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Hip and Thigh: Smiting Theological Philistines with a Great Slaughter. Judges 15:8

Friday, March 30, 2012

Canon Fodder

I stumbled upon a new website this week, or at least new to me, and I wanted to pass it along to you all.

Michael Kruger, who I have thoroughly enjoyed reading over the last few years or so has a website called Canon Fodder. It's primary purpose is to explore the origins and reliability of the NT canon. It looks to be a really promising site that will provide a lot of good information.

Last spring, I read a book he co-authored called The Heresy of Orthodoxy that debunked the faddish idea that early Christianity reflected a diversity of beliefs with one dominant belief centered in the works of Paul coming to the front and establishing itself to be the Christianity we supposedly know this day. Dr. Kruger wrote the second portion of the book outlining the development of the NT canon. He has also written some good stuff interacting with Bart Ehrman, whom he sat under in college. (See his reviews of Ehrman's previous works). He also has a new book on the canon coming out this April.

What I have always appreciated about the brother is his ability to make the fields of NT and early Christian studies accessible to the normal folks. He not only makes it interesting, but he has a confident excitement about the subject that engages me. There are two interviews linked at his site that he did on Stand to Reason. Both are worth your time listening to. His interview comes in the third hour of the podcast, so just click over to the 1 hr, 54 min. mark.

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Thursday, March 29, 2012

The World Tilting Gospel

In light of my good friend Dan Phillips receiving a nomination as "Best New Author" from the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association for his outstanding, You-have-to-read-this book, The World-Tilting Gospel, I thought I would republish the review I wrote up last year. Maybe now the big, Oprah Winfrey influencing bloggers like Tim Challies will get around to doing an actual review.


world-tiltingEmbracing a Biblical Worldview and Hanging on Tight – by Dan Phillips

A book review by Fred Butler

During the summer after God saved me, a friend gave me a copy of a little book by A.W. Pink called, Profiting from the Word. This short book, comprised of a handful of articles Pink published in his monthly, Studies in the Scriptures, explored how God’s Word should be profiting a Christian in such areas as personal prayer, confronting worldliness, and dealing with sin.

As a brand new believer made sensitive to God’s Word, the book shook my foundations. I never had any one explain biblical truth to me in the way Pink explained it. At that time in my life, it was as if God had sent it from heaven just for me. That 120 page book was used of the Lord to outline the trajectory of my spiritual life from that first summer to this this point 20 odd years later.

Dan Phillips first published book, The World-Tilting Gospel, has the same core shaping potential for Christians both new and seasoned in the faith.

Over the last few years, Dan has become one of my favorite bloggers. His writing is showcased along with Phil Johnson’s and Frank Turk’s at Team Pyro and his own personal blog, Biblical Christianity. His posts are always fun to read even if it is just an amusing video or serious prose. They are filled with humor, warmth, sound theology, and rich, biblical insight. Dan’ book captures the same style his blog writing has endeared to his readers.

The title, “The World-Tilting Gospel,” is taken from Acts 17:6 which says, …these men have turned the world upside down, and Dan’s study explores the reason for the accusation and exhorts us modern day Christians to exhibit the same “world tilting” faith as the Christians in Acts.

Dan outlines the direction of his book by asking four questions. Part 1 asks “Who Are We?” and that question is answered in three chapters designed to explain who God is as our creator, Adam’s fall in the garden, and how Adam’s sin impacts all of humanity without exception. Part 2 asks, “What Has God Done For Us?” and chapters 4-6 discuss God’s plan of salvation established in eternity past and brought to mankind through Jesus Christ. Part 3 then asks, “How Do We Get In?” and chapters 7 and 8 are an in-depth study of our justification before God on account of Christ’s work and the Spirit’s regenerating work that re-orients our hearts toward serving God. In part 4, Dan spends the remainder of the book from chapters 9-14 answering the question, “How Do We Get Going?”

Part 4 is where Dan shows us how our theology (what he has been laying down in the previous three parts) interfaces and impacts our practical life. This is the better part of the book in my opinion, because he tells us how we are to work out our doctrine as genuine “world tilters” just like our Christian fore-fathers in the days of Acts. As he develops the practical implications of our faith, Dan highlights three significant doctrinal errors that have ensnared a good many Christians pursing their sanctification. Dan refers to the practitioners of these errors as “the gutless gracers,” “crises up-graders,” and “the muzzy mystics.” We know them as the classic no-lordship proponents, the pefectionists in their various errant forms, and the pietists in all their various errant forms.

After he critiques these seriously wrong-headed views of the Christian life, Dan gives two chapters to explaining what the Bible means by “the flesh,” and how the Holy Spirit should be working in our lives. These two chapters are alone worth the price of this book. Dan is able to take two misunderstood and often wrongly taught subjects of putting off our “flesh” and being “filled with the Spirit,” and anchor these doctrines in the text of Scripture. The final chapter pulls together all that Dan has taught us and explains how what was studied should craft our lives as Christians.

Overall, Dan has written a theological primer of sorts that encapsulates the fundamentals of our Christian faith. That’s why I say this book has such core shaping potential. It is perfect for new Christians, because it roots them in the foundations of their faith. This is what Christianity is all about, and this is how we are to live out our faith. New Christians will be served well by reading this book early on, because it will help guard their minds against the typical bad teaching they are for sure to hear (gutless grace, crises up-grading, and muzzy mysticism), and set them on a cleared path for serving the Lord.

Yet this book is also beneficial for seasoned believers as well. I already have a few people in mind that I will give this book to as a gift. It’s easy for a Christian to forget who he or she is. After plodding along serving the Lord for a decade, going to church, hearing hundreds of sermons, maybe even going on a short-term mission trip, a person’s faith can become routine, dull, and mediocre. There is a human tendency to forget who we are, where we are going, why we even came to Christ in the first place. The World-tilting Gospel is an excellent reminder of who God is, our original condition, God’s plan to save us, and the purpose of our Christian walk is to turn the world up-side down.

BTW. Those interested in getting a more detailed overview of Dan’s book can check out a blogger (who happens to be a Methodist. A Methodist!) who is doing a chapter by chapter study at her blog.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Does the Bible teach that a woman has to marry her rapist?

muslimcoupleRecently I read a shocking news report out of Morocco about a 16 year-old girl who committed suicide after a judge ordered her to marry her rapist. A number of conservative bloggers and commenters jumped on the story as another example of a real "war" against women by Islamic societies. They contrasted that story with the imaginary "war" against women concocted by leftists here in the U.S. who decry the withholding of free birth control and abortions from promiscuous girls.
Though I agree with a number of these bloggers who wrote that a greater threat against girls comes from Islamic societies, those same bloggers seemed to have failed to read the comments under that news item. If they had, they would have seen atheists quoting Deuteronomy 22:28, 29 and mockingly accusing Christians and other religious conservatives of hypocrisy, because, as the atheist claims, the Christian Bible teaches the exact same thing about the fate of raped girls marrying their rapists as this Moroccan judge.
Deuteronomy 22:28, 29 states,
28 "If a man finds a young woman who is a virgin, who is not betrothed, and he seizes her and lies with her, and they are found out,
29 "then the man who lay with her shall give to the young woman's father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife because he has humbled her; he shall not be permitted to divorce her all his days.
According to the atheists, this passage describes a young woman (read here: 16 year-old Moroccan girl), who is violently raped by a thuggish man, and rather than being punished, he is told that if he marries her all will be forgiven. The young woman has no choice in the matter. She and her family has to comply. And they can never get divorced.
As the first atheist commenter under that news article stated, “it’s why we hate religion.”
So is the atheist right? Does the Bible teach that rape victims must marry their rapist, assuming they aren't married to begin with? A modern day example would be the college freshman coed who gets date raped at a Saturday night frat party having to marry her frat boy rapist.
Some preliminary remarks before we even delve into providing a response.
First, as I noted in an article on the sex-trade and the Bible, atheists love to abuse these types of passages in the OT. They always cite them out of historical context and often times butcher the translation. Going back again to the atheist commenter under that news article, he not only got the verses wrong, he also picked a terrible translation that totally misrepresents what the passage is saying. But who says atheists like to play fair in these discussions?
At any rate, after they quote their pet verse, the atheists proclaim how Christians are ignorant of their own Bibles because they cherry-pick verses. Christians need to be consistent, argues the atheist. If they are gonna hate on gays and not allow them to be married, they need to be prepared to own slaves and not eat lobster. That of course is a dishonest, lazy way of offering objections because it doesn't seek to truly engage the position.
But secondly, and more to the point, why, according to the atheist's particular view of the world, is this law a "bad" thing? Why should we care? Why should it make them “hate religion?”
Keep in mind that atheism believes humans are merely biological, gene replicators trying their hardest to pass their genes on to the next generation in order to survive. What's with all the moral outrage over a female gene replicator being told to reproduce exclusively with an exceptionally aggressive male gene replicator? These two individuals are just a couple of highly evolved hominids. Do atheists get morally outraged with alpha male primates that "rape" young female primates and add them to the "harem" as it were?
The atheists are inserting all of this phony talk of justice, violating the wills of persons, right and wrong, etc. Under the conditions by which atheists claim the world works, they are wanting me to see some glaring inconsistency with how I as a Christian believe the world works. But aren't we all just gene replicators living out life according to our genetic program? If my genetic program insists female gene replicators should reproduce exclusively with aggressive male gene replicators, what exactly is the problem?
But moving along to reality, how exactly then do I understand this text?
Deuteronomy is outlining instructions for life within a theocratic society, a society whose purpose is to live separately from their surrounding nations and are set apart as a holy nation of people belonging to YHWH. Within that society, YHWH provides instructions on how to deal with situations that will arise among His people, that would include relationships, marriage, and sadly, sexual sin. Israel, in spite of being a distinct, "holy" nation, is a nation comprised of sinners who will at times act sinfully.
Deuteronomy 22:13 ff., addresses laws pertaining to sexual morality and regulates a variety of scenarios that would potentially surface among the people of Israel. That includes situations involving premarital promiscuity, infidelity, affairs, and rape.
If one were to read the text carefully, there is a law addressing rape found in 22:25-27. It reads,
25 "But if a man finds a betrothed young woman in the countryside, and the man forces her and lies with her, then only the man who lay with her shall die.
26 "But you shall do nothing to the young woman; there is in the young woman no sin deserving of death, for just as when a man rises against his neighbor and kills him, even so is this matter.
27 "For he found her in the countryside, and the betrothed young woman cried out, but there was no one to save her.
The word "forces" describes a man who sees a woman and rapes her. The text says it is akin to a man rising against his neighbor and committing murder. In such a case the rapist is executed. Nothing happens to the girl. Those three passages clearly speak about rape and what happens to the rapist and victim.
However, 22:28-29 describes a much different situation.
The atheist will point to the word "seizes" as translated in the NKJV and other English translations and claim the word means rape. That isn't totally accurate. The word has the basic idea of "to grasp" or "seize" and doesn't necessarily mean rape in a violent sense. The context will determine that. The only modern translations that translate the word as “rape” that I could find were the NET and the TNIV, but I believe they offer a woefully bad translation that does not represent the passage. I say that for at least three reasons.
First, the idea here is a guy taking a girl who isn't "betrothed" to be married. She isn't engaged, nor has she been pledged to another man, so she is probably young, still living at home with her parents.
Next, the verse says "and they are found out" or "discovered." "To be discovered" means that the couple didn't want to be found out. The implication being that his or her family found out they had sexual relations with each other. This would mean the girl could very well had been a willing participant in the sexual sin.
Contrast that situation with the one described in the previous three verses. There it is clear a girl is raped. The fact that she cries for help indicates she was attacked. In that situation, the guy is executed. Now, in verses 28, 29, both the guy and the girl are "discovered," and rather than being executed, the guy is told to marry the girl. It would be a rather odd regulation if in one instance, the guy is executed for his attack, yet in the next, he is allowed to marry his victim. It's nonsensical, to be exact.
Third, the situation described in Deuteronomy 22:28, 29 reads almost exactly like Exodus 22:16, 17. In fact, Deuteronomy is more than likely a reiteration of these verses in Exodus,
16 "If a man entices a virgin who is not betrothed, and lies with her, he shall surely pay the bride-price for her to be his wife.
17 "If her father utterly refuses to give her to him, he shall pay money according to the bride-price of virgins.
Here we have described for us a man who “entices,” or better, “seduces” a young girl and sleeps with her. It is not a rape at all, but is something that is quite common between teenagers even in our day. That being, a young man who sweet-talks a girl into liking him and he gets her into bed, or in the case of our modern society, in the back of his 94 Dodge van. Rather than being raped, she is willingly compliant.
When they are found out, the guy isn’t executed because he didn’t violently attack her. He is given the option to marry her along with paying fifty shekels of silver to the family for his foolish, piggish behavior.
Also notice that Exodus 22:17 gives the option for the father to refuse the marriage. In other words, he can tell the young man to take a hike and not come back. The young man is still required to pay the bride-price, or the dowry the family would have received when the daughter was engaged.
Looking over that article about this situation in Morocco, none of these biblical factors are even present. The father was “pressured” by authorities to make his daughter marry the guy. Her and her family weren’t given the choice to say no as the Bible allows.
So to say that the Bible makes a girl marry her rapist is just patently absurd.

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Monday, March 26, 2012

World Class Juggling

This video is longish, but it is fun to watch.
I need to get me one of those metallic, glittering three-piece suits for church.

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Friday, March 23, 2012

Cults, Hermeneutics, Apologetics, and Philosophizing

dakebibleDr. Richard Howe left a long, convoluted response to a post I wrote critiquing his complaints against Ken Ham's apologetic he uses to defend Genesis.  I can't really respond at length to his criticisms of me, but I did leave a basic response in the comments at his blog.  Here, I just wish to pull a couple of highlights and expand upon them a bit.

Concerning the subject of hermeneutics and Dr. Howe's (as well as many classic Thomistic apologists) insistence that established principles of hermeneutics must come from outside the Bible first before one can actually study the Bible, I had written,

When God created man, He made him with the ability to communicate and understand. Obviously a good deal of what it means to understand and communicate is intrinsic with the way all men think. If one teaches the Bible, you don't need to have a course on "hermeneutics" first in order to teach it. Because all men created in God's image retain the ability to communicate, all one needs to do is read and explain Genesis 1 and they know what it means. There is only a need to teach "hermeneutics" first if you are an OEC who is trying to explain away the plain meaning of the historical narrative so as to accommodate deep time, evolutionary views of origins.

Dr. Howe responded by writing,

Such a naïve position on Bible teaching explains why there is so much shallow (and sometimes heretical) teaching going on in the name of the Bible. Does Mr. Butler think it is always that easy (even if sometimes it is easy)? I wonder what he would say to Finis Jennings Dake who argued, “God has a personal spirit body (Dan. 7:9-14; 10:5-19); shape (Jn. 5:37); form (Phil. 2:5-7); image and likeness of a man (Gen. 1:26; 9:6; Ezek. 1:26-28; 1 Cor. 11:7; Jas. 3:9). He has bodily parts such as, back parts (Ex. 33:23), heart (Gen. 6:6; 8:21), hands and fingers (Ps. 8:3-6; Heb. 1:10; Rev. 5:1-7), mouth (Num. 12:8), lips and tongue (Isa. 30:27), feet (Ezek. 1:27; Ex. 24:10), eyes (Ps. 11:4; 18:24; 33:18), ears (Ps. 18:6), hair, head, face, arms (Dan. 7:9-14; 10:5-19; Rev. 5:1-7; 22:4-6), and other bodily parts.” [Finis Jennings Dake, The Dake Annotated Reference Bible (Lawrenceville, GA: Dake Bible Sales, 1991), NT, p. 97] Is Mr. Butler willing to grant that it is “obvious” that God has such bodily parts as Dake says? Cannot Mr. Butler see the need for a careful distinction between what the Bible says and what the Bible means? Such a distinction cannot be thoroughly sustained without proper hermeneutics.

Those who frequent my blog, who are familiar with my background, where I work, and where I attend church, know for a fact I abhor shallow teaching.  Come on.  I work for John MacArthur, who just finished a 43 year exposition of the entire NT last June (2011).  Believe me.  We happen to know what is and isn't shallow teaching around here.

The broader point I was making was against the classic apologetic argument that a foundation in human philosophy, typically understood as Greek philosophy of the Aristotelian and Platonic stripe, must be in place first as an interpretive grid so as to apply the hermeneutic rules necessary to read and understand the Bible. 

Rather, I understand our principles of hermeneutics to be derived from God's desire as Creator for us to not only communicate with Him, but also with each other.  Language and writing is not a human invention; at least not the ability to speak and write and communicate.  God is a revealing God who gave revelation to men.  I would expect - and this is confirmed with the biblical narrative of Adam in Genesis 1 and 2 -  that if God intended to communicate with mankind and have us communicate with Him in return, He would create mankind with that ability.  Hence, "hermeneutics," like laws of logic, are from the mind of our Creator and imparted to us, His creatures. 

Moreover, I further derive my hermeneutics from the text of Scripture.  By that I mean Scripture is intended to be plain and lucid.  What is called the perspicuity of Scripture.  As the creature of a communicating, revelation-giving God, I am able to read the Bible within its context and understand what it means in the normal parameters of exegesis.  Certainly learning the original languages, understanding the cultural background, the history in which the book was written, etc., enhances my understanding of God's Word making it even more clear.  But those are hermeneutical principles I didn't have to gather from an external, interpretative philosophical source that tells me how I should read the Bible. It is part of what it means to be created by God.

DakeNow, Dr. Howe holds up the example of Finis J. Dake, the Pentecostal oriented cultist who published his personal study Bible as Dake's Annotated Study Bible.  Along with his Pentecostal heresies, Dake also held to anti-Trinitarian heresies, as Dr. Howe points out.  His claim is that I would be unable to sit down with Dake and "explain" the Bible without first establishing principles of "hermeneutics." Unless I establish the hermeneutics first, "a distinction between what the Bible says and what it means cannot be thoroughly sustained without proper hermeneutics," argues Dr. Howe.

Though I agree with him in part about the need to utilize hermeneutics, I believe our "hermeneutics" can be sufficiently established within the context of Scripture.  In other words, I don't need to run to Aristotelian logic first to give me a filter to read my Bible. 

The reason I can say that with such confidence is that I have sat down with cultists like Dake and by "just using" the Bible was able to press them as to their false views of Scripture that lead to their false views of God, Jesus, man, and salvation.  Dake is like all cultists I am familiar with:  They cherry-pick passages, lifting them from their context to prove their heresy

When considered in the whole of what Scripture teaches about God, for instance, those passages do not teach what the cultist claims they do.  Now, did I have to have a class in hermeneutical philosophizing 101 to show how the cultist is wrong?  No.  I did not.  Scripture alone is a sufficient authority to demonstrate the cultist's theological error. 

Dr. Howe goes on further to flesh out his point,

Dake is clearly (to me) heretical here. No doubt Dake would claim that it is he who is taking the “obvious” meaning of the text. The Bible “clearly” says what Dake has it saying. But I would argue (as I suspect Mr. Butler would as well) that Dake has misinterpreted the Bible. How, then, are we to adjudicate this dispute? While I agree with Mr. Butler that much of the time the meaning of the Bible is plain, this will not help us with deeper philosophical and theological issues such as the nature and attributes of God Himself.

I am of the conviction, as I already discussed, that if you begin with the whole of Scripture, the meaning of the Bible is clear, even in the "deeper philosophical and theological issues" pertaining to the attributes of God.  In fact, we only truly know about the attributes of God from Scripture.  But laying that aside, let me zero in on his claim that the Bible "clearly" says what Dake has it saying. 

In a manner of speaking, it does.  Take for example the citation of Daniel 7:9, 10 and 10:5-19.  These are Messianic passages.  The Daniel 7 passage is a prophecy regarding the Son of Man, a prophecy Jesus said speaks of Himself in Mark 14:61-64.  Additionally, Daniel 10 is a Christophany, a personal, pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ to the prophet Daniel.  Was Jesus Christ a man?  Were prophecies and OT appearances of Christ revealing a "man?"  Of course, but I derive that understanding of those passages from the whole of Scripture. 

Though Dr. Howe insists that we can't really refute Dake's heretical conclusions about God unless we have some philosophical grid in place so as to shape our hermeneutics, I believe a Christian can.  Again, beginning with the whole of Scripture, if you take the cultist away from his pet passages he has isolated from their context and proclaim to him the whole counsel of God, the Bible is quite adequate by itself as a refutation to such heresies. 

Honestly, as I have written elsewhere, it's these aversions to the appeal of Scripture’s sufficiency as a stand alone authority that concerns me about the entire classic apologetic enterprise. 

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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Gleanings in 1 Samuel [7]

dagonThe Lord Defends His Honor (1 Samuel 5)

I have been considering the book of 1st Samuel. 

The opening chapters set the scene of a people improperly worshipping God because the leadership was corrupt.  True to His promise, if Israel dishonors God, He will curse them.   God is a covenant keeping God and that includes bringing the judgment the covenant required.

This God did when He brought the Philistines to war against Israel.  During a set of battles, Israel is beaten and after they regroup, they foolishly bring out the Ark of God to force God’s hand to fight the Philistines.

But God abandoned them to utter defeat, and in a sense, gave Himself over to self-imposed exile by allowing the Philistines to capture the Ark, the Mercy Seat.  This is something God does alone.  Only He is sovereign over all the events transpiring.

However, just like the LORD acted in judgment against the religious establishment of Israel who displayed contempt for Him and His covenant, so too we see His judgment against the Philistine religious establishment that attempts to ridicule Him. His hand is against them as it was against Israel.

The phrase “Hand of the LORD” speaks of ability, power, presence, and authority.  Throughout Scripture when connected with God, the phrase speaks of how God has sovereign authority  to either favor or curse. 

The narrator tells how the “Hand of the Lord” was against the Philistines in three ways:

I) God’s Hand against Dagon (5:1-5)

Israel had justly been handed defeat by God to the Philistines.  But to the Philistines, the capture of the Ark means a defeat of Israel’s God, for the Mercy Seat equates an idol in their minds that represented the God of Israel.

After they capture the Ark they take it to Ashdod, one of the 5 major Philistine cities and place it in the temple of Dagon where it will be housed as a war trophy representing how their god defeated YHWH.

Dagon was an ancient Mesopotamian deity that was revered among the Phoenicians, Amorites, and even the Babylonians.  He was represented as something of a merman, head of a fish with the body of a man.  He was the god who gave grain and sent rain for crops.

This “war trophy” is placed before the massive idol of Dagon.  This was a common practice when a king or gods were defeated.  For example, Judges 1 tells how Adoni-Bezek would do this to those men he defeated.  Samson was treated in this fashion in Judges 16, and Nebuchadnezzar did this to the kings of Israel.

However, something happened.  Coming in the next day, the priests of the temple discover the massive statue fallen down before the Ark.  It was a rather large stone statue, so it was clear something miraculous happened. 

The people set it back up.  Notice how “they” had to set it back up.  In other words, Dagon couldn’t get back up himself.  But the next day when they come in, they find the idol with its head and hands severed and laying on the threshold of the temple.  The decapitation and mutilation of the idol signifies a military style execution (similar to what happens to Saul at the end of 1 Samuel).  Thus, YHWH has judged the fake god and religious system of the Philistines. 

II). God Hand Against the People (5:6, 7)

After God defeats and humiliates the Philistines false god, the text says His hand was heavy against the people.  He struck them with tumors.  It is unclear what those “tumors” were.  The original KJV translates the word as “emrods,” and some have suggested they are hemorrhoids or some other sexually transmitted disease.  It could also be a black plague type disease knowing later that images of mice are returned with the ark when it is sent back to Israel, (6). 

God’s judgment was falling upon the Philistines in which He was bringing the covenant curses upon them (Deut. 28:27). 

III) God’s Hand Against the Nation (5:8-12)

God’s judgment against the Philistines in Ashdod begins a panic.  They want to send it away.  The tone with the words here is similar to how the Egyptians in Exodus 12:33 who wanted to send out Israel with haste.

The people of Ashdod then escalate God’s judgment among the whole Philistine nation by sending the Ark away to Gath, thus bringing the plague to them.  Judgment is upon all the people.  Men, women, and children.  Rich and poor, small and great.  No one is “spared.”  Judgment comes upon all equally.  Those who did not die were stricken with the tumors (emrods) and their cry went up into heaven. 

In spite of Israel corrupt disobedience and arrogance, God weakened their enemy by destroying them Himself.  He had to be the one who defends His own honor. 

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Monday, March 19, 2012

Questioning Classic Apologetics

Christian apologist, Paul Copan, published a post over at  The Gospel Coalition blog critical of presuppositional apologetics.  He titled his post Questioning Presuppositionalism, even though he doesn't really ask any specific questions of presuppositionalists.  A number of individuals have responded to it. James White gave an outstanding response on his Dividing Line worth your time considering.

Rather than retreading ground where good men have already trod, I want to sketch out my "questions for classic apologetics" though I'll probably just make a bunch of statements like Copan did. Moreover, I'll admit up front that my points will be for the most part generalizations. I am sure any detractors will fault me for that and accuse me of providing anecdotal testimony.

But I make my observations based upon what I hear from the popular promoters of classic apologetics when they engage the unbelievers in debate or dialog in the public arena. If my detractors believe I am being unfair, then I challenge them to remedy these concerns.  If anything, address them and give an account for them. It's my conviction that the glory of God is at stake.

- Classic apologists have a fixation on the value of Greek philosophy and its impact on theology. I noted this in a previous post where I offered the same criticism. Classic apologists have this notion that because pagan Greek philosophers, made in God's image, used their "reasoning" facilities retained after the Fall to systematize the laws of logic that we as Christians must be familiar with them in order to study the Bible and to rationally engage unbelievers. Of course that just pushes the question back a step. Do we need some other rule book to properly understand the Greek philosophy BEFORE we can use it to read the Bible? It really is an absurd idea. It's like saying that before I can work out mathematical equations I need to be familiar with Persian Zoroastrianism.

- Classic apologists diminish biblical authority.  It’s like classic apologists are ashamed of the Bible.  They will deny that of course, but they definitely give the impression they are ashamed of its sufficiency as a credible, reliable, and certain source of truth that can be presented alone, without external attestation to its authority.  Some will go so far as to say Christians are overly dependent upon the Bible as a source of authority  and question if the "Bible alone" is really enough when it comes to building an apologetic methodology.

Now, a smart thinking classic apologist is going ask, How do you know the Bible is in fact God's revelation? As I responded to my recent classic apologist commenter under this post,

We know the Bible is in fact God's revelation because it says so. Notice that I didn't shift my certainty to "my experience" or "the evidence says" like a Mormon burning bosom experience. It is the Bible that is claiming this for itself as God's Word. As Paul writes, Scripture is God-breathed. It is a revelation from the true and living God and so Scripture is tied to God's character. The very fact that God has demonstrated His sovereignty, power, trustworthiness in time and space, is the grounding where we trust the infallibility and truthfulness of Scripture. This has been the historic protestant Christian position for centuries, especially since the Reformation, and what is articulated in the classic creeds both in Presbyterian and Baptist denominations. It is what is described as the self-authenticating nature of Scripture. If the Bible makes this claim for itself, which it does, then we trust it on that basis as believers. I will also add that ultimate persuasion of the Bible's claims can only come from the regenerating work of the Spirit that affirms its truthfulness.

- They present a minimalist gospel presentation.  Assuming the gospel is even presented in an apologetic encounter, it is usually presented after a drawn out philosophical presentation that allegedly proves the authority of the Bible and the Gospel message. If the gospel is given, the message is the bare essentials of Jesus died, rose again, and we need to believe on him.  Catholics and Mormons believe that. Rarely, if ever, is there a proclamation of man in rebellion against His Creator, God's wrath justly coming against the sinner, and the only hope is fleeing to Christ for salvation.

- Classic apologists grant way too much to sinners.  Classic apologists naively think sinners hostile to God, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, will play by the same intellectual rules of debate and logic. It’s assumed they can be reasonably met at a neutral place so as to rationally discuss differences and draw similar conclusions about the evidence for Christianity. These hostile unbelievers, however, think the Christian apologists are nothing but a bunch of bumpkins, and will never grant them the same intellectual respect the apologists unwittingly give to the unbeliever.

I recall corresponding with an atheist who was an apostate from the Christian faith. He would complain bitterly to me how I was unfairly harsh with him in my emails.  In contrast, he told me how all these well-known classic apologists warmly welcomed him to their "fellowships" during the ETS conferences and respectfully "dialoged" with him about his atheistic views. But once he got back home and started blogging, he'd bad-mouth those same apologists as morons, calling them intellectually dishonest and out-of-touch with reality.

- Makes evangelism too complicated.  Places evangelism into the realm of the philosophical where normal Christians rarely if ever venture because Greek philosophy doesn’t have any meaningful impact in their lives.

Classic apologists, however, see that as a serious problem and one of the reasons Christianity isn't taken seriously be the world. If more churches would teach philosophy to their congregations they too could rationally engage unbelievers and give them logical reasons for believing in Christianity. In fact, when I recently began surveying the apologetic blogs and "ministry" websites of a number of young apologists, many of them advertise how they are trained, "certified" apologists from such-and-such apologetic camp, seminar, or college program. And they would be happy to come and teach your youth group how to do apologetics right!

I don't want people to believe I am devaluing education. Christians certainly benefit from knowing their faith, the Bible, Church History, world religions, cults, etc., but honestly, does Mrs. Harper really have to be a "certified" apologist before she can challenge her grandson who just returned from his first year at the state college and believes Zeitgeist is the most important documentary ever made? I imagine my classic apologist detractors will say no. A person doesn't have to be certified before he does apologetics, but they certainly give the impression that they do.

- The overall methodology leads to a bait-and-switch tactic.  In other words, the apologist presents a generic deity who has the “greater” probability of existing.  If he is successful in getting the unbeliever to agree with him on the existence of “a” deity, he then switches into an evangelistic mode insisting it is the Christian God who meets the criteria for that “generic deity.”

The same can be said about the reliability of the Bible. The Bible is presented as just another ancient book among many, like the works of Pliny or Tacitus, and once you supposedly demonstrate its uniqueness among all those other books to the unbeliever, THEN you tell him how it contains all these fantastical stories about God creating the world in six days and corpses rising from the dead and the person is to believe it with conviction as a guide to his eternal destiny.

- There exists a compromised ecumenism among the league of the popular classic apologists.  I also noted this point in more detail in a previous post. Catholics and Protestants, along with non-Christians like Moonies and atheists in the case with a number of the main ID promoters, all arguing for the existence of this generic deity and insisting how all the “evidence” proves this deity. If you express a problem with having heretical people joining along on the apologetic enterprise, then you are labeled as being too narrow and in danger of sounding like JWs or worse, the Fundamentalists.

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Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Cubs Win

Here's some remarkable advertising. Really makes you feel it.

The old guy cutting his beard got to me.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Kirk and Me: H&T Classics

Kirk Cameron has come into the news recently because on a CNN program he basically stated that homosexual perversion is detrimental to the practicing homosexuals as well as the overall society at large.  The practitioners of homosexual perversion, however, would not stand for anyone disapproving of their perversion, so they set about attempting to force their views upon Kirk Cameron and anyone who agrees with him. 
Kirk stuck to his convictions and refused to back down with a squishy apology to pacify PC outrage.  The story can be read in more detail HERE.
Back during the first year or so after I started blogging, Kirk Cameron and his family was attending my church for a while.  I recall one of his kids was in the Sunday school class of one of my kids, so I occasionally saw him and his wife either dropping off or picking up at the door.
Since Kirk’s “controversial” comments against homosexual perversion, a couple of posts I wrote  about him have seen a large amount of activity.  Seeing that I wrote these up like 6 years ago, way before I had the massive readership I have now, I thought I would repost them. 
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I Had My First Kirk Cameron Sighting
imageOn Labor Day I was at a get together with the family and I had one of our dear friends tell us excitedly how she spoke with Kirk Cameron, the former 80s TV sitcom star and teen idol and now Way of the Master host, at our church on Sunday. "He came up with his family to the Christmas in September table where I was sitting and asked where they go for membership." "Really," I said, "Kirk Cameron? No, foolin'?"
The next week when I went to church, I looked all over campus to see if I could find him. I thought he would be fairly easy to spot being a genuine, recognizable TV personality, but he proved as elusive as Nessie.
The following week, I had two other friends on two separate occasions tell me of seeing Kirk Cameron at church. One older friend remarked, "He walked by our pew and I thought I recognized him as someone famous, but I couldn't remember who he was." I quipped, "I think he was that genius kid on Doogie Howzer, MD." "Oh yeah," stated my friend, "that's where I have seen him."
My friend isn't too keen on 80s TV sitcom stars.
The week after that, I had even more friends and co-workers talk about seeing Kirk. "Have you seen Kirk, yet?" the person would ask. "I think he is coming to our church now." "So I have heard," I would say.
"I saw Kirk over by the bookstore," stated one person.
"I saw Kirk and his kids by the fountain," another would claim.
"Kirk was over walking by the gym."
"Have you seen Kirk?"
Kirk Cameron was proving to be my snuffleupagus.
Welp, this past Sunday, I had my first official Kirk Cameron sighting. I was seated with my wife, the call to worship music just started when a glare of sun light caught my eye. I turned to the left, looking over my shoulder, and there he stood with a buddy. Bigger than life. They looked around for seats, made their way around the perimeter of the sanctuary and an usher sat them down right next to the deaf section in the front by the organ.
I jabbed my wife and said, "Lookit, Kirk Cameron."
So I guess he is real after all.
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Rubbing Shoulders with Celebrities
I had noted in a blog article back in September how everyone at my Church but me was seeing Kirk Cameron and his family on Sunday mornings. After I finally had my first official "Kirk Cameron Sighting," I not only see the guy every Sunday at least once, but sometimes more than twice.
Usually, it is just him and his wife or kids. I normally see him during the second service when he comes in the back door close to where my wife and I sit in church. Rarely do I see him talking with "regular" church folks. There could be good reasons for that. Kirk and his family are somewhat new to our church and with a church that large, it may take a bit to get plugged into fellowship groups and so forth. But also, I think many folks are a tad intimidated by his celebrity status and they are either afraid to speak with him or think they shouldn't come across as "fans" and feel they need to give him his space.
I generally don't get intimidated by celebrities, especially Christian celebrities.  I will definitely get excited to meet someone I genuinely respect as an author or preacher, however.
For example (and my wife loves this story), the first time I met James White, I was walking down a hall behind our worship center and I saw James with Phil Johnson. I stopped and point-blank asked Phil, "Well, aren't you going to introduce me?" Phil laughed, introduced me to James, and in a fit of excited glee, when I went to shake James' hand, I gave him one of those two handed clasp shakes and even patted the top of his hand as I told him how much I appreciated his apologetic work. I felt like an idiot after that encounter, but hey.
So, Kirk looks like a normal guy. I don't know why people would be intimidated by him. I am sure his breath smells in the morning just like mine. I personally want to meet him to talk about theology and apologetic methodology. I intend to make it across the campus someday when I see him roaming around so as to introduce myself.
Yesterday, I am walking with my oldest boy to pick-up my second oldest boy from his Sunday school class. I turned to my left as I walked to greet a friend and wave a quick hello, and as I turned back around to watch where I was going, I bump into this guy who was talking with his kid. I looked up to say "sorry about that" and IT WAS KIRK CAMERON!!! I stared blankly at him, frozen as to what to say. I then channeled Jerry Lewis and blurted out, "Sawwwerrrry about that..."
Yeah. What's the big deal about celebrities?

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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

FBT Updates

I added four more messages to my study in Judges. Basically covering the Gideon cycle chapters 6-9.

If anyone is interested.

Studies in Judges

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Monday, March 12, 2012

Real Model Airplanes

For the true model airplane enthusiast.

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Saturday, March 10, 2012

Celebrating Forty Years of Terrible Christian Film!

thiefWhen I was in 5th grade - I am talking like a long time ago when Billy Squire was just coming on the music scene - I remember a Pentecostal gal in my class telling us one day during lunch in the cafeteria about this horrifying movie she had seen at her church. 

We sat transfixed as she tells us how this movie is about when Jesus returns and takes all the Christians and left everyone else to come under God's severe judgment.  In the movie, this one girl gets left and she has to endure being hunted down by these military goons.  Eventually they chase her to a bridge where she is forced either to become their captive or jump to her death.  She chose jumping to her death.

I wanted so bad to see that movie.  No one in my squishy, liberal Methodist church would show it to us.  If we mentioned it, all the adults quickly averted their gaze and asked about how school was.  I think me and some friends begged our hippie feminist youth director with the BO to show it to us, but she just sweetly smiled and said, "No, we're not going to do that."  I felt like the one kid in driver's ed class who was sick the day the teacher showed "Highway of Blood."

Anyhow, as time marched on, when I got to college I had a buddy who used to put together a Saturday Night Movie time in which he would rent out the local playhouse in town and screened all sorts of "Christian" films.  His idea was to not only expose people to the treasure of what was Christian film, but also to evangelize the heathen who may come stumbling in thinking they will be seeing some Christianized Star Wars.  He mentioned to me how on this particular next Saturday he had a classic movie on the Second Coming of Jesus he was going to show.  He was hoping it would scare "the Hell out of people."

Get it?, "scare the Hell OUT of people"

Never mind... 

So, he tells me it was called Thief in the Night and it tells the story about how this girl gets left behind after the rapture and has to endure the hardships of the antichrist.  Something clicked.  I thought, "This plot sounds awful familiar."  Sure enough, the evening comes when my friend shows the movie and as it played all I had heard in that cafeteria in  5th grade comes flooding back to me.  Yet, rather than being this hair-raising horror movie, it was probably one of the absolute worst things I had ever witnessed. Not since Lou Ferrigno's Hercules had I seen these appalling levels of cinematic incompetence.

First, it looked as though the entire film was shot on 8mm.  Maybe it was, who knows.  Then the acting.

Oh my, the acting. 

The dialog delivered with monotone emotion, like someone took the congregation at a rural, Missionary Baptist church in Missouri and decided they'd make a movie with them as the actors. And then that soundtrack.  The nails against the chalkboard soundtrack.  It was an entire train wreck of a movie that I cannot unsee; and I haven't even bothered to talk about the theology. 

The characters were odd, too. They all have names, of course, but I'm too lazy to search Wiki to find them out.  First you had the Jan Brady looking heroine who gets left behind.  She's the one that jumps off the bridge at the end. Next there is some Yoda like preacher kid at the beginning who is warning the girl about Jesus coming and being "left behind."  If I recall, he sets up the "eschatological" plot line for the remainder of the movie.  Then you have the bad guy with the Freddy Mercury mustache.  Oh, and my favorite: the heretical Wilford Brimley like pastor who gets left behind but then turns Bible-believing and runs an underground Fundamentalist group.

My movie showing friend wanted me to like it, but I left feeling embarrassed for Jesus to be quite honest.  So you can imagine my dismay when he informs us that Mark IV pictures, the intrepid geniuses behind Thief in the Night, had also made 2 or 3 sequel films following a few of the same characters from the first movie as they lived through the satanic perils of the tribulation.  I don't even remember the names of those movies off the top of my head.  I think one of them is called something like Mark of the Beast.  I just remember there being this scene in one of them in which the demonic horde of Revelation 9 was suppose to be released  upon the earth.  This woman hears a thunderous noise outside her front door, and when she crack's open the door to see what is going on, an enormous, paper mache scorpion tail slams down on her head.  I could have sworn I saw a glimpse of the prop guy's hand before the scene cut away. 

I tell you all that because this past week was the 40th anniversary of the release of "Thief in the Night."  Someone thought enough to put the entire debacle online if anyone wishes to relive their Fundamentalist youth group days of cheap Christian movies and anti-rock and roll backward masking lectures.

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Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Apologetic Dissonance

How popular apologetics causes me to grimace and massage my forehead right above my eyebrow.

During the course of my various exchanges with a classic apologist commenter, he directed me to an article written last July by Dr. Richard Howe, a professor at Southern Evangelical Seminary.

In that article Dr. Howe expresses his concern with the apologetic enterprise of Ken Ham in defending the Genesis narrative and ultimately the historic, Christian faith. He claims Ham's water-downed presuppositionalism utilized to make his presentations is bankrupt, fraught with problems, and is self-refuting.

Indeed.

His critique, however, provides for us some practical insight into how woefully inconsistent and compromised classic apologists can be. I'll work my way through his main arguments and offer a rebuttal.

He begins by setting up the background.

"Over the past year or so, a colleague of mine has been telling me of his concerns about how Presuppositionalism (or some watered-down version thereof) infuses the thinking of certain popular Young-Earth Creationists if not Young-Earth Creationism in general. Though he himself is an Old-Earth creationist, he came to me with his concerns because, being a Classical Apologist, he knows that I am both a classical apologist and a Young-Earth Creationist. Apparently we are a small group."

So. An old-earth creationist (OEC) colleague came to him "concerned" about presuppositional thinking among young-earth creationist (YEC), particular in their presentations for their views. [I wonder if the "colleague" was Norm Geisler, but I digress]. This doesn't surprise me in the least, because OEC are always hand-wringing about how YEC are eroding reasonableness and "credibility" among evangelical Christians. But we need to pause a moment and truly take in this cognitive dissonance, because I don't believe Dr. Howe appreciates how truly painful it is.

You see, Dr. Howe will go on later in his article to complain that Ham's presentation ultimately denies reality when he writes, “By ‘true’ here I mean that the claims of the Christian faith correspond to reality. Reality is the only proper “starting point” and the measure of what it means for any claim to be true.”

Okay. But the "reality" among the bulk of classic apologists is that they believe YEC are a bunch of wackos, akin to the KJV-onlyist crowd. They treat them like the proverbial red-headed step-child. They consider YEC as nothing more than an embarrassment to the Christian faith creating unnecessary stumbling blocks for the unbeliever.

That is because, according to the majority of classic apologists, the YEC view of a "literal" Genesis, claiming the earth is under 10,000 years old, believing dinosaurs lived with men, etc, etc., denies fundamental reality. They are teaching "untrue" things, promoting "untrue" things, deceiving the evangelical masses with "untrue" nonsense. YEC are a stumbling block to evangelism. If folks believe I am exaggerating, they need to do a search of the Grace to You blog archives between March 22, 2010 to August 4, 2010 when we did an extended series on Genesis, origins, evolution and Biologos, and read the hostile comments that essentially accused YEC of being crazy, snake-handling reality deniers. A good many of them were from OEC circles who probably share a commitment with Dr. Howe to classic apologetics. Or what about the Vibrant Dance "ministries" which is more aptly titled, Evangelicals and Atheists Together. Their whole deal is to debunk YEC as denying "reality."

Dr. Howe conveniently ignores the severe academic opposition from the majority of his fellow classic apologists. The fact that he refuses to acknowledge - to borrow a cliché from recent, current events in evangelicalism - this big elephant in the room, makes the remainder of his article a snort inducing joke, nullifying the credibility of his critique within the first paragraph of his article.

I could just stop there, and be done, but let me take a look at his arguments.
He centers his critique of Ken Ham's talk around three major points:

First, Dr. Howe writes, "... Ham claimed that there are only two ways to understand reality, viz., according to God’s word or according to man’s word." He then goes on to say how Ham's claim here is "fraught with problems," and he proceeds to ask a bunch of disjointed questions about God's Word and reality. I think he believes he is showing us Ham’s problems when he asks those questions, but I was left scratching my head. Maybe it's just me.

None the less, if I am not mistaken, I understand Ken Ham to be saying that the Bible presents to us two ways men can interact with reality. Either under the fear of the LORD where the beginning of wisdom can be found, or in the way of the foolish who live their life in opposition to God. Rather than seeing that as a problematic way to look at reality, I understand it as being quite biblical. I didn't hear this particular talk, but I have heard Ken Ham speak enough that I am fairly certain this is probably what he has in mind.

His second point criticizes Ken Ham for not establishing the principles of hermeneutics one needs to interpret the Bible. Dr. Howe writes that we can't get them from the Bible, because one would need to understand God's Word first to discover them. He goes on to try and demonstrate how this is a contradiction on Ham's part, but it wasn't entirely clear. Again, I can't speak for Ham, but one does not have to look for principles of biblical interpretation, especially in the damnable foolishness of Greek philosophers that was warmed over in Aquinas's theology, the favorite of most classic apologists.

When God created man, He made him with the ability to communicate and understand. Obviously a good deal of what it means to understand and communicate is intrinsic with the way all men think. If one teaches the Bible, you don't need to have a course on "hermeneutics" first in order to teach it. Because all men created in God's image retain the ability to communicate, all one needs to do is read and explain Genesis 1 and they know what it means. There is only a need to teach "hermeneutics" first if you are an OEC who is trying to explain away the plain meaning of the historical narrative so as to accommodate deep time, evolutionary views of origins.

In his third point, Dr. Howe is critical of Ham's use of the phrase, "starting points." The idea of "starting points" in Ham's lecture means, "does a person start with God's Word or with man's 'word.'" I take it that what Ham means is where the person places his authority. So contrary to Dr. Howe, there is necessary relevance in discussing the concept of "starting points." He seems to thinks this is naive and problematic because it leads to perspectivism, as I will explain in a moment.

In order to show how silly this idea of "starting points" is, Dr. Howe provides a less than perfect illustration. He explains,

Suppose two people meet each other in the middle of the desert. Both are trying to find their way to the city. What point would it make for one to ask the other “What is your starting point?” The fact is that what is needed is not a discussion about “starting points,” but about the directions to the city. It wouldn’t matter where either of their “starting points” had been as far as how they are to get to the city from where they are now.

He may think a discussion about starting points doesn't matter when giving directions to the city, but if person "A" knows for a fact the correct way is north, but person "B" insists it is south, and his GPS locator is broken, and person “A” has some relevant information about the terrain that person “B” does not, then yes, a discussion of "starting points" is important.

At any rate, Dr. Howe claims Ham is encouraging "perspectivism," a philosophy that is sort of a subjective way of looking at truth that originated with Friedrich Nietzsche. This of course is a bad thing, insists Dr. Howe, because if we all can't agree as to what is truthful, who is to say what is truthful and not truthful. We as Christians, he argues, should be claiming (and I am taking that he means with "certainty") that the Christian view of things is the truth. "It is the way things are. It is not merely a perspective-Christian or otherwise," he writes.

But two glaring problems reveal themselves with his response that only increases the volume of the dissonance.

First, the Bible is clear in such places like Roman 1:18ff., that lost men intentionally suppress the "truth." They spin it so as to have an excuse to deny the implications of it. I am fairly certain that is Ham's point. Thus, if a man's "starting point" is to interpret truth according to a strict naturalistic materialism, it is important to point this out, for that "starting point" factors heavily into how you engage the individual about the "truth."

Next, when Dr. Howe writes, "What the Christian should be claiming is that his Christian view of things is the truth," in the context of his critique of a YEC, is he then saying that YEC is the "Christian view of things" and thus "is the truth?" I would certainly agree with him, but what do his fellow classic apologists like Hugh Ross, Ken Samples, Greg Koukl, and even Norman Geisler say to that claim of his? Again, they think all YEC are hopeless reality denying simpletons, who teach a flannel-board view of the Bible. In their mind, the "evidence" is overwhelming that the earth is billions of years old, the flood of Noah never happened on a global scale, dinosaurs died out 65-mya, etc. Why then don't these men share Dr. Howe's "perspective" in these matters of truth? They all believe evidence, or what is considered a 67 book of the Bible found in nature, trumps the historical reading of Genesis and so has to be re-interpreted. How exactly would I engage them to show them they are wrong?

Also, out of curiosity, how did Dr. Howe come to his conclusions about the age of the earth? What made him a YEC? The Bible or the evidence? If he says the Bible, how exactly does he escape his own criticisms he is leveling at Ken Ham? If he says "the evidence," then what evidence? Everyone has the same evidence. Is he saying then, that his evaluation of the evidence brought him to recognize the Bible is actually correct? Or was it the other way around?

It certainly isn’t my intention to be rude. I imagine Dr. Howe is a fine fellow. However, as I have attempted to argue in my last couple of posts addressing apologetic methodology, I want my methodology to be anchored in Scripture, consistent throughout the whole of what I believe as a Christian, and not accompanied by a lot of unnecessary, worldly baggage, like Greek philosophy. I see in Ken Ham and the other men and women who speak for AiG attempting to build their apologetic endeavors upon those principles. I don’t, however see that happening among the folks who engage in the classic approach that is so popular among the majority of churches and para-church ministries. Richard Howe’s criticism is proof of that.

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Monday, March 05, 2012

Bear Counting

If I ever move to Canada, I want to do this for a living.


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Friday, March 02, 2012

God Fearing Apologetics

evangelizing

Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men… (2 Cor. 5:11).

I've been interacting with some comments from a self-described Classic apologist. Because my commenter advocates for the apologetic methodology the average church-goer hears on Christian radio and reads in popular level books, my key objective has been to highlight fundamental starting points between his methodology and mine and then offer my critique. I provide more background HERE if you'd like to get up-to-speed. I would also encourage folks to read through the comments also.

I stated at the end of that first post that I found the practice and application of classic apologetics in real life encounters with the unbelieving world to be both problematic and offensive. Those are rather bold words, but I am prepared to back up my claim.

Let me begin by setting the tone for my evaluation with some introductory remarks.

First, I understand evangelism and apologetics to be one and the same as an endeavor. In other words, I do not separate "evangelism" from "apologetics" as if they are two categories. The mindset among many "apologists" is that apologetics is clearing the way for evangelism, or what I understand my commenter to mean when he writes about the use of evidence to clear away intellectual obstacles. Once the obstacles are cleared and the terms of the evidence agreed upon by both the Christian and the unbeliever, THEN we can proceed to the process of "evangelization."

Rather, I understand apologetics to be evangelization. In one of the key evangelizing passage of the NT, Jesus stated that we are to go into all the world and make disciples of all men (Matthew 28:19). Going into "all the world" means that we will be engaging unbelievers as a matter of course in our daily life. "All the world" entails our family and the people at our schools and work. Without fail they are going to ask you about why you believe what you believe by making comments and asking questions. When we offer our defense, we certainly want to answer their questions, but our overall attitude should be focused upon sinners in need of salvation and Christ being the only means they have for their salvation.

Secondly, I further understand apologetics/ evangelism to be a proclamation. I am telling the lost world about the power of a sovereign God, Who in the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, overcomes and changes the treasonous hearts of sinners.

Third, When I am discussing matters of "apologetics," I begin with addressing what is revealed in Scripture concerning what it is all men know in their hearts already: that they know there is a God, they are at enmity against Him, His wrath abides upon them, and the only hope they have is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

My detractors, however, will argue I am begging the proverbial question with this approach. In other words, I am calling people to believe upon a religious message without giving a reason for the reliability of that message first.

In response, my commenter outlined his approach by stating how he first shows the unbeliever that truth is knowable. From there he proceeds to showing that the theistic God exists and that His existence makes miracles possible. He then would move to showing how the New Testament is historically reliable, that the NT said Jesus claimed to be God, and that Jesus proved He was God by His miracles, most significantly, the Resurrection. With that background, we can conclude that Jesus is God, and anything He says is true. Because Jesus said the Old Testament and the promised NT is the Word of God, the Bible is therefore true and the Christian faith reliable.

That sounds "reasonable," but the apostolic witness modeled for us in the NT never begins with building a complicated case for Christ first before engaging the lost.

For example, notice Paul's message to the pagans in Lystra in Acts 14:8-18. Keep in mind these are pagans with no background in Judeo-Christianity, so a person would think Paul would want to "show" them the reasonableness of Christ's truth claims first. Yet that doesn't happen. After the people had witnessed a miracle of healing performed by Paul, the pagan crowds began worshiping him and Barnabas as Hermes and Zeus. I am guessing it seemed "reasonable" to the Lystrians pagans that these two men were gods who had come down to them. Upon hearing their "confusion," Paul preached to them. The content of his message directed the people to what they already knew to be true: there was a living God who was their ultimate creator and He revealed Himself through acts of general providence and grace. Paul didn't get to finish his presentation, because the people wouldn't listen.

Paul did, however, get to finish when he addressed the Athenian academic elites in Acts 17. Again, he didn't build a case for Christ by showing them reasonable "proofs." He began with the same points he did with the Lystrians, but instead of being interrupted, he climaxed his preaching with the proclamation of Christ's victory over death in His Resurrection.

There is no building a case for Christianity in either of these two episodes. He started with what he knew was true of all men, told them they were guilty before God, and the only remedy for this problem is Jesus Christ. I would think that is where all Christians would try to begin when engaging unbelievers: With an apologetic methodology that is grounded in biblical theology.

Now, my commenter would claim I am being unfairly misleading, because the classic apologist also has in mind the glory of God when he does apologetics. He doesn't believe there is any inherent "power" in the evidence, or that the sinner can be reasoned to faith. The classic/evidentialist apologist believes just like me; that the Holy Spirit has to take the work of the apologist and apply it to the heart of the sinner.

Well, perhaps they say this, but I don't see any consistently meaningful attempt to apply their words. In fact, I see what I consider to be serious obfuscations on the part of popular apologists that circumvents the role Scripture and theology plays in apologetics and evangelism. Let me draw our attention to three problem areas I see with the application of classic apologetic methodology and I’ll offer my evaluation:

1) The appeal to secular philosophy as an interpretive grid to understanding the Bible and presenting theology. When I pointed out how apologist William Lane Craig is notorious for elevating secular philosophy over biblical authority in order to understand theology, my commenter wrote that he understood Lane's reason for doing so: because theology and the Bible has to be interpreted. I can only conclude then, that secular philosophy - and I am talking about Greek philosophy primarily - is a necessity to interpreting the Bible.

Two things:

aristotleFirst: What possible good can we gain learning from pagans and their false views of knowledge? How exactly does their "reason," which is self-centered and starts with man, teach biblical Christians how we should read the Bible properly and draw conclusions about theology? The Greeks were all over the map when it came to their ideas. They wrote about demiurges, prime movers, ideas/forms, "substances," and atomism among other things. What relevance do any of these concepts have with Christ? Honestly, the most useful thing we can learn from studying Greek philosophy is seeing the disastrous consequences of a society groping after God apart from biblical revelation. I am just flabbergasted any right thinking Christian would believe the Greeks have anything worth teaching us regarding how we interpret the Bible and apply our faith.

Second: How does WLC, or any classic apologist who seeks to utilize Greek philosophy as an interpretative grid for theology, KNOW the philosopher and his philosophy in question is trustworthy as a guide? The only reason the classic Greeks are even considered is because the Muslim philosophers brought the works of Aristotle and Plato with them during the Islamic expansion into Europe. If Islam had been successful going into China, we wouldn't be having this discussion.

The Muslims, a false, violently anti-Christian religion, used Greek philosophy to interpret their religious faith. When they came to Western Europe, Catholics in the Middle Ages used Latin translations of Arabic translations of the Greek. From that, you have Thomas Aquinas developing his theology and classic apologists claiming it is the best way to do apologetics. Really? And this is suppose to be significant for my understanding of the Bible?

2) Classic apologists tend to accommodate theologically errant perspectives. What I have always found disheartening among the groups of popular apologists is the ease at which they willingly affirm other individual apologists who may share similar methodology, yet are divergent from each other in what I consider important areas of theological faith. The divergence can be so severe at times that it makes me wonder about their ability to discern. But I guess this apologetic ecumenism is expected if you view the Bible as a secondary component to your apologetic efforts.

As I write this, I have a copy of the latest edition of the CRI journal (March 2012). It's a special issue addressing the question of origins and matters of creation and evolution. A number of contributors write on such subjects as DNA, biology, stellar evolution, and the meaning of life. Even though the focus of the writers is directed at answering the question emblazoned on the cover, "What were the origins of life on earth?," because so many of them hold to such radically divergent theological opinions from one another, a person is left with a fuzzy picture of what Christian theism actually says on this subject of origins. Let me point out a few examples of what I mean by noting three contributors.

- William Dembski published in the past a convoluted, sub-biblical theodicy it makes one wonder about his overall perspective on God and evil.

- A couple of years ago, Fuz Rana made some disturbing remarks about ancient man when evolutionists were crowing that the genetic evidence proved modern humans and Neanderthals interbred. The AIG/Creation.com folks merely pointed out what they had been saying for years: that Neanderthals are an extinct ethnic group of human being, hence the reason for the genetic link. The RTB ministries, on the other hand, rather than renouncing their long held position that Neanderthals were soul-less hominids, doubled-down and had Rana issue a statement suggesting the interbreeding indicates proof of bestiality and the depravity of man. But, of course, this ignores the major problems with adopting such a view.

- Kenn [sic?] Wogemuth, who is a co-contributor explaining why geology tells us the earth is billions of years old and YEC are idiots, is someone I have interacted with personally on a number of occasions. Back in 2010, when Grace to You did an extended blog series defending an historical Genesis, biblical creationism, and exposing Biologos as nothing but a writhing nest of stealth atheists, Kenn (He spelled his name "Ken" in our correspondence), would document-bomb me with papers that allegedly refuted my view. When I pressed him about his understanding of Genesis, the historicity of creation, and the flood, he never gave me a straight answer. Instead, he sent me to blog sites of questionable writers who affirmed his old earth views, but also denied other essential doctrines, along with advocating for gay marriage.

My classic apologist detractors may say those differences are insignificant, minor, or irrelevant. To borrow a phrase from the Bible Answer Man, things Christians can debate vigorously but never divide over. What I should be concerned with is the ideas put forth by the person, and not what the person personally believes about God, the Bible, and salvation.

But theology does matter. If the main goal of apologetics is providing reasons for the Christian faith and clearing away obstacles that keeps a person away from God, eventually – or at least I think - the apologist will get a person to the "Christian faith." I mean, I am only assuming that over time some people will be convinced by the evidence, right? They'll give the Christian message a fair hearing and even commit themselves to the faith. Okay, now what? What are they to believe about the Bible? Where will they attend church? What the Episcopalian and Catholic "apologists" believe about the Christian faith is much different than what Baptists "apologists" may believe, or the Calvary Chapel "apologists." Is it at this point we bring the Bible into the conversation?

That leads me to a final problem area,

3) Classic apologists diminish the Bible's authority in their apologetic presentations. I cannot recall how many times I've caught myself talking back to my radio saying "It's in the Bible, SAY IT!" when I hear a program on which a popular apologist is "defending" the Christian faith against whatever issue under discussion. It seems as though they are embarrassed of the Bible's authority on the matter.

Take for instance "gay" marriage. I'll be accused of generalizing with my words when I state this, but most of the arguments against "gay" marriage I hear from popular apologists are purposefully presented so as to leave the Bible out of the debate. The apologist will appeal to what has been "acceptable" in societies since the beginning of human civilization, or the importance of the male/female family unity in society, or collections of statistical data. Sometimes the apologist will boast, "See, I haven't even used the Bible as my authority when I have argued my case." It's like the guy is proud of it. It's the same thing when I hear them argue against abortion or in favor of intelligent design. Yet the very institution of marriage is a creation mandate. Jesus specifically grounds his argument for marriage in the Genesis record (Matthew 19:5-6), as did Paul (Ephesians 5). Why can't I?

Of course, this goes back to what my commenter has already stated, that I am begging the question if I were to start with the Bible as my authority. But why should I have to prove the Bible independently first as a reliable depository of truth BEFORE I can appeal to the truth contained within it? Is it not truth? I thought truth was truth, no matter where it was found; yet for some reason the Bible is off limits in the conversation.

Which makes me wonder why the classic apologist engages in apologetics to begin with. If he says, "because God wants us to as Christians," where exactly does he find that exhortation? If he says the Bible, was that a "true" exhortation before he was persuaded of the Bibles truthfulness? Or did it become "true" AFTER he was persuaded of the Bible's truthfulness?

When I defend the Christian faith I want to not only persuade men of my position, but I want to glorify God in the process. The Gospel is His plan and His message. He has entrusted me to present it to a lost world. It behooves me to do so articulately and faithfully, and that involves striving for consistency between the theology I affirm and the message I proclaim.

In practice, I see a disconnect between the theology classic apologists proclaim and the methods they use to present the message. That doesn't mean I believe they are unsaved, or even have nothing of value from which I can learn. It means that inconsistency must be addressed so that God can be fully glorified.

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