God’s sovereign knowledge (Will I lose my job?  Will interest rates go up or down?  Etc.).  You do have unrestricted access to his moral will via the Bible. Example: Is it immoral to pay off your mortgage early?  No, unless that means you won’t have enough money to feed your kids.  After moral considerations, look to the wisdom angle.  Ask God for wisdom, as He promises to deliver.  But as with Solomon, He doesn’t promise to decide everything for you.  Read the Proverbs (and more).  Seek the counsel of others.  Consider the pros and cons.  That’s how to make wise decisions.  Finally, provided the options are moral and wise, consider your personal preferences.  We have tremendous freedom in Christ to do many things with our time and money.  Will paying off your mortgage make you happy?  If so, then do it.

Here’s a picture of what is looks like:

Decision making and the will of God

Really short version: Aside from direct and clear personal revelation from God, you don’t have access to his sovereign will when making decisions.  Therefore you must look at other factors.  If it isn’t moral, don’t do it.  If it is moral but not wise, don’t do it.  If it is moral and wise, then use your personal preferences.

Using this model you can end up with a wise and biblical decision, but you have avoided the traps of the “God told me to ____” routine.  People who run around saying that God told them this and that convey a super-spirituality that can leave less mature believers wondering if they really have a relationship with God (i.e., “God doesn’t tell me every little thing to do, so maybe I don’t really know him.”).

The “God told me ___” routine can also be outright blasphemy, as when “Christians” claim that God is moving in a new direction counter to what He revealed in the Bible.  The United Church of Christ “God is still speaking;” theme is a good example of that.  They didn’t believe what He said the first time around, so why trust them on allegedly new revelations?

Saturating yourself in the word is a key success factor in making good decisions. If we focus on worldly wisdom things go badly:

Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?

But if we repent and do everything we can to see things from God’s point of view we will make better decisions.

Psalm 37:4 Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Romans 12:2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

This model will help you make good decisions in all areas of life.  You can also use it to help friends, children, etc. make good decisions.  I even use it at work as a “faith flag” at times.  If people ask career advice, for example, I pull out this diagram and share it with them (i.e., “At the risk of getting all religious on you, here’s the method I use to make decisions like that.”)

Click here to download a set of PowerPoint slides to read or to use yourself to teach others.

P.S. A kid came into my wife’s elementary school library yesterday and asked if she had any books on how to make good choices.  She thought of the diagram above and laughed.  Let’s just say I refer to this model now and then.  She thinks I should write a children’s book on decision making.  I think she is kidding.

Hat tip to Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason for much of this, including the diagram.

Do false teachers get any verses right?

Jim “the Gospel is all about wealth redistribution” Wallis wrote an odd thing in The Post-Cynical Christian:

And this is where faith comes in. Hebrews 11:1 says it best, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” And at every stop on the tour, I found myself repeating my personal paraphrase of that biblical text, “Hope means believing in spite of the evidence, then watching the evidence change.” Faith enables us to act in hope, despite how things look, and that’s what can help make change finally occur and change how things look.

It is weird how theological Leftists hardly use Bible verses, and when they do they tend to butcher them.  Wallis gets faith completely wrong here.  Biblical faith is trusting in what reason has assessed.  To say he believes in spite of the evidence for God makes no sense.

 

Roundup

18 Reasons Why Doctors and Lawyers Homeschool Their Children

8 points of encouragement for those who are doubting their faith — read the link for explanations to each one.

1. Focus only on the issues that make or break Christianity.

2. Doubt your doubts.

3. Make sure that you don’t lose fellowship with other believers.

4. Realize that the presence of other possibilities does necessarily not equate to the presence of other probabilities.

5. Don’t think you can ever be an expert in everything.

6. Be careful not to make individual emotional preference a decisive benchmark of truth.

I see so many people who set their own emotional or moral preference as the ultimate and decisive standard for truth. For example, some people say things like “I could not every believe in the God of the Old Testament. He is mean and cruel.” Fine as that may be, our personal opinions about God’s meanness or niceness do not have a vote in truth. If God is mean, so be it. That is an internal debate. Our attitude or emotional disposition has no bearing on God’s existence or authority.

I recently saw a respected Christian scholar say that if God were such and such way, I would not serve or worship him. In essence he was saying “If God does not satisfy my emotional disposition, possessing characteristics that I think he should have, he will not be my God.” As understanding as I am of this in one sense, in another sense I have to express complete bewilderment and sadness. We worship and serve God because he is God not because he is Godand we like him. If God is God, he is Lord and King. We don’t petition how we think he should be. Alternatives are not suddenly valid when we don’t like him. Truths about God are not a democracy.

The first question is not whether God is mean or a “moral monster”, but whether he is God. Then we can discuss the problems with God in the Old Testament or God’s decree of election. I certainly don’t believe that God is cruel in the OT or NT. I do believe that God loves mankind because he says he does (John 3:16). He is a better authority on himself than I am.

My point is that this is not an issue that should occupy your focus and it certainly should not cause you to have doubts about God’s existence. If Christ rose from the grave, whatever conclusion one comes to about any number of peripheral issues does not have the poison of death either way.

7. Don’t stop living out your devotion to Christ.

8. Realize that doubt is not a bad thing.

84 Confirmed Facts in the Last 16 Chapters of the Book of Acts

Scholar and historian Colin Hemer has identified 84 facts in the last 16 chapters of the Book of Actsthat have been confirmed by historical and/or archaeological research.

They are as follows:

1. the natural crossing between correctly named ports [Acts 13:4-5]
2. the proper port [Perga] along the direct destination of a ship crossing from Cyprus [13:13]
3. the proper location of Lycaonia [14:6]

4. the unusual but correct declension of the name Lystra [14:6]
5. the correct language spoken in Lystra-Lycaonian [14:11]
6. two gods known to be so associated-Zeus and Hermes [14:12]
. . .
With these facts in mind, it seems reasonable to conclude that the author of Acts [who I believe was Luke] was an eyewitness of the events recorded or at the very least had access to reliable eyewitnesses.
It is also of interest that in the Book of Acts, the author records 35 miracles.

Good line from Facebook:

A pro-abortion woman asked a mother who was holding up a graphic anti-abortion sign, “How can you allow children to see those horrible pictures?”

The mother responded, “How can you allow children to become those horrible pictures?”

Food for thought.

Flashback: Remember when Democrats swore they opposed same-sex marriage? Oh, we totally agree with you that it is wrong, but you don’t need a Constitutional Amendment! So sad that people believed the lies. A good question for those Dems: What changed, other than public opinion? Nothing.

This was from Hillary. Oh noes!! Umbrage!!

So I take umbrage at anyone who might suggest that those of us who worry about amending the Constitution are less committed to the sanctity of marriage, or the fundamental bedrock principle that it exists between a man and a woman going back into the mists of history, as one of the founding foundational institutions of history and humanity and civilization, and that its primary, principle role during those millennia has been the raising and socializing of children for the society in which they are to become adults.

Saved by ____?

A friend’s Facebook status about refuting the false doctrine of purgatory reminded me of this post.  Key line from below: If anyone teaches a method of salvation based on Jesus Plus (i.e., his sacrifice plus your good deeds, or purgatory or whatever else) or Jesus Minus (i.e., “Jesus is one way, but other religions are just as good”) then you have a heresy on your hands.

Let’s just keep it all Jesus, all the time, OK people?

—–

book-of-mormon.jpgOne of the errors of Mormonism is in 2 Nephi 25:23, which reads, “For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.” [emphasis added]

That sounds humble enough.  It makes it appear that we are saved by grace and the sacrifice of Jesus.  It sounds like the Bible, but there is a big difference.  Look more carefully and see what really saves you:

  1. You do all you can, and you are saved by grace.
  2. You don’t do all you can, so you are not saved.

So what is the difference between the two?  It is ultimately about what you do, not about what Jesus did.  In that case, it isn’t grace that saves you, it is your works.

The key word is “after,” and the phrasing is clear.  And after all, Joseph Smith said the Book of Mormon is the “most perfect book in the world,” so that wording must be accurate, right?  And every Mormon I have talked to acknowledges that the works are required for salvation.

If anyone teaches a method of salvation based on Jesus Plus (i.e., his sacrifice plus your good deeds, or purgatory or whatever else) or Jesus Minus (i.e., “Jesus is one way, but other religions are just as good”) then you have a heresy on your hands.

And while this isn’t the reason that being saved by grace through faith is true, consider which is better news:

  1. Having to rely on your efforts with no assurance of salvation (Mormonism and other works-based religions)
  2. Knowing that Jesus did it all for you and you just need to repent and believe in him (Christianity alone)

This is the truly good news.  Take it from someone who has not “done all he can!”

Ephesians 2:8-10 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Yes, I’m familiar with James 2:20 (You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?).  Of course real faith will produce real deeds.  But as the Ephesians passage makes clear, it goes like this:

  • Real faith in the real Jesus = real salvation followed by real works
  • Faith in the wrong Jesus + lots of good deeds done out of pride = still spiritually dead
  • False faith + works = still spiritually dead

Courtesy of Ms. Green, here is a list of requirements to be saved in the LDS view:

Step #1:Have faith in Christ
Step #2:Be repentant
Step #3: Be baptized by the LDS Church
Step #4: Receive the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands from a member of the Melchizedek priesthood
Step #5: Males are ordained into the Melchizedek Priesthood
Step #6: Receive temple endowments
Step #7: Participate in celestial marriage
Step #8: Observe the word of wisdom
Step #9: Sustain the prophet
Step #10: Tithe
Step #11: Attend sacrament meetings
Step #12: Obey the church

Oddly enough, while the LDS church and Christianity preach a different Jesus and a different Gospel, on paper orthodox Christians have more in common with Mormons than with theologically liberal Christians – a high view of scripture, pro-life, pro-family, pro-Jesus is the only way, and more.

But they teach a false, works-based gospel.  I know that many will not escape from there, but I pray that few new people join.

Also see But they are so nice! and Are Mormons really Christians?  Are Christians really Christians?

 

Integrated apologetics

I’m a big fan of apologetics (the defense of the Christian faith), but I don’t think we should always treat it as a separate enterprise.  It is good to have whole sessions on apologetics, especially because it is so often ignored in churches, and I’m a huge fan of sites like Apologetics315 and people like the Wintery Knight.  But I prefer to integrate it into most of my lessons so people can grasp the basics and see that it is part of the fabric of our message.

We may not all have the job of evangelist, but as 1 Peter 3:15-16 notes, all Christians are to be apologists.

but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

But that doesn’t mean apologetics can’t be a regular part of our lessons and sermons.  For example, when teaching anything in church, or even in general conversations as appropriate, I aim to reflexively weave in basic apologetic themes.

  • The minimal facts: “Virtually all historians agree on key facts about Jesus and his followers, such as Jesus death on a Roman cross, his followers’ belief that He rose from the dead, and Paul’s conversion and his authorship of key books attributed to him such as Romans.  We have good reasons to infer that Jesus rising from the dead is the best explanation for these facts.”
  • Distinctions about biblical faith: We don’t have blind faith; we have a faith grounded in evidence.  See how the Gospel was shared in the book of Acts.  Over and over it was based on references to Jesus’ resurrection, not appeals to believe without evidence or reason.”
  • The robust transmission process of the texts: “Even atheist textual critics will concede that we know what the original writings of the Bible said to 99%+ accuracy, and 100% on major doctrines.”
  • Our simple claim: “The original writings of the Bible turned out exactly the way God and the writers wanted them to.  Yes, men can make mistakes, but they don’t always make mistakes.  Our biblical claim is that God directed the process.”  You can go on at length about the Bible being inerrant, infallible and inspired — and I agree with all of those — but I’ve found that the simple summation gets people to realize that if God can do anything He can surely communicate his original texts to us the way He wanted to.

Note how simple and brief those are.  They can lead to deeper conversations, but those alone can help change people from the errant “blind faith” mindset and get them to think more carefully about apologetics.

I do the same thing with the basic Gospel message.  No matter what I’m teaching, I try to note how we are saved by grace, through faith, and not by works.  This needs to be a constant reminder.

I urge you to weave these simple apologetic and Gospel concepts into your lessons and conversations.  Even if it doesn’t lead the hearers to deeper apologetics studies, at least they will have clear reminders of the basics and will hopefully keep them from saying incorrect things.

What simple themes do you seek to work into lessons and conversations?