Tag Archives: Stand to Reason

The “Titus 1 test”

Greg Koukl made a great point on a Stand to Reason Podcast about how pastors must pass this as one of their tests: Titus 1:9 He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.

All “Christian” Left pastors fail that test, because they don’t hold firm to the word and don’t consider it trustworthy.  So of course they can’t give instruction in sound doctrine or rebuke those who contradict it.  They are the ones who need rebuking for teaching false doctrines!

But many pastors with sound doctrine fail to rebuke false teachers.  They tell themselves they are being nice, but they are just being nice to themselves and the wolves and are being mean to their sheep.

Witnessing to the Witnesses (and others): Some useful tactics

A couple Jehovah’s Witnesses came by the other day and we visited for a while.  What would you think about my approach if you knew that I made the following points?

  • They weren’t telling the truth when they said they weren’t trying to convert me
  • They are in the wrong religion
  • Their religion has characteristics of a cult
  • They are worshiping the wrong Jesus
  • Their New World Bible has some deliberate mistranslations
  • If you really love Jesus you’ll want to ensure you understand his nature properly
  • Hell is real

They must have thought I was a big meanie, right?  Just another one of those jerky know-it-all judgmental Christians.

Nope.  I made all those points quite clearly, yet the way I navigated the conversation resulted in the lead guy sincerely telling me at least three times what a nice guy I was (I give a lot of credit to Stand to Reason and Greg Koukl’s book Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions for this approach).

Now we all know I’m as friendly as a basket full of puppies (We do know that, right?!), but you usually wouldn’t expect that reaction after I just made all those points about their religion.  So what made the difference?  Things like this:

  • I focused on the Bible, because we both claim that is the word of God.
  • I stuck to a few key points: John 1:1* (which I knew they’d have a ready response to, even though I could counter it), John 1:3** (they weren’t ready for that), the JW rule about them not being allowed to take written materials from me, and that their New World Bible translation has easily identifiable errors.  I continually referred to the real Jesus — the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the creator in Genesis 1 and John 1, the one whose descriptions are used synonymously with those of God in the Old Testament, etc.
  • I told them I appreciated how they cared enough to go out and share what they think is true.
  • I used common foes (Mormonism, Islam) as examples before addressing the JW theological errors.
  • I noted that it doesn’t bother me that they think I’m wrong and that I think they are wrong, so we can have a friendly discussion on where we differ.  We were both trying to convert each other, and that’s OK.  The question was the content of our arguments.
  • I realized I had said “JWs” instead of their religion’s full name then sincerely apologized if they found that shortcut offensive.  They didn’t, noting that they use it themselves, but my desire to avoid unnecessary offense seemed to resonate with them.
  • I listened carefully when they made their points.
  • We had some friendly chit-chat interspersed with the theological discussions (one guy was from Italy, so we talked a little about that).
  • It was a hot day (August in Texas!) so I gave them each a bottle of cold water as they left.
  • I gave them one of my “business” cards that has my church information, email address and blog site.  I know they are unlikely to visit, but I smiled and encouraged them to come spy on what the Protestants are up to.

Where these guys end up theologically is between them and God, but I was pleased with the interaction.  It always glorifies God when you speak the truth about him, regardless of how people respond.  And it definitely planted some seeds.  The lead guy was going to take the John 1:3 objections back to one of their experts to try and respond to me.  And my comments on the textual criticism issue seemed to stick with them (i.e., that with the thousands of manuscripts we’ve found around the world from different centuries we know that the New World translation has errors).

I admit that I find using these tactics much easier in person than on-line.  But they do work.  I encourage you to try them if you haven’t already.  You can’t control their reactions, but you can speak the truth in love.

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*Their Bible ends John 1:1 with “a God” instead of “God.”  (The right version: John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.)

**They haven’t mistranslated John 1:3 (All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.), so you can show the logic of how Jesus can’t be a created being.  This can be used with Mormons as well.

Jesus, the only way, in 2 Timothy 2

As I pointed out the other day in A simple way to out theologically Liberal Christians for the tares and wolves that they are, it is a plain and repeated teaching in the Bible that Jesus is the only way to salvation.  The world hates that message, as do theologically Liberal/Progressive people who call themselves Christians.  They rarely have any idea how repeated and clear that teaching is.

Stand to Reason offers a great booklet listing 100 passages teaching that Jesus is the only way to salvation.  Just flip open the New Testament and start reading.  You’ll find that little makes sense outside that truth.  If you claim to be a Christian this a view you must hold.

But when I read the Bible I often come across more and more passages that affirm that truth that aren’t in the list of 100.  I was listening to 2 Timothy 2 the other day and noticed all these truths, none of which make sense if other religions are equally valid paths to God. Here are the verses (in italics) along with my reasoning.

2 Timothy 2 (ESV)

1 You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus – it isn’t in someone else.

3 Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. – He is the leader.

8 Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel – Paul’s Gospel is all Jesus, all the time.

10 Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. – Salvation is in Jesus.

11 The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; 12 if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; 13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself. – Multiple notations there – by implication, if we die without him we will live without him. You deny him, He denies you.

15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. – This doesn’t apply to the theme of this, but I love that verse! It should be one of the first verses people learn.  We won’t be perfect, but we should do our best to read the Bible properly.  There are right and wrong ways to do it, and it is shameful to do it improperly.

19 But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.” – Some are his, and some are not. Believers name the name of the Lord.

24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. – You are his servant or you are not his servant. Those who don’t follow him are opponents.

God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will. – They are with him or they are in the snare of the devil, captured by him to do his will.

Keep in mind that none of that chapter was in the Stand to Reason booklet.  There are well over 100 passages teaching this vital truth.  Christians should never deny it.  The early Christians called themselves the Way for a reason.  It isn’t bad news that there is “only” one way, it is Good News that there is a way at all!  Do not sit in judgment of God and demand an additional way out of your problem of sin.  Just fall on your knees and accept his grace.

Your job description as a Christian

Well, at least part of your job description.  As I like to remind Christians, some, but not all, are called to be evangelists.

Ephesians 4:11 (ESV) And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers . . .

So you may or may not be an evangelist.  But all are called to be ambassadors . . .

2 Corinthians 5:20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.

. . . and all are called to be defenders of the faith (“apologists”).

1 Peter 3:15–16 (ESV) 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.

So if you claim the name of Christ you may or may not be an evangelist, but you are definitely an apologist and an ambassador.  The only question is whether you are doing a good job.  You will be very glad when God uses your efforts to be able to share his truths with someone who is seeking them.

As the Wintery Knight asks, Can you dispense with apologetics and just preach the gospel when evangelizing?  I think they are intertwined, especially in our culture.  If you don’t subscribe to his blog you should start.

See the Apologetics links to the right for some great resources.  If I could only recommend one site it would be Stand to Reason.  Scour the site, listen to the Podcast and read Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions and you’ll be in great shape.  CARM.org is, great, too.

Also see these PowerPoint slides that I have used for a class at church called Defending Your Faith.  You are welcome to use or adapt them.  Now get to work!

Accurate answers to any “Why did God __________?” questions

I’m paraphrasing here, but Greg Koukl made some good points on an old Podcast of Stand To Reason that I thought were useful in answering common questions from both Christians and non-Christians.  The question from the show was, “Why didn’t God just kill Adam and Eve after they disobeyed God?”  When we get questions like that the following answers are usually accurate, even if they aren’t completely satisfying to the questioner.

  1. I don’t know.
  2. Because He wanted to.
  3. For his glory.

Sometimes the answers are in the Bible, but not always.  But that shouldn’t rock your world.  It can be interesting to speculate on the answers based on what we do know about God. In this case, Koukl noted that by letting humans live and ultimately coming to earth as a substitutionary atonement for our sins that God was able to demonstrate more of his attributes.  It would have been completely legitimate for him to kill Adam and Eve for their rebellion, but He chose not to.

It is often more productive to focus on what we do know than on what we don’t know.  The end of Job is in the Bible for a reason.  Ask all the questions you like, but don’t pretend that God didn’t reveal everything to us that we need to know.

And don’t get spooked if there are tough questions you can’t answer, whether the questions are your own, from other believers or from skeptics.  In an even greater sense than how a toddler can’t understand why his parent does something, we don’t know near enough to explain why God is or isn’t doing something in every situation.

About that guy on the island . . .

Or in the jungle. Or in the Muslim country. Or wherever. You know, the hypothetical guy that people worry about when wondering whether God is fair if everyone doesn’t get an adequate revelation about Jesus.

For many it is an honest desire that the Gospel go to all people. For others it is a rationalization for the false teaching of universalism, where everyone goes to Heaven regardless of whether they know of or trust in Jesus. For others it is an excuse to rebel against Christianity.

I have good news: The real God is sovereign. No one seeks him on his own, but if God makes him spiritually alive then he will not only seek God but he will find him. As Acts 17 notes, God knows exactly where everyone is. No one will face God and be able to offer excuses.

Acts 17:26-27 From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.

So if you are concerned with the hypothetical character noted above, you have a lot of options in which to channel your energy:

1. Pray for them  (Matthew 9:37-38 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”)

2. Go see them yourself and share the Good News.

3. Donate to organizations like International Cooperating Ministries that build churches around the world.  $10,000 will build a church for a congregation of ~100 people that has committed to start 5 more neighboring churches.

4. Donate to organizations like Faith Comes By Hearing that get the word of God out to people in over 600 languages via audio Bibles (Praise report: A mission team just took the first batch of Kimeru language Proclaimer audio Bibles to Kenya.  Many people will be hearing the word of God for the first time!)

5. Support Stand To Reason or other excellent Christian apologetic organizations that help equip people to defend the Christian faith in a winsome and effective way.

6. Trust in God’s sovereignty.

But whatever you do, if you claim the name of Christ then don’t act as if He isn’t perfectly just.

Life still begins at fertilization

This is a great example of “sibling rivalry”* in action.  Just because some people question whether the unborn are living human beings doesn’t mean they have any facts on their side.  Pro-lifers have all the embryology textbooks to support their view, not to mention concessions from leading pro-abortion people (see this link for a lot of examples of both).

Dream all you like about finding life elsewhere in the universe, but don’t be anti-science and ignore the logical and scientific fact of human life in the womb.

“Sibling rivalry” is a phrase used by Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason to describe the situation where people hold opposing ideas at the same time.

Sometimes objections come in pairs that are logically inconsistent and therefore oppose each other. I call this “sibling rivalry” because they are like children fighting.

Defending Your Faith

I’m excited about a six-week class on Defending Your Faith that I’ll be teaching at church starting April 15.  The class will equip people with knowledge and tactics to strengthen their faith, disciple fellow Christians and reach non-Christians.

What if someone asked you, “Why do you believe in Jesus and how can I?”  Or if people said that the Bible was written by men so it must have mistakes?  Or that Christianity just borrowed its ideas from other religions?  Or that we don’t know what the original writings of the Bible really said?  Or one of the many other common objections to Christianity?  Do you have accurate and winsome responses for them?  This class will equip you with solid and easily understandable answers to common questions and objections about Christianity and the Bible.

As I like to remind Christians, some, but not all, are called to be evangelists . . .

Ephesians 4:11 (ESV) And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers . . .

. . . but all are called to be ambassadors . . .

2 Corinthians 5:20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.

. . . and all are called to be defenders of the faith (“apologists”).

1 Peter 3:15–16 (ESV) 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.

So if you claim the name of Christ you may or may not be an evangelist, but you are definitely an apologist and an ambassador.  The only question is whether you are doing a good job.

With work and practice you will get better at it.  You don’t have to be a Wintery Knight, but you will be very glad when God uses your efforts to be able to share his truths with someone who is seeking them.

See the Apologetics links to the right for some great resources.  If I could only recommend one site it would be Stand to Reason.  Scour the site, listen to the Podcast and read Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions and you’ll be in great shape.

There is a list of some good books to get started at An apologetics Reading Plan for Beginners.  Here are some I’ve read or plan to read:

The ten books on the reading plan below are selected specifically for the beginner in apologetics. They are on the list because of their accessibility and their quality of content. The order is provided as a progressive reading plan for those just getting started. Working through this list should give the novice a good foundation before moving on to more advanced titles.

1. The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel

All of Lee Strobel’s books are required reading for two reasons. First, they are good introductions to the subject and provide a good overview of the material from some of the best scholars in their fields. Second, the writing style is very accessible, taking you alongside a journalist in his investigation of the evidence for Christianity. In this particular title, Strobel focuses on the life and identity of Jesus.

2. The Case for a Creator by Lee Strobel

This book is just as readable as The Case for Christ, but this one delves into the evidence for the Creator. Another thing that makes this good reading for the beginner is this: whatever areas you find particularly interesting can be pursued further by reading the sources interviewed in the book.

3. The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel

In The Case for Faith, Strobel moves from making a positive case for Christ and a Creator to defending Christianity from some common criticisms and objections. This one deals with the hard faith questions such as the problem of pain and suffering and issues of doubt. Again, all three of the Lee Strobel books are a great starting point for the beginner.

**Interlude: Watch the The Lee Strobel Film Collection

At this point, now you can take a break from your reading and actually watch a series of three DVDs that are about an hour each. These excellent documentaries follow the same content as the books, along with interviews with experts and specialists. This is a great refresher for what you have read and also makes for a great small group resource and a DVD to lend to a friend.

6. Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions by Greg Koukl

Information without application results in stagnation when it comes to apologetics. That’s why it’s time for a good dose of Tactics, which will train you not only to use apologetic content in everyday life, but it will also train you to be a better, more critical thinker. This is another “must read” book, and mastering its contents early in your apologetic studies will put feet to your faith.

7. The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus by Mike Licona & Gary Habermas

The resurrection of Jesus is central to Christianity. This book equips you to understand and defend the resurrection from an historical perspective. Not only does the book have useful diagrams, summaries, and an accessible style, but it also comes with a CD-ROM with interactive software for teaching you the material. This is an essential book for the apologist.

9. I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be An Atheist by Geisler & Turek

Geisler and Turek have authored a great apologetics book that also takes a step-by-step approach to showing that Christianity is true—and it’s filled with lots of information. This gives the growing beginner a ton of good content, while strengthening the framework of a cumulative case for Christianity. This book will help to grow your overall general apologetic knowledge as well.

Somewhere Greg Koukl is smiling . . .

Never read a Bible verse is one of the simplest and most important Bible study lessons you’ll ever get.  Always read what surrounds the text to ensure you understand the context of it.  I expanded on that theme in a class I taught to high school students a couple months ago.  One challenge with that age group they are hard to read.  They sit there politely, but often it is hard to tell if they are really engaged.

But I got some nice news today: One of the students loved the lesson and shared it with her mom.  Her mom got a lot out of it and shared it with someone at Care Net Pregnancy Center, who may use it there.  So the benefits of this lesson spread out quickly and effectively without me knowing about it until today.  Sometimes you just have to trust the process.  Sow the seed generously and let God make it grow where He likes.

I also picked up a new thought on the importance of reading in context.  I had already noted in the lesson below how often Jeremiah 29:11 is misused.  But in talking to the Care Net volunteer today I realized another problem with it that I added:

Also, deep down people know that is a false promise.  Try telling that to someone who has seen nothing but misery in the lives of those around her.  How can she believe in a God like that?

If you haven’t checked out the web site, blog or Podcast of Stand to Reason I highly encourage it.  It is the best organization I know for clear thinking Christianity.

Here is my outline from the class.

——

How to read in context: Don’t just read a Bible verse (a great slogan and lesson from Stand to Reason – http://www.str.org).  Always read at least a paragraph, and preferably a section or a chapter.  Looking at what came before and after will help ensure you are getting the right meaning.

A simple and effective way to read the Bible
  • Read it – 1-3 chapters (less for doctrine, more for history)
  • Question it
    • What portion stands out to me?  Why?
    • Is there an example for me to follow?
    • Is there an error for me to avoid?
    • Is there a duty for me to perform?
    • Is there a promise for me to claim?
    • Is there a sin for me to confess?
    • What does it not mean?  (If a difficult passage says the opposite of other more clear teachings, you know what it can’t mean)
    • Plan it – make a plan for how you will use it
    • Pray it – pray scripture back to God
    • Share it – helps others, and helps us to remember it

We should read it in the way the authors intended it, depending on the context and type of writing.

  • When was it written?
  • Who was it written by / to?
  • Type of writing
    • History
    • Metaphor / illustrations / parables
    • Doctrine
    • Poetry
    • Figures of speech – i.e., exaggerations

Important points about reading in context

  • We don’t like to admit we’ve made mistakes, so we hold onto bad interpretations
    • Solution: Swallow your pride, get it right and remember to read in context next time.  For the record, I have misused every verse in this lesson.  Some mistakes are more serious than others.
    • We have all been guilty of reading out of context.  Our choice is to dig in our heels and continue to use it incorrectly or humbly accept and use the correct teaching.  2 Timothy 2:15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.
    • God can forgive this error just like He delights to forgive everything else done by those who trust in Jesus.
    • Fear of getting it wrong
      • Reading in context isn’t that hard to do!  Don’t be afraid of misinterpreting – just read surrounding passages and study notes.
      • We have an important point we want to make and we can’t use that verse for it any more
        • Find another passage to prove the point you wanted to make.
        • If you can’t find another verse to support it, maybe your point isn’t valid or particularly important.
        • Once you get it right, don’t be smug about it.  You’ll need to bite your tongue a lot and only correct people inappropriate settings and ways (e.g., Bible studies, one-on-one, etc.).
        • Great news: Even though you may have misunderstood the meaning, it still has a meaning – and it may be better than the one you thought it had!

Sample passages – the part in bold is what is frequently used out of context.  Note how just reading a couple surrounding verses shows the real meaning.

 Even one of the most famous verses ever gets misused.  Not everyone goes to Heaven – only those who trust in Jesus.

John 3:16-18 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

Philippians 4:13 is one of the most commonly misused passages.  It isn’t about achieving great sporting victories or leaping tall buildings.

 Philippians 4:12-13 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

 You only have to go back ½ of one verse to get the context.  Paul has a secret!  A secret about what?  A secret about how to be content in every situation.  It is a great message – actually, much better than the typical application.

And another very commonly misused verse is Jeremiah 29:11.  I see this abused on a regular basis in sermons, on t-shirts, signs, etc.

Jeremiah 29:1, 4, 10-11 This is the text of the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to the surviving elders among the exiles and to the priests, the prophets and all the other people Nebuchadnezzar had carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon . . .
This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon . . .  This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

 There is actually a great message in Jeremiah 29:11: God makes huge promises and keeps them.  The Israelites had been taken into captivity because of their rebellion and worship of false gods, but God promised to bring them back.  And He did.  But He did not make a generic promise to all people and at all times to prosper them.

People even throw that verse at non-believers, but that would give them a false sense of security.  God’s message to them is the opposite.  If they don’t repent and believe, his plans for them are horrible!

Also, deep down people know that is a false promise.  Try telling that to someone who has seen nothing but misery in the lives of those around her.  How can she believe in a God like that?

If you want to encourage people, try Matthew 11:28-30 instead (Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”)  That points them to the Jesus.

Both Christians and non-Christians abuse Matthew 7:1.  Jesus isn’t saying to never judge, He is saying not to judge hypocritically.

Matthew 7:1-5 Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

People have used Matthew 5:39 to oppose capital punishment.  But it is hard to turn the other cheek when you are dead, and it is unjust for the government to “turn the other cheek.”  It would mean that we’d never punish anyone for anything.

Matthew 5:39  But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.

Christians often use Matthew 18:20 reflexively when talking about praying together, but is Jesus not there with you when you are by yourself?

Matthew 18:15–20 (ESV) If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. . . . And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.

The part in bold makes people squirm.  Reading the whole passage helps put it in perspective.   I doubt many wives will complain about husbands who love them as Christ loves the church.

Ephesians 5:22–33 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior . . . Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her . . . In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself . . . “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” . . . However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

Malachi 3:8 gets misused a lot in stewardship campaigns.  Robbing God?!  That can’t be good.  But it is not a New Testament concept (see 2 Corinthians 9:6-7 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.).

Malachi 3:6–10 “For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed. From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts. But you say, ‘How shall we return?’ Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.

Evaluating different religions: 5 reasons to start your spiritual search with Christianity

pluralism.jpgI just listened to a Stand to Reason Podcast (7/12/10) where Craig Hazen outlined some provocative things to share with people who are exploring different religions.  Not only will they get people thinking, they help refute some false doctrines that Christians hold and address common objections to Christianity.  Hazen wrote a novel called Five Sacred Crossings that incorporates these themes (I’ll read it as soon as it comes out on the Kindle!).

Here are some notes from the Podcast with a few of my thoughts thrown in.  They are simple ways to encourage people to think carefully about Christianity.

1. Christianity is testable – It is open to being falsifiable.  You can research the truth claims yourself.  Christianity involves knowledge, truth claims and faith in evidence.  Many people think religions are just a matter of opinion or are the result of “blind faith,” but that is the opposite of Christianity.  Consider this passage that shows how Christianity “hangs by a thread” – i.e., if Jesus didn’t physically rise from the dead, then Christianity is wrong and you should search elsewhere:

1 Corinthians 15:12–19 (ESV)  Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

You can point them to all sorts of apologetics works (see the links to the right of this blog) or even simple things like the minimal facts approach, where nearly 100% of historical scholars from 1975 – present agree with the following statements and 75% of the same scholars agree that the tomb was empty:

  • Jesus really lived and was killed on a Roman cross.
  • Jesus’ disciples believed He appeared to them.
  • Jesus’ brother, James, went from being a pre-crucifixion skeptic to a post-crucifixion church leader.
  • The Apostle Paul believed Jesus appeared to him and he wrote most of the books attributed to him, including Romans, I & II Corinthians, Philemon and others.  He converted from persecuting Christians to being the greatest evangelist ever, despite nearly constant challenges, persecution and ultimately dying for his faith.

The Christian view that the physical resurrection of Jesus best accounts for these facts is highly supportable and logical.

2. Salvation is free – as C.S. Lewis noted, grace is the main distinction between Christianity and all other religions / cults.  They require works to (possibly) be made right with God, but Christianity says salvation is a free gift from God.  People like free things, and it conveys a supremely important spiritual truth in an easy to understand way.  Don’t be shy about reminding people about this.

3. The Christian worldview offers a perspective that fits the way the world really is.  Look at facts of the world and see how they line of with Christianity.  Consider the issue of evil and suffering, which Eastern religions (e.g., Hinduism and Buddhism) and New Agers treat as an illusion and which atheism cannot ground (if we are nothing but chemicals in motion then there is no true universal morality, just opinions and power).

If a Holocaust survivor described how her loved ones were brutally killed, does the typical audience shrug it off as being an illusion?  Of course not.  Deep down we know there is real right and wrong and real evil.  Christianity has an explanation for that but many major worldviews do not.

Consider how Eastern philosophies like The Secret would have you tell the woman who her problem is that she didn’t ask the universe for the right things, didn’t feel the right things or wasn’t open to receiving them.

The “problem of evil” is one of the most common objections to Christianity, but it is an even larger philosophical liability for other religions and atheism.  Christianity doesn’t try to side-step evil, it thoroughly addresses it.

4. In Christianity you get to live a non-compartmentalized / holistic life – We not only get to use our minds in worshiping and interacting with God (Acts 17:11 and more), we are told to do so.  Some religions consider reasoning to be an impediment to faith.

5. Christianity has Jesus at the center – That may sound like circular logic, but consider how universally Jesus is revered – however misinterpreted – in Islam and other religions.  Buddhism and Hinduism have plenty of room for a great teacher like Jesus.  Islam specifically refers to him and claims to believe the Bible (though they believe in error that it has been seriously mistranslated).  If nearly everyone wants to make room for Jesus and He has such a dramatic impact on the world (even to the point of our calendar being based on his birth), why not start with the religion that puts him front and center?

I would add a sixth: Since Christianity claims that there is one God and after we die we face one eternal judgment (Hebrews 9:27) you should consider it first, at least over atheism and any religion with either a concept of reincarnation or with no concept of judgment.  If atheism isn’t true, then nothing eternal matters.  If “second chance” religions like Hinduism and Buddhism are true then the worst case scenario is that you lose a little ground going into your next life.

But if Christianity is true and you don’t trust in Jesus and accept God’s free gift of salvation, then you spend an eternity paying for your sins.  

Consider matters of eternity very carefully, because eternity matters.

Lessons from the Titanic

RMS Titanic
Image via Wikipedia

None of these are nautical suggestions, but I’ve come across several interesting items about the Titanic.

1. Just because there are differing accounts of an event doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.  Some eyewitnesses thought the ship split in two pieces before sinking (they were ultimately proved right) and some claimed it did not.  But what did they all know with certainty?  The ship sunk.

The application to challenges to the accounts in the Bible is this: Even though there are, in my view, satisfactory explanations for alleged discrepancies in eyewitness accounts in the Bible, even if they were truly different it wouldn’t mean the event didn’t happen.  Even if two people gave slightly different accounts of the post-resurrection events it doesn’t mean the resurrection didn’t happen.

For example, one Gospel account mentions a single angel and another mentions two angels.  But there is no contradiction, because one doesn’t say there was one and only one angel at all times with the other claiming that there were two angels.  Perhaps one account just mentioned the angel that spoke, or there was just one angel present at the point in time being described.  But even if the claims were contradictory it doesn’t mean the tomb had a body or that there were zero angels.

And of course, if eyewitness claims were identical in all reported details then people would assume that collusion was involved.

2. A book titled The Wreck of the Titan was written 14 years before the Titanic sank but had some remarkable parallels.  But that doesn’t mean the Titanic didn’t really sink.   This analysis of the Zeitgeist movie (a film with many spurious claims, such as that Christianity was just borrowed from other religions) notes the following:

Did you know there’s a book that was written around the turn-of-the-last-century about a ship that was an unsinkable ship, which hit an iceberg on its maiden voyage and sank?  The name of the ship was the Titan.  This is remarkable because some 15 years later the Titanic sunk on its maiden voyage after hitting an iceberg.   Now what if you had read the novel and then later heard that a ship called the Titanic had actually sunk?  I’m sure you can see that rejecting the story of the Titanic on its face would be foolish only because you’d read a novel similar to the actual event.   Whether or not the Titanic sank is determined by the evidence for its sinking, unrelated to any other fictional stories that were like it.

By the same token, the story of Jesus described in the primary source documents, the historical documents we know popularly as Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, stands alone on its own merit.  The story stands or falls on the strength of the historical evidence.

There are many other reasons to dismiss the copycat religion claims leveled at Christianity.

3. John Harper was a real hero from the Titanic, calling out, ” Women, children and unsaved into the lifeboats!” and sharing the Gospel with people up until the time that he drowned.  How many Christians work to share the Gospel with the lost even when times are comfortable?

Hat tip for items 1 & 2 — Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason

We have a winner . . .

tactics. . .in the contest to give away a copy of Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing your Christian Convictions by Greg Koukl: Matthew from iPandora is the winner!

My youngest daughter picked a number at random to determine the winner.  She is part way through the book herself and knows a few of the tactics (Full disclosure: I offered her a $20 incentive to read it). 

Matthew’s energetic entry, while much appreciated, did not play into the decision:

Ohh Ohh, Pick me! Pick ME!

Congratulations, Matthew.  I’ll send you an email separately to get your address.  Thanks to everyone else who entered.  I’ll have another giveaway soon.

Even if you didn’t win I encourage you to consider reading the book. Greg Koukl leads Stand to Reason, my favorite apologetics ministry.  They have a great balance of grace and truth, chock full of great bits of knowledge but just as much focus on how to think clearly and how to use an artful manner to convey that knowledge.  If you aren’t listening to their Podcast I encourage you to check it out.

The tactics aren’t manipulative.  They focus on asking questions and listening, so you are sure you aren’t misstating someone’s views and you know why they believe what they do.  Then you use questions to point out any flaws in their reasoning.  He coaches you on how to avoid “steamrollers” who are pushy and won’t listen to you.  He also provides many examples of logical fallacies you’ll encounter when talking with people about Christianity.

I’ve used these techniques a lot — mostly in person, because online I tend to take shortcuts and get too fact-heavy (not that I’m using a wise strategy in those cases).  These tactics have helped me navigate conversations with multiple people from virtually every religion, cult or non-religion (e.g., atheism) without starting any jihads. 

Perhaps I shouldn’t mention this, but the tactics would work for non-Christian convictions as well.  They are pretty universal.

Roundup

TV anchor’s baby defies terminal diagnosis 

Doctors diagnosed their son with holoprosencephaly, a severe malformation of the brain….

The doctors were WRONG!

I know several people who had similar things happen.  Sometimes the bad news really is bad.  Sometimes it isn’t.  Many doctors steer any potentially problem cases towards abortion to make sure they won’t get sued.  But don’t be like Dr. Nick Riviera of The Simpsons and say, “Just to be on the safe side, we better pull the plug.”

One of many reasons why a mother shouldn’t abort her baby with an adverse prenatal diagnosis is so she won’t be plagued with guilt and doubt the rest of her life when viewing heartwarming stories like the following. Note that abortion was recommended, standard eugenic protocol these days.

You can read and sign the Manhattan Declaration here

Christians, when they have lived up to the highest ideals of their faith, have defended the weak and vulnerable and worked tirelessly to protect and strengthen vital institutions of civil society, beginning with the family.

We are Orthodox, Catholic, and evangelical Christians who have united at this hour to reaffirm fundamental truths about justice and the common good, and to call upon our fellow citizens, believers and non-believers alike, to join us in defending them. These truths are:

  1. the sanctity of human life
  2. the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife
  3. the rights of conscience and religious liberty.

Inasmuch as these truths are foundational to human dignity and the well-being of society, they are inviolable and non-negotiable. Because they are increasingly under assault from powerful forces in our culture, we are compelled today to speak out forcefully in their defense, and to commit ourselves to honoring them fully no matter what pressures are brought upon us and our institutions to abandon or compromise them. We make this commitment not as partisans of any political group but as followers of Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen Lord, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life

For some concerns about this declaration, see this piece by James White.

My favorite Podcast: Stand to Reason.  Check it out and subscribe if you like it.

Obama breaks another promise.  He supported the good war in Afghanistan but has done nothing for almost a year.  Fred Thompson is right: At this point, Obama lost a winnable war.  Plenty of time for talk shows and trying to get the Olympics for Chicago, but no time to do his job as Commander in Chief.

Weekly roundup

penguin-encounter-113a.jpgInteresting disparities in the cost of spreading the Gospel around the world.  The expenditures per person baptized in the U.S. are 109 times greater than for someone in Africa. 

And the cost in Antarctica is even higher.  Lousy penguins!  Just kidding.  This little guy (“Bumblebee”) converted, by the way.

Seriously, it gives one pause as to how to distribute evangelism $$ and resources in the wisest way.  Of course I support evangelism activities in the U.S., but I prefer to donate a significant portion of our contributions to international organizations. 

2008 resolutions of the televangelists – great commentary!  If these guys and gals would drop off of TV it would probably do more to advance Christianity than any evangelistic effort.  (Hat tip: Kevin)

Sneering vs. arguing – Christopher Hitchens may be intelligent but he uses horrible reasoning.

If you haven’t seen Theobromophile’s fantastic picture of the rainbow and “Golden Capitol” at the end of the March for Life, be sure to check it out.  (Yes, there really was a march, though the MSM forgot to tell us about it).

Does evil have an answer in Heaven? 

See www.str.org

Must-see videos

stand-to-reason.gifThese Stand to Reason videos are simply outstanding.  Greg Koukl is the most well-reasoned, winsome, articulate and effective apologist and teacher I’ve come across. 

The videos are just a couple minutes long.  I highly encourage Christians and non-Christians to watch at least a couple of them.  They will educate you and help you think more clearly.

Their Podcastwebsite (including their training MP3s) and blog are also invaluable. 

Stand to Reason trains Christians to think more clearly about their faith and to make an even-handed, incisive, yet gracious defense for classical Christianity and classical Christian values in the public square.

Check ’em out!