Tag Archives: Christian Apologetics

Real-World Apologetics (Jack Knows “Jack”)

This is probably the longest post I’ve ever published, but I didn’t write it. However, since my last post caused such a stir with one young atheist, I thought this might be worth re-posting. My thanks to Jack Seiler. 

And, for the record, I don’t hate atheists, nor do I think they are “less than” me. I simply care for their souls, else I wouldn’t be sharing my beliefs from my heart. Even the beloved atheist Penn Jillette (of Penn and Teller fame) had to ask the question (paraphrased), “What kind of uncaring person would have what he thought would be the key to eternal life and deliverance from hell, yet keep it to himself?”

I care, or I’d just shut up.

Apologetics

The body of this post was copied (with permission from both parties) from Facebook. On the day I read it I was so impressed that I asked if I could just re-post the whole thing on this blog.

Jack Seiler is a pastor who obviously has a heart for his people and a love for truth. But instead of remaining in some “ivory tower,” Pastor Seiler is all about getting down where the rubber meets the road. He uses Facebook to directly engage others with the Truth of God’s Word, especially in the realm of apologetics (defending the faith).

What made this particular Facebook entry so impressive to me was the length to which Jack went to respond to Amy North, a former congregant at the church he pastors. But more than being well-written, it was a wonderful example of how a Christian should respond to genuine questions – with love, humility, and patience.

The following Facebook conversation is a direct copy of the original. The only thing I did was adjust the format a little.

[Jack Seiler]:
A point of interest to me is the contradiction within most atheists and even agnostics. They directly and/or indirectly claim to have a corner on reason, yet seem to be irrational and highly emotional when confronted with reason contrary to their supposed conclusions. Then, in turn, they are unwilling to consider and forcefully ignore the point.

Man cannot survive as man without an ultimate anchor and reference point for what he calls “reason.” Dismissal of dialog does not justify any position of this great a significance, and when eternal gain or loss is the proposed outcome of reaching or not reaching a reasonable conclusion, refusal to consider the possibility of a loving God in Christ Jesus based on emotional disappointments is not only intellectual suicide, its just plain dishonest.

Amy Lang North
As an atheist it seems to me the practicing religious clans do exactly the same which u ponder upon. According to – well, you – man cannot survive as man without an “ultimate anchor” — really? Says- you? I have considered the reason behind my decision as well as sat in the pews of many a church throughout my life so far — listening — and thinking – and have drawn a conclusion to abandon the cult of “religion by human stories” and “I know it all” sermons that dictate that there is only one way – I respectfully ask how do you with you human capabilities know? Or how do u decide u have the authority to tell everyone else – “this is THE only way?” Maybe it is the religious that stubbornly judge the atheists as shallow and ignorant who think they have all the right ways/answers.

Amy Lang North
As an atheist it seems to me the practicing religious clans do exactly the same which u ponder upon.

Pastor Jack:
**No doubt. Willful ignorance abounds in every corner! That is another subject I have taken aim at and am happy to address. Christian apologetics has been around for a very long time but it seems to me that the “rank and file” Christianity of today is largely shallow and unstudied. However, this willful ignorance is not confined to Christians. But for now, here we are . . . and I am glad you have taken interest in making some very thoughtful points.

Amy:
According to – well, you – man cannot survive as man without an “ultimate anchor” — really? Says- you?

Pastor Jack:
**Well put and a good question.

Actually no . . . this is not simply only according to me. But please allow me first to clarify and complete what was said. “Man cannot survive without an ultimate anchor and reference point for what he calls ‘reason.’” This is not just an isolated view from little old me. This is a philosophical argument that has been around for a very long time. And it is playing out in the world around us in an undeniable fashion.

All reasoning is based upon underlying presuppositions. Have you ever listened to two contrary positions debated? Both individuals believe, within their reasoning, that what they believe is right and rationally sound. Both individuals had a starting point from which their reasoning process began. Yet because these presuppositions were different they came to contrary positions. For most, it is not because their process of reasoning was right or wrong but because their presupposition was right or wrong. Certainly, some have defective reasoning, but that is a different story from what I am addressing here. Starting from an absolute brings unity, meaning and purpose even in diversity. It gives man a “rallying point” if you will. How we arrive at an absolute I will discuss latter on.

In the world around us we have seen the process of the dismissal of the moral absolutes (which is a very broad statement, I know, but I will define later as well) of God as the presupposition in reason. As this has happened we have seen before our eyes the destruction of the United States and chaos in the world . . . . which is escalating at break-neck speed. Confining my focus on America, the divisions are multiplying and have become diametrically opposed and irreconcilable and increasingly hostile one to another. Each position, such as pro-life/pro-choice; liberal/conservative; Democrat/Republican; Sodomite/Straight; etc. etc. etc… has a line of reasoning which each one separately regards as completely sound, yet the conclusions are totally opposed. I’m not here to argue for or against any of these positions right now (though I certainly have my positions firmly ensconced). My objective here is to point out that the presuppositions in each line of reasoning determines the conclusions.

So, in answer to your first objection I state once again: Man cannot survive without an ultimate reference point and anchor for the process of reason. He will, ultimately, destroy himself. And I am not an isolated voice!

Amy:
I have considered the reason behind my decision as well as sat in the pews of many a church throughout my life so far — listening — and thinking – and have drawn a conclusion to abandon the cult of “religion by human stories” and “I know it all” sermons that dictate that there is only one way

Pastor Jack:
***Being the Pastor of one of those churches you attended for a short time I am deeply ashamed of myself as a Pastor and teacher and sorry that we left you in such a questioning position and added to your lack of satisfactory answers. I must take responsibility for missing the mark in ministering to your intellectual needs. This is not an excuse, but it is a very difficult task to find a balance in reaching those who are simple and would neither be interested nor able to follow what I am talking about right now, and those who have the need to be satisfied with further depth. I don’t want to sound insulting or discourteous to anyone, though at times I am taken this way, but some people enjoy swimming deeper than others. The beauty of the Gospel is that it can and does satisfy the simplest mind of a child and meet the intellectual needs of the philosophical giant.

It appears from what you have said here that one of your presuppositions are becoming apparent. The phrases, “Religion by human stories” and “I know it all” sermons” seems to be coming from an underlying position that man in some way discovered or invented God and/or that Christianity is just another man made mythology. I certainly understand the thought, because I also took that position at one time. I am wondering if you are more of an agnostic than an atheist. Are you saying that God does not exist? or that God is not knowable?

If you are saying He does not exist, the same burden of proof rests on you that you would ask of the theist. If you are saying that he is not knowable, I believe you are correct from our present human perspective. Unless God reveals Himself and His will we are left with a God Who is unreachable and unknowable. From my perspective, knowing that there IS a God is a logical conclusion based on the evidence of existence itself. Knowing Who He is and what His mind is, however, is another matter altogether.

As I said . . . unless He reveals Himself and His mind! This is something else that needs to be addressed here . . . and I plan on it.

Amy:
– I respectfully ask how do you with you human capabilities know? Or how do u decide u have the authority to tell everyone else – “this is THE only way?”

Pastor Jack:
A very intelligent agnostic (I think he would categorize himself agnostic at any rate) person very close to me once said that he believed it was arrogant to think that we have figured out God and what He wants. It appears that you are coming from the same direction. If his statement were true concerning the basis of Christianity I would whole heartedly agree. But the reasoning is based on an erroneous premise. Here is where I want to pull together the thoughts I have proposed. I hope you don’t mind the length of what I am going to attempt to discuss.

First, simply stated, Christianity is not man reaching to God to discover Him or figure Him out. It is a revelation of God TO man! It is not man in his pride and strength dissecting God and testing Him in a tube on his philosophical bench. Man CANNOT know God unless God reveals Himself to man. It is God condescending to man to seek and to save that which was lost, revealing Himself incarnate in the Person of Jesus Christ . . . Crucified and risen from the dead. I intend on expanding this thought but wanted to state it here for the sake of keeping the direction of the given knowledge of God in focus. The direction of the knowledge is from Him to us, not from us to Him.

As for there only being one way…..
The teaching of exclusivity is not confined to Christianity. Without going into long drawn out details, even the atheist claims exclusivity. So I suppose the same question could be leveled in your direction . . respectfully. Even those who claim there are no absolutes make a self-defeating statement in their claim. In reality, every line of reasoning is making the claim of an absolute whether they like it or not.

First let me deal as briefly as I can with the claims of Christianity and why, outside of the proposed authority of the Bible (which I also shall discuss), they are intellectually sound and exclusive of all other positions.

There are 4 questions that need to be dealt with in the minds of every human being.

1. Origin (where do I come from? . . and everything else for that matter!)
2. Meaning (Why am I here?)
3. Morality (How am I supposed to live?)
4. Destiny (Where do I go,, if anywhere, from here?)

These are questions every human being who has ever lived and thought has had to cope with. These four questions need to be answered in two ways in order to meet universally satisfactory standards:

1. Every question must correspond according to truth; either by empirical form of measurement and/or the logical reasoning process. (It must make sense)
2. When these four questions are answered, the answers must cohere and not be incoherent. (They must work together and not be contradictory)

Correspondence and Coherence
I guarantee you that ONLY in the Judeo/Christian world view will you find these four questions answered with corresponding truthfulness and with the coherence of a world view. And these answers have stood the test of time an adversity being as relevant to man today as they were thousands of years ago.

All of the world views in existence can very basically be grouped into three categories: (All positions can be categorized under one of these headings)

1. Only the universe exists (Naturalism and Atheism)
2. Only God exists (Eastern religions and spiritualism-many forms but they all boil down to this)
3. Both God and the Universe exists (Judaism, Christianity, Islam)

It is relatively easy to subject each of these categories to the above tests. Number three is the only position which passes these tests. Then we examine the three positions contained within the third category with the same criteria and discover that Christianity is a continuation and fulfillment of Judaism, and the third, Islam, destroys itself in its own contradictory nature of the god it proclaims and the self-evident nature of the intrinsic value of human life.
I realize there is much that can be detailed by way of shared questions and dialog here, but basically stated in examination of one’s presuppositional standards this is how one comes to a factual position to start with.

What is happening in the system we are now seeing overtake and destroy what we have come to know and enjoy in life is the replacement of rationally sound suppositions with emotionally based motivations. Facts are no longer considered . . . just how one feels about it. Truth is no longer a matter of thesis/antithesis (if one is true the opposite is false), but a supposed matter of synthesis. But even the proposition of “synthesis” is disintegrating into this post modernistic cesspool. Truth has become a matter of opinion and force. Life has no intrinsic value because the only thing that sets human life apart from insect life is the posit of man being created in the image and likeness of God. The emotions we have as human beings are reduced to meaningless electro-chemical functions accidentally falling into place in a mad dance of atoms. To say to your wife or child “I love you” has no more value than saying “my back itches” or “I have a headache.” Both are nothing more than hormonal secretions and the functions of a machine. Man cannot and does not live this way. He assumes that love, ethics and some form of morality have value but without something to GIVE it value it is an empty romanticism with nothing to refer to for a coherent reason.

I love my children and grandchildren and I know you love your children. Do you not understand that it means nothing if there is no God? I know why I love them and I know what its value is. Do you?

On to the nature of revealed truth from God.
First the nature of revelation is not just propositional, it is embodied . . . it is incarnated. But I would like to deal with the propositional side because that is really the point at hand. It is a very important issue because on this hangs just about everything the Christian believes, and it is shameful to know that so many Christians don’t possess the understanding to articulate it.

There is something about the enscripturation process that is very important. Because truth is primarily a property of propositions. When you look at the Bible, it is a very distinctive book. Unlike Buddha’s teachings, which are little sermons of Buddha. Or the Koran, which is the utterance of one man and the compilation of it posthumously. This takes 66 books from about the mid 1400’s BC all the way to the first century; 29 in the Old Testament, 27 in the New Testament, and there is a single thread going through all of it. The collusion factor would have been impossibly incredible to bring this about. For example, going back to the prophecy of Isaiah, writing 700 years before Christ, to talk about the virgin birth, Micah speaking of the city where He would be born, Zechariah talking about the way the Messiah would ultimately be crucified, take these writers most of whom were not contemporaries, talking all of the converging lines of evidence, the hundreds of prophecies, and bring them into the Person of Jesus Christ . . . it would have taken an extraordinary stroke of genius to retroactively bring all of that to the convergence of one single Person! If falsification were possible you would be able to do so rather quickly. That has been attempted by many over millennia but to no avail. Even the supposed “new” documentaries and arguments in the latest books are nothing more than old rehashes of debunked attempts from the past.

(Just a quick side note: it is very interesting to note that so many who have set out in an attempt to disprove Scripture have actually become believers, and there have never been any death threats to those who seek to malign the Bible. Yet the thrashing of the Koran by authors like Salman Rushdie, which rather conclusively discredit Islam and its not-so-holy book, end with proclamations of vicious death to both him and his family. Can you imagine if a trash book and movie like “The Da Vinci Code” come out concerning Islam? The Islamic zombies would go into meltdown mode faster than they are now.)

After 2000 years of Christ’s incarnation, and 3500 years since the enscripturation process began, no book has been more studied, no book has been more scrutinized. No book has changed the lives of countless millions. No writing of any atheist has changed a drunkard into a saint. No book written promoting atheism has lifted a broken man from the gutter and set his feet on solid ground. NO atheism has given hope to the hopeless or purpose to the destitute.
I will bring you 1000 men changed and made right by the Christ of the Bible if you can bring me 1 saved from a life of broken sin by atheism.

Yes . . . I am deeply sorry that these truths were not presented clearly or to your satisfaction in any of the churches you attended . . . including my own. I take that seriously to heart. But rejecting God, specifically Jesus Christ, because of these lacks of answers really didn’t change anything in your life. Pains were still there . . . life was still happy one minute sad the next . . . answers were still absent . . . purpose was still transient . . . death is still imminent . . . and ultimately all that you hold dear has no intrinsic value or meaning.

I know that there are many more question that cannot be answered in one discussion, and it is not possible to address every objection that would arise while reading this. However, I am more than willing to continue exchange in dialog. I feel that I have failed you in my responsibilities as a minister of the Word of God, and if you . . . then how many others? If nothing else I am being spurred to be more concise and address the needs of the soul with more awareness.

Amy:
Maybe it is the religious that stubbornly judge the atheists as shallow and ignorant who think they have all the right ways/answers.

Pastor Jack:
I will repeat what I said in the beginning . . . no doubt that unjust judgment abounds and is in no short supply in every corner. May God help me not to do what he condemns. It is only because God has revealed what is right that anyone can know it and be definite about it. God has the right answers . . . and the real arrogance is in rejecting what He reveals.

Amy:
And ps I do enjoy reading what u write bc ur writing do give me things to think about.

Pastor Jack:
You have always been nothing less than respectful to me Amy. I appreciate that . . . not everyone is! Lol. I hope that what I have laid out here is understandable and also gives you food for thought. It is my wish that you would truly come to know Christ as Lord and Savior and find the relationship with Him that He so deeply desires to have with you.

PS
There is so much more I wanted to say concerning the inspiration and recording of Scripture, but this has already taken me many hours to write and I need to rest.
Thanks

Conclusion

So what do you think? No pulpit banging, as many would expect. No all-cap YELLING and calling Amy all kinds of derogatory names. Just a calm, organized explanation and defense of one’s beliefs.

My advice? Try to be a little more like Jack.

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How Are You Interpreting It?

“Evidence is only as good as one’s presuppositions. A man who believes there is a Watchmaker could be convinced with the simplest timepiece found by the sea. But one who refuses to believe in a Watchmaker could trip over a million Rolex’s lying scattered on the sand, yet deny the golden evidence being defaced beneath his feat.” – A. Baker

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The Real Problem with the Problem of Evil

One of the most common reasons for denying the existence of God is the problem of evil in the world. Just ask any group of atheists to give their top ten reasons for unbelief and surely one will claim as number one, “If there is a God, then why is there so much evil in the world?” For many, this is the pièce de résistance of rebuttals. How could a good God be real and allow all the suffering in the world to continue unabated – assuming He is even good? The eighteenth century philosopher, David Hume described the problem this way in Dialouges concerning Natural Religion, 1779:

“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? then he is impotent. Is he able, but not willing? then is he malevolent. Is he both able and willing? whence then is evil?” (Stackhouse 1998, 11)

So, the “problem of evil,” and its source, has been an issue of philosophical debate for centuries.  The existence of evil in the world, along with unanswered questions, has even become evidence enough for some to even embrace atheism.  Therefore, because so many philosophers and theologians have tried for ages to reconcile the existence of God with the existence of evil, I dare say that nothing I write will be new.  But, if anyone were to challenge my belief in God, along with my faith in Jesus Christ, with the argument that the problem of evil constitutes proof God does not exist, then I would possibly respond with arguments based on the following thought: without the existence of God, there should be no evil to be a problem, and that’s the real problem with “the Problem of Evil’

What exactly is “evil?” Now, that may sound like an absurd kind of question to ask, but if the existence of evil is the evidence that is supposed to expose my faith as a fraud, at best, or even a lie, then what is it?  Is it something tangible? Is it metaphysical? Is ittheoretical? What is it, exactly? Does it have any particular form? How can it be distinguished from what is called good? On what do the atheists and agnostics base their definition of this thing called “evil?” Amazingly, the answers are not all the same, nor in some cases even grounded in reality. However, it is imperative to understand that we must define this God-killer, because its definition will determine our conclusions and help to clarify our assumptions. When C. S. Lewis was an atheist, for example, his “argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust.” (Lewis 1989) There he had it, or so he thought. God could not exist because so much evil exists. But how did he arrive at “this idea of just and unjust?” Lewis said, “A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line.” (Lewis 1989) “Tell me,” I would say, “what is evil, and how do you recognize it when you see it?

To start, evil must be understood to be an adjective. Evil is a description of something that is not good. Evil is not a thing. The word “evil” only describes the thing, the thought, and the action. Technically, “evil” does not exist, only what it describes. Some people say that they cannot believe in God because why or how could a good God, if He was perfect, create evil? They think of evil as something that must have not existed until God made it. But evil “isn’t a kind of molecule or a virus…infecting or affecting everything it encounters.  There was no time when God said, ‘Let there be evil,’ and there was evil.” (Stackhouse 1998)  As John G. Stackhouse put it, “evil becomes a noun only in the abstract.” Additionally, in his book Can God Be Trusted, Stackhouse says of evil:

“An action can be evil, or an event can be evil, or a quality can be evil, or a being can be evil. And we can lump all these particular evils together in our minds and come up with a category ‘evil.’ We can even go on to discuss it as if it were a particular thing, so long as we do not forget that we are always dealing with a category or group of particular evil things, not a thing itself.” (Stackhouse 1998, 31)

So then, if evil is a description, how is it that we come to use the adjective, or as Lewis put it, the “crooked line,” without first having some idea of what is a “straight” one?  Defining what is good is as important as defining evil. To know what is evil, we must first have some assumption as to what is not evil. The crazy thing is that if God does not exist, and man is nothing more than a collection of random matter, both good and evil are purely relative – their existence is based purely on one’s perspective.  So, in other words, the one who says that there is no God, based on the existence of evil, is literally basing his belief on pure opinion, not on anything objective; therefore, in order to bring an accusation against the goodness of God, one must have a base line. What is the standard by which we determine what is good and what is evil?

Some use Man as the baseline. They compare God to the standard set by what is thought to be good behavior in this world. They rationalize that if God is real, at least according to monotheistic dogma, He must be all-powerful, perfectly good, and the supreme example of love, kindness, and providential care. Because it is preached that God is a better Father than earthly fathers, Mark Twain took it upon himself to write:

The best minds will tell you that when a man has begotten a child he is morally bound to tenderly care for it…[yet], God’s treatment of his earthly children, every day and every night, is the exact opposite of that, yet those minds warmly justify those crimes…when he commits them.” (Tonie Doe Media 2007)

So then, according to Twain, God could not exist because if He did, He would act consistent with our understanding of what a good and loving earthly father would do.  In other words, if God cannot, in all His perfection, behave better toward His children than the most common man, His credentials are therefore revoked, and He must cease to exist.  However, this is so illogical. Who are we to say that God, if He is perfect, and we are imperfect, ever treats His children poorly? Do the protesting cries of a toddler who has had poison taken from his grasp carry more weight than the decision of the earthly father to take it away? How, then, are we to automatically assume that the infantile tendencies of finite man are wiser than the infinitely Mature?  Using Man as a baseline for what is good and evil is pure arrogance.

In reality, the problem of evil is really a problem for the atheist. He, who denies the existence of a Creator and accepts only the realities of evil in the world, essentially has nothing about which to complain.  Everything should be just fine and dandy, but it’s not.  The atheist knows that evil things happen to good people, as well as bad.  He sees the hurt, feels the pain, and begs for justice. The reality of evil in the world causes men to cry out for justice; for things to be made right. This is a problem, though, because knowing that a crooked line is not straight hints at the fact that a Line-drawer exists.

Of course, there are others who take a different approach. They claim that God does not exist except in the evil intentions of his followers to control others through guilt. They claim that God is just a fabrication of priests to keep mankind from behaving “naturally.” They say that nature is good, and if anything, God is evil for trying to get man to behave contrary to the very way he was created to behave. One guru said, “It seems that for those who worship God, the opposite to God is not that which is ‘evil,’ but that which is natural.” He said of animals, comparing them to men, “They don’t worship God, they don’t go to church, they don’t have any theology.  They don’t have any feeling of guilt, they are simply natural.” (Osho 2009)  In other words, if there is evil in the world, it is because our belief in God has inflicted it.

But for the majority of the hurting world, pain is real, loss is real, and evil is manifested daily.  Many see the things that happen to innocent people, especially children, and wonder, “If there is a loving God, why doesn’t he do anything about this?”  These people, many of which hold on to hope as long as they can, finally succumb to their doubts and conclude that the only way to explain away the pain is to admit that it is just part of life, part of the natural world, part of what makes us human; alone, in our quest to make life easier, free of pain, free from evil; alone, without God. These are the ones, I believe, that lure more away from the faith than any Darwinist.  They are the ones who have seen evil face-to-face and cannot fathom a God who would allow it to continue.  And because their experiences are so painful and tragic, the devout are left speechless and without explanation. Ellie Wiesel is a good example.

Wiesel was a teenager when he saw his family murdered in the Nazi death camps.  But it was only after witnessing one particular act of horror – the slow, hanging death of a young boy – that he turned away from his faith in God. In the book Night, his Nobel prize-winning autobiography, Wiesel said he heard a man behind him ask, “Where is God now?” As he stood there, being forced to stare into a pitiful, wide-eyed, swollen face of a dying child, a voice within replied, “Where is He? Here He is – He is hanging here on the gallows…” (Wiesel 1982) Because there was no justification, even in the big scheme of things, Ellie Wiesel’s God died with the executed boy.  But as sad as it is, without God, who can say what happened to that boy was any worst than the slaughter of an animal?  Are we not all just animals – some more evolved than others?

To me, the problem of evil is not a problem for the believer, but for the non-believer.  Aside from the theological arguments about the character of God, without God, to turn Hume’s question around, “whence then is evil?” Without God, evil is relative to one’s desires and personal pleasure.  Does it really even matter whether or not God could do anything about evil in the world when the whole question is moot if He didn’t exist?  With God, evil is defined as that which is against His law, that which stands opposed to His standards, and that which describes all who take pleasure in such rebellion. Without God, evil is just a matter of opinion. That is the real problem of evil.


Works Cited

Lewis, C. S. “Atheism.” In The Quotable Lewis, by C. S. Lewis, 59. Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1989.

Osho. The God Conspiracy: the path from superstition to superconsciousness. New York: Osho Media International, 2009.

Stackhouse, John G. Can God Be Trusted. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.

Tonie Doe Media. In The Atheist’s Bible, 129. New York: Harper Collins, 2007.

Wiesel, Ellie. Night. New York: Bantam Books, 1982.

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Filed under Apologetics, Culture Wars, Faith, General Observations, Life/Death, Struggles and Trials

6 Ways You May be Raising Your Kids With an Oversimplified Faith (Re-blogged)

Important!

Every once in a while I lay aside my own thoughts and substitute them with the thoughts of those more brillianter than me, such as Natasha Crain at ChristianMomThoughts.com.

This morning I had planned to write about the new atheist churches (Sunday gatherings) popping up around the country. I was going to share some observations meant to encourage you to go to a real church, especially if you are a believer (if atheists believe gathering together in “community” is important to combat the effects of loneliness, why do Christians think they can “forsake the assembling” of themselves?).

But instead of writing a post about what was on my mind, I am going to share a post that  – well, the idea has been on my mind for a while, but this beautifully sums it up. This is a VERY IMPORTANT post!

Please, especially if you are a parent, pastor, or youth leader, READ THIS! (click on the picture)

oversimplifiedfaith

 

Now, after reading what Natasha Crain wrote, what are we going to do about it?

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Real-World Apologetics (Jack Knows “Jack”)

This is probably going to be the longest post I’ve ever published, but I didn’t write it.

Apologetics

The body of this post was copied (with permission from both parties) from Facebook. On the day I read it I was so impressed that I asked if I could just re-post the whole thing on this blog.

Jack Seiler is a pastor who obviously has a heart for his people and a love for truth. But instead of remaining in some “ivory tower,” Pastor Seiler is all about getting down where the rubber meets the road. He uses Facebook to directly engage others with the Truth of God’s Word, especially in the realm of apologetics (defending the faith).

What made this particular Facebook entry so impressive to me was the length to which Jack went to respond to Amy North, a former congregant at the church he pastors. But more than being well-written, it was a wonderful example of how a Christian should respond to genuine questions – with love, humility, and patience.

The following Facebook conversation is a direct copy of the original. The only thing I did was adjust the format a little.

[Jack Seiler]:
A point of interest to me is the contradiction within most atheists and even agnostics. They directly and/or indirectly claim to have a corner on reason, yet seem to be irrational and highly emotional when confronted with reason contrary to their supposed conclusions. Then, in turn, they are unwilling to consider and forcefully ignore the point.

Man cannot survive as man without an ultimate anchor and reference point for what he calls “reason.” Dismissal of dialog does not justify any position of this great a significance, and when eternal gain or loss is the proposed outcome of reaching or not reaching a reasonable conclusion, refusal to consider the possibility of a loving God in Christ Jesus based on emotional disappointments is not only intellectual suicide, its just plain dishonest.

Amy Lang North
As an atheist it seems to me the practicing religious clans do exactly the same which u ponder upon. According to – well, you – man cannot survive as man without an “ultimate anchor” — really? Says- you? I have considered the reason behind my decision as well as sat in the pews of many a church throughout my life so far — listening — and thinking – and have drawn a conclusion to abandon the cult of “religion by human stories” and “I know it all” sermons that dictate that there is only one way – I respectfully ask how do you with you human capabilities know? Or how do u decide u have the authority to tell everyone else – “this is THE only way?” Maybe it is the religious that stubbornly judge the atheists as shallow and ignorant who think they have all the right ways/answers.

Amy Lang North
As an atheist it seems to me the practicing religious clans do exactly the same which u ponder upon.

Pastor Jack:
**No doubt. Willful ignorance abounds in every corner! That is another subject I have taken aim at and am happy to address. Christian apologetics has been around for a very long time but it seems to me that the “rank and file” Christianity of today is largely shallow and unstudied. However, this willful ignorance is not confined to Christians. But for now, here we are . . . and I am glad you have taken interest in making some very thoughtful points.

Amy:
According to – well, you – man cannot survive as man without an “ultimate anchor” — really? Says- you?

Pastor Jack:
**Well put and a good question.

Actually no . . . this is not simply only according to me. But please allow me first to clarify and complete what was said. “Man cannot survive without an ultimate anchor and reference point for what he calls ‘reason.’” This is not just an isolated view from little old me. This is a philosophical argument that has been around for a very long time. And it is playing out in the world around us in an undeniable fashion.

All reasoning is based upon underlying presuppositions. Have you ever listened to two contrary positions debated? Both individuals believe, within their reasoning, that what they believe is right and rationally sound. Both individuals had a starting point from which their reasoning process began. Yet because these presuppositions were different they came to contrary positions. For most, it is not because their process of reasoning was right or wrong but because their presupposition was right or wrong. Certainly, some have defective reasoning, but that is a different story from what I am addressing here. Starting from an absolute brings unity, meaning and purpose even in diversity. It gives man a “rallying point” if you will. How we arrive at an absolute I will discuss latter on.

In the world around us we have seen the process of the dismissal of the moral absolutes (which is a very broad statement, I know, but I will define later as well) of God as the presupposition in reason. As this has happened we have seen before our eyes the destruction of the United States and chaos in the world . . . . which is escalating at break-neck speed. Confining my focus on America, the divisions are multiplying and have become diametrically opposed and irreconcilable and increasingly hostile one to another. Each position, such as pro-life/pro-choice; liberal/conservative; Democrat/Republican; Sodomite/Straight; etc. etc. etc… has a line of reasoning which each one separately regards as completely sound, yet the conclusions are totally opposed. I’m not here to argue for or against any of these positions right now (though I certainly have my positions firmly ensconced). My objective here is to point out that the presuppositions in each line of reasoning determines the conclusions.

So, in answer to your first objection I state once again: Man cannot survive without an ultimate reference point and anchor for the process of reason. He will, ultimately, destroy himself. And I am not an isolated voice!

Amy:
I have considered the reason behind my decision as well as sat in the pews of many a church throughout my life so far — listening — and thinking – and have drawn a conclusion to abandon the cult of “religion by human stories” and “I know it all” sermons that dictate that there is only one way

Pastor Jack:
***Being the Pastor of one of those churches you attended for a short time I am deeply ashamed of myself as a Pastor and teacher and sorry that we left you in such a questioning position and added to your lack of satisfactory answers. I must take responsibility for missing the mark in ministering to your intellectual needs. This is not an excuse, but it is a very difficult task to find a balance in reaching those who are simple and would neither be interested nor able to follow what I am talking about right now, and those who have the need to be satisfied with further depth. I don’t want to sound insulting or discourteous to anyone, though at times I am taken this way, but some people enjoy swimming deeper than others. The beauty of the Gospel is that it can and does satisfy the simplest mind of a child and meet the intellectual needs of the philosophical giant.

It appears from what you have said here that one of your presuppositions are becoming apparent. The phrases, “Religion by human stories” and “I know it all” sermons” seems to be coming from an underlying position that man in some way discovered or invented God and/or that Christianity is just another man made mythology. I certainly understand the thought, because I also took that position at one time. I am wondering if you are more of an agnostic than an atheist. Are you saying that God does not exist? or that God is not knowable?

If you are saying He does not exist, the same burden of proof rests on you that you would ask of the theist. If you are saying that he is not knowable, I believe you are correct from our present human perspective. Unless God reveals Himself and His will we are left with a God Who is unreachable and unknowable. From my perspective, knowing that there IS a God is a logical conclusion based on the evidence of existence itself. Knowing Who He is and what His mind is, however, is another matter altogether.

As I said . . . unless He reveals Himself and His mind! This is something else that needs to be addressed here . . . and I plan on it.

Amy:
– I respectfully ask how do you with you human capabilities know? Or how do u decide u have the authority to tell everyone else – “this is THE only way?”

Pastor Jack:
A very intelligent agnostic (I think he would categorize himself agnostic at any rate) person very close to me once said that he believed it was arrogant to think that we have figured out God and what He wants. It appears that you are coming from the same direction. If his statement were true concerning the basis of Christianity I would whole heartedly agree. But the reasoning is based on an erroneous premise. Here is where I want to pull together the thoughts I have proposed. I hope you don’t mind the length of what I am going to attempt to discuss.

First, simply stated, Christianity is not man reaching to God to discover Him or figure Him out. It is a revelation of God TO man! It is not man in his pride and strength dissecting God and testing Him in a tube on his philosophical bench. Man CANNOT know God unless God reveals Himself to man. It is God condescending to man to seek and to save that which was lost, revealing Himself incarnate in the Person of Jesus Christ . . . Crucified and risen from the dead. I intend on expanding this thought but wanted to state it here for the sake of keeping the direction of the given knowledge of God in focus. The direction of the knowledge is from Him to us, not from us to Him.

As for there only being one way…..
The teaching of exclusivity is not confined to Christianity. Without going into long drawn out details, even the atheist claims exclusivity. So I suppose the same question could be leveled in your direction . . respectfully. Even those who claim there are no absolutes make a self-defeating statement in their claim. In reality, every line of reasoning is making the claim of an absolute whether they like it or not.

First let me deal as briefly as I can with the claims of Christianity and why, outside of the proposed authority of the Bible (which I also shall discuss), they are intellectually sound and exclusive of all other positions.

There are 4 questions that need to be dealt with in the minds of every human being.

1. Origin (where do I come from? . . and everything else for that matter!)
2. Meaning (Why am I here?)
3. Morality (How am I supposed to live?)
4. Destiny (Where do I go,, if anywhere, from here?)

These are questions every human being who has ever lived and thought has had to cope with. These four questions need to be answered in two ways in order to meet universally satisfactory standards:

1. Every question must correspond according to truth; either by empirical form of measurement and/or the logical reasoning process. (It must make sense)
2. When these four questions are answered, the answers must cohere and not be incoherent. (They must work together and not be contradictory)

Correspondence and Coherence
I guarantee you that ONLY in the Judeo/Christian world view will you find these four questions answered with corresponding truthfulness and with the coherence of a world view. And these answers have stood the test of time an adversity being as relevant to man today as they were thousands of years ago.

All of the world views in existence can very basically be grouped into three categories: (All positions can be categorized under one of these headings)

1. Only the universe exists (Naturalism and Atheism)
2. Only God exists (Eastern religions and spiritualism-many forms but they all boil down to this)
3. Both God and the Universe exists (Judaism, Christianity, Islam)

It is relatively easy to subject each of these categories to the above tests. Number three is the only position which passes these tests. Then we examine the three positions contained within the third category with the same criteria and discover that Christianity is a continuation and fulfillment of Judaism, and the third, Islam, destroys itself in its own contradictory nature of the god it proclaims and the self-evident nature of the intrinsic value of human life.
I realize there is much that can be detailed by way of shared questions and dialog here, but basically stated in examination of one’s presuppositional standards this is how one comes to a factual position to start with.

What is happening in the system we are now seeing overtake and destroy what we have come to know and enjoy in life is the replacement of rationally sound suppositions with emotionally based motivations. Facts are no longer considered . . . just how one feels about it. Truth is no longer a matter of thesis/antithesis (if one is true the opposite is false), but a supposed matter of synthesis. But even the proposition of “synthesis” is disintegrating into this post modernistic cesspool. Truth has become a matter of opinion and force. Life has no intrinsic value because the only thing that sets human life apart from insect life is the posit of man being created in the image and likeness of God. The emotions we have as human beings are reduced to meaningless electro-chemical functions accidentally falling into place in a mad dance of atoms. To say to your wife or child “I love you” has no more value than saying “my back itches” or “I have a headache.” Both are nothing more than hormonal secretions and the functions of a machine. Man cannot and does not live this way. He assumes that love, ethics and some form of morality have value but without something to GIVE it value it is an empty romanticism with nothing to refer to for a coherent reason.

I love my children and grandchildren and I know you love your children. Do you not understand that it means nothing if there is no God? I know why I love them and I know what its value is. Do you?

On to the nature of revealed truth from God.
First the nature of revelation is not just propositional, it is embodied . . . it is incarnated. But I would like to deal with the propositional side because that is really the point at hand. It is a very important issue because on this hangs just about everything the Christian believes, and it is shameful to know that so many Christians don’t possess the understanding to articulate it.

There is something about the enscripturation process that is very important. Because truth is primarily a property of propositions. When you look at the Bible, it is a very distinctive book. Unlike Buddha’s teachings, which are little sermons of Buddha. Or the Koran, which is the utterance of one man and the compilation of it posthumously. This takes 66 books from about the mid 1400’s BC all the way to the first century; 29 in the Old Testament, 27 in the New Testament, and there is a single thread going through all of it. The collusion factor would have been impossibly incredible to bring this about. For example, going back to the prophecy of Isaiah, writing 700 years before Christ, to talk about the virgin birth, Micah speaking of the city where He would be born, Zechariah talking about the way the Messiah would ultimately be crucified, take these writers most of whom were not contemporaries, talking all of the converging lines of evidence, the hundreds of prophecies, and bring them into the Person of Jesus Christ . . . it would have taken an extraordinary stroke of genius to retroactively bring all of that to the convergence of one single Person! If falsification were possible you would be able to do so rather quickly. That has been attempted by many over millennia but to no avail. Even the supposed “new” documentaries and arguments in the latest books are nothing more than old rehashes of debunked attempts from the past.

(Just a quick side note: it is very interesting to note that so many who have set out in an attempt to disprove Scripture have actually become believers, and there have never been any death threats to those who seek to malign the Bible. Yet the thrashing of the Koran by authors like Salman Rushdie, which rather conclusively discredit Islam and its not-so-holy book, end with proclamations of vicious death to both him and his family. Can you imagine if a trash book and movie like “The Da Vinci Code” come out concerning Islam? The Islamic zombies would go into meltdown mode faster than they are now.)

After 2000 years of Christ’s incarnation, and 3500 years since the enscripturation process began, no book has been more studied, no book has been more scrutinized. No book has changed the lives of countless millions. No writing of any atheist has changed a drunkard into a saint. No book written promoting atheism has lifted a broken man from the gutter and set his feet on solid ground. NO atheism has given hope to the hopeless or purpose to the destitute.
I will bring you 1000 men changed and made right by the Christ of the Bible if you can bring me 1 saved from a life of broken sin by atheism.

Yes . . . I am deeply sorry that these truths were not presented clearly or to your satisfaction in any of the churches you attended . . . including my own. I take that seriously to heart. But rejecting God, specifically Jesus Christ, because of these lacks of answers really didn’t change anything in your life. Pains were still there . . . life was still happy one minute sad the next . . . answers were still absent . . . purpose was still transient . . . death is still imminent . . . and ultimately all that you hold dear has no intrinsic value or meaning.

I know that there are many more question that cannot be answered in one discussion, and it is not possible to address every objection that would arise while reading this. However, I am more than willing to continue exchange in dialog. I feel that I have failed you in my responsibilities as a minister of the Word of God, and if you . . . then how many others? If nothing else I am being spurred to be more concise and address the needs of the soul with more awareness.

Amy:
Maybe it is the religious that stubbornly judge the atheists as shallow and ignorant who think they have all the right ways/answers.

Pastor Jack:
I will repeat what I said in the beginning . . . no doubt that unjust judgment abounds and is in no short supply in every corner. May God help me not to do what he condemns. It is only because God has revealed what is right that anyone can know it and be definite about it. God has the right answers . . . and the real arrogance is in rejecting what He reveals.

Amy:
And ps I do enjoy reading what u write bc ur writing do give me things to think about.

Pastor Jack:
You have always been nothing less than respectful to me Amy. I appreciate that . . . not everyone is! Lol. I hope that what I have laid out here is understandable and also gives you food for thought. It is my wish that you would truly come to know Christ as Lord and Savior and find the relationship with Him that He so deeply desires to have with you.

PS
There is so much more I wanted to say concerning the inspiration and recording of Scripture, but this has already taken me many hours to write and I need to rest.
Thanks

Conclusion

So what do you think? No pulpit banging, as many would expect. No all-cap YELLING and calling Amy all kinds of derogatory names. Just a calm, organized explanation and defense of one’s beliefs.

My advice? Try to be a little more like Jack.

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Review of “Riven”

Cover of "Riven"

Cover of Riven

Without giving too much away, let me share my thoughts about Riven, a novel by Jerry B. Jenkins.

Earlier this year I attended a pastor’s conference at Tennessee Temple University. As a special gift, all pastors in attendance were given a free, hard-cover copy of Riven. Evidently, someone at the seminary pulled a few strings.

I don’t read too many fiction novels. Most of my time is tied up in other types of reading material, for the time being. But every once in a while one has to take a vacation from non-fiction and feed the imagination. In an essay entitled “Christian Apologetics” C. S. Lewis wrote, “Reality even seen through the eyes of many is not enough. I will see what others have invented…” Fiction feeds the imagination as does buying new colors for your Crayon box. Sometimes it helps to draw with something other than “black and white.”

The Characters

The main characters in this book are a pastor and his wife, Thomas and Grace Carey; their spiritually estranged daughter, Ravinia; and last but not least, a trailer park hooligan with potential, Brady Wayne Darby.

There were other characters that came and went in this novel, but the ones mentioned above figure most into the plot of the story. Each are fleshed out in the first 3-400 pages, leaving the last hundred-plus pages to bring all the background together in a fitting conclusion.

Jenkins does a good job in making the reader feel sorry for everyone in the story, including the bad guys. This is not unjustified, however. The effects of sin, whether committed by self or by others, is a sad thing to witness. Brady Darby is the type of guy that takes a good opportunity and destroys it, while Rev. Carey is just a guy that continually suffers for the “calling.” Ravinia is someone who suffers from her own choices, but also lives in bitterness because of what “church people” have done to her mom and dad. You just can’t help wanting everything to turn out right.

Character Development

Now, I am not a professional writer, by any stretch of the….wait, what am I saying?!! OK, so I do write a little, but I am not on the same level as Jerry Jenkins – you’re free to disagree, however. That being said, I feel the story could have been a little more condensed, at least concerning the Brady Darby character. Because of the time span covered in the book (20+ years), and even though we get the sense of his heart and true intentions, the character development seems lacking. Maybe it’s because of the so many other characters in story that draw one’s attention. Essentially, the story’s breadth, covered in such a few pages (relative to the time line), had a watering-down affect.

The other main character, Rev. Thomas Carey, was more often than not portrayed as a melancholy soul. He was a preacher/teacher/pastor that was never able, until the end, to see any real fruit from his labor. He was frustrated and bitter at times, yet he never gave up on God; even though his faith was strained. However, what I felt missing from his character was intensity. Maybe real life is a slow, down-hill coast to the pharmacy for refills of Prozac; but, this character had so much more to offer. The depth of his struggles and the heights of his victories were never really felt, at least not until the end – and even that was limited.

I think that one of the things that limited the ability to contrast the characters of Darby and Carey was the choice by Jenkins to not use profanity in the text. Granted, Riven is not supposed to be a titillating romp through the bowels of hell; but, in a world where vulgarity is commonplace, especially for those of us who have ministered in prison settings, this fictional work seemed too fictitious. Honestly, it felt like Jenkins used too much Clorox, thereby leaving the story with only a cognizant sense of contrast between good and evil; nothing guttural.

The Story

The story of Riven is that of two opposite characters who live their lives seperately, only to be bound together in the end by a common love for Christ. This love for Jesus leads one of the characters to do something completely unthinkable and unprecedented. Any more than that, which I know is not a lot, could ruin the ending for you. And that’s the key to this whole book – the ending. You have to read the whole story to appreciate the end, and end which should bring emotions to the surface of any true Christian.

Conclusion

Buy the book, even though I didn’t have to, and read it. If you don’t get anything else out of Riven, you should gain a new appreciation for the mercy and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ – His side was “riven” for us.

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Filed under book review, Christian Living, Christian Unity, General Observations