Advertisements

Blog Archives

Rachel Held Evans vs. John Piper: Both Miss the Point

As a liberal, it isn’t too surprising that Rachel Held Evans repudiates the Reformed understanding of tragedies like the Moore tornadoes.  Essentially, we join Augustine in proclaiming that God feels it better to bring good from evil, than to eliminate all evil.

What started this is a tweet by John Piper (now removed) that quotes Job 1:19.  Here, a great wind topples Job’s house and kills his children.  Piper is, quite obviously, applying it to the recent tornado that ripped apart Moore, Oklahoma.

Is that insensitive, as Evans says? Read the rest of this entry

Advertisements

Scripture Saturday: Importance of Bible Study (Prv 28:9)

I’ve heard that some folks benefit from a regimented blogging schedule, so I thought I’d give it a shot to see if it helps me.  And that means I will now introduce two new features.  If I blog nothing else in the course of a week, I will blog the two features.

The first is Contradiction Tuesday, where I will detail a perceived contradiction in the Bible.  I’ll take requests for this series from skeptics and believers alike — e-mail me.  It will begin next Tuesday; I didn’t have time to do one this week.

On a side note, I’m thinking of adding Anti-Testimony Wednesday sometime in the future.  I would critique the latest “Why I’m not a Christian” bit from ex-Christian.net, with a private offer to the poster to defend him or herself here.  Since they don’t like their unbelief challenged on the site, this would be playing by their rules.  After all, the anti-testimony is posted publicly so it’s unrealistic to think that someone won’t pick it up and challenge it somewhere.

The series beginning today is Scripture Saturday.  What better way to kick off Scripture Saturday than with a verse on the importance of studying Scripture?

If one turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination.  (Prv 28:9)

Strongly worded.  If a person stops studying God’s Law, then that person’s prayer is an abomination.  An abomination!  That’s the strongest way God can revile something.  And here, God is saying that he will revile a person’s prayers if that person refuses to hear God! Read the rest of this entry

Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask, Sidebar on 1 Corinthians

The first of today’s posts on DaGoodS’s (DGS) questions will come a bit later, as I wanted to examine a side issue that was raised. The discussion revolves around a specific interpretation of 1 Corinthians 1:20-21. DGS thinks it supports a rejection of all worldly wisdom. However, I believe that in its proper context, it is trying to argue something far different. Read the rest of this entry

Things That Should be Free: PrayerMarket.com

In a previous post, I’ve lamented that there are few resources for Christian churches that are 100% free of charge. Most charge some sort of membership fee, either lifetime or monthly. The ones that are free are, regrettably, extremely limited in quality and quantity of resources.

I think someone ought to open up a website that enables users to download high quality sermon resources for free. The site should subsist entirely on donations and/or PPC advertisement.

I would love to look into the feasibility of something like that, and perhaps trying to collect sermons, sermon series, scripts, videos, and other resources that match or exceed the quality of SermonSpice.com or the Skit Guys, but will be available free of charge to the public.

That’s just a dream. Perhaps it could become reality one day. We shall see!

As a follow up to my rant on resources that ought to be free, I thought I’d examine a few resources that exist out there that ought to be free, but really aren’t. This post fits in with my study theme of the month: prayer!

I’ve recently stumbled on to a site called PrayerMarket.com. It’s exactly what it sounds like. The site buys and sells prayers. That is absolutely reprehensible. The very concept is outright offensive. Read the rest of this entry

Wit and Wisdom of Facebook

For some reason, one of my Facebook friends inspires quite a few blog entries. So I would like to send a shout out to Domonique–thanks for staying my friend even though we don’t work together anymore. I swear I’ve been getting half my material from your posts recently.

The chatter on Domonique’s recent status update gives us some insight as to why many people refuse to bow the knee to our Lord.

I used to work with Domonique, so I’m confident that she’s a Christian and the deeper meaning I’m drawing from this doesn’t apply specifically to her.

I have no idea what Domonique’s friend Taylor’s religious leanings are. There is nothing on her Facebook profile to suggest that she’s a Christian, but nothing that would suggest she isn’t. No Atheist As or links to anti-Christian/anti-Bible propaganda sites.

The conversation is typical for young, single women. Domonique is moaning that all the good men seem to elude her, and Taylor agrees. Taylor also says that even good men lie to their women. Then Domonique makes the following comment:

I know, i wish i could marry jesus.

To which Taylor replies:

Jesus had a big beard. I do not find big beards very attractive. perhaps if he were to shave i would be happy 🙂

I don’t know if the insight I’m about to offer from this applies to Taylor or not. This insight is meant generally, and I’m not directing it to Taylor personally. Taylor, if you’re reading this and I come off as though I’m personally attacking you, please forgive me because that isn’t my intent! But if you see yourself in this as a Christian and can profit from it, then please consider it a gentle rebuke from a brother in Christ.

Taylor’s comment is interesting in that it reflects the typical desire that underlies most attacks on prayer and original sin. Here, Taylor wants Jesus to change something about himself in order to make him more palatable to her.

The reality, for the Christian, is that we (as humans) are repugnant to God. We must realize this as a prerequisite for saving faith. Once that realization is made and we receive Christ in faith, then begins the long process of sanctification: making ourselves more palatable to God. Taylor (and most skeptics that I’ve dealt with) reverse the formula. Reversing the formula is idolatry.

Again, this isn’t meant as a personal attack on Taylor, and if it was perceived as such then I apologize. I only meant to convey an important insight.

For more information on just how repugnant we humans are to God, please see my essay on total depravity.

Free Sermon Resources?

Today’s sermon was all about giving generously. At my church, “we don’t preach on tithing,” says my pastor. Today’s sermon was, in part, about tithing. But it went deeper than that.

A frequent argument I deal with from atheists and other detractors of Christianity is the ludicrous notion that Jesus wants Christians to give up all earthly possessions and live penniless. They aren’t approaching the text from the perspective of stewardship. All gifts come ultimately from God, and God wants us to wisely use these gifts for his glory. The ultimate summary is Matthew 6:33: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Or, as C.S. Lewis put it, “Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither.”

The idea is to judiciously use what we have for the good of the kingdom, not to sell everything and live in abject poverty. The trick is that the more we have, the greater the obstacle to true intimacy with God. Or as Jesus famously put it, “For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God” (Lk 18:25).

The Eye of the Needle was actually a place in those days. A camel could get through it, but it took a lot of effort and often wasn’t worth it. Jesus isn’t saying that is impossible for a rich person to enter heaven, just that it is going to take much more work than for a poor person. A rich person is expected to give more generously with both time and financial resources to further the cause of the kingdom. Obviously, a poor person doesn’t have as much to give and therefore as much won’t be required.

Bottom line: you can’t be sure of anything in this world except for God. So don’t put stock in material goods–moth and rust can eat and destroy them. Build up treasure in heaven, where nothing can get to it. Material wealth isn’t the same as true security, and we never really possess something we aren’t willing to give to God. Read the rest of this entry

Dave Armstrong vs. the Atheists

Dave Armstrong is a braver man than I: he attended a “secular Bible study” in his native Detroit in order to answer questions about the Christian (in Dave’s case, Roman Catholic) position on Scripture. In all, 16 atheists attended to ask Dave questions.

Dave was fortunate to get a good group. They were open to dialog. Not like the group of militant anti-Christian atheists that populate the Why Won’t God Heal Amputees discussion board. (That was a waste of my time; why did I even sign up and post at all?) The majority of Internet atheists are the militant variety who refuse to listen to any Christian response to their nonsense.

Dave had a few great insights into the atheist mindset that are worth a short discussion. First:

DagoodS asked the group (17 including myself) how many believed that miracles occur. I was the only one to raise my hand. Then he asked how many believed that miracles might possibly occur. Jon raised his hand, and possibly one other. Only one or two even allowed the bare possibility. This exactly illustrated the point I was to make.

DagoodS was saying that it is more difficult to believe an extraordinary miracle or event than to believe in one that is more commonplace. True enough as far as it goes. But I said (paraphrasing), “you don’t believe that any miracles are possible, not even this book raising itself an inch off the table, so it is pointless for you to say that it is hard to believe in a great miracle, when in fact you don’t believe in any miracles whatsoever.” No response. . . .

This being the case, for an atheist (ostensibly with an “open mind”) to examine evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus, is almost a farcical enterprise from the start (at least from a Christian perspective) because they commence the analysis with the extremely hostile presuppositions of: (1) No miracles can occur in the nature of things; (2) #1 logically follows because, of course, under fundamental atheist presuppositions, there is no God to perform any miracle; (3) The New Testament documents are fundamentally untrustworthy and historically suspect, having been written by gullible, partisan Christians; particularly because, for most facts presented therein, there is not (leaving aside archaeological evidences) written secular corroborating evidence. Read the rest of this entry

I HATE Cutesy Christian Slogans

Not that long ago, I was driving by a local church and the marquee, appallingly, told passers-by to pray for whatever they wanted, and God would provide it for them. It said this in a cutsey, easy-to-remember slogan. Ironically, I can’t remember the slogan. I had meant not only to blog about it, but to send the pastor a protest letter explaining why that was a bad slogan, and why such propaganda may draw people in for the short term but is very damaging for the long term.

The primary reason for this is simple: what is the pastor of that church going to tell someone who didn’t get what they prayed for? The congregant was “lured” into this church with the promise that God affirmatively answers all prayers, which any student of Bible and/or common sense can tell you is not the case. Any answer given by the pastor is damaging at this point.

If the pastor fesses up to the truth, which is that God will occasionally say “No,” given that God is an agent with a plan of his own that comes before the individual desires of his worshipers rather than an impersonal, wish-granting force, then it appears as though the church is using half-truths to fill pews and get tithe money for its own ends.

If the pastor says that the congregant doesn’t have enough faith in God, that raises the question of how much faith one really needs to receive effective answers to prayer. The congregant immediately concludes he doesn’t have enough faith, wonders what he can do to get more faith, and feels like a failure as a Christian. All the congregant needs to do now is pick up a copy of The God Delusion and guess what happens next.

But I never got around to either the post or the letter. What reminded me is a blog post from No Forbidden Questions about a Christian meme that has been making its way around the e-mail circuit, which is pictured to the right. As with all cutesy Christian slogans, I hate this graphic. It only tells a half-truth.

NFQ says this makes it seem as though unbelievers experience these things regularly, while believers are immune to it. Or, as commenter Andrew puts it, “The grass is always browner on the other side of our beliefs.” Read the rest of this entry

Wrath of God

A friend from Facebook, for some unknown reason, posted a link to Westboro Baptist Church’s list of press releases. Out of curiosity, I visited it and clicked on their parody section. I was presented with a list of well-known songs that the group has modified, including a cover of John Lennon’s “Imagine.”

Listening to that song, cleverly re-titled “Imagine the New Heaven” (an obvious reference to Is 65 and Rev 21), I realized something rather chilling. Fred Phelps & Co. represent the opposite extreme of a spectrum of authentic Christianity. Mainstream Christianity sits on the other end.

Let me explain. Mainstream Christianity preaches God’s unending love. The popular preachers emphasize over and over again how God loves all of humanity, and then they carry it to illogical extremes. They equate “love” with “unconditional acceptance” and that makes sin and damnation completely disappear. No need for sanctification, they will preach, because God loves you just as you are!

Believing that God always has the best interest of his people at heart (cf. Rom 8:28), but then completely de-contextualizing a person’s “best interest,” they preach that God will make you wealthy and powerful. God will answer every prayer with a resounding YES if you only believe it’s true.

On the other end is Fred Phelps, who emphasizes the coming wrath and judgment of God to the exclusion of any mercy or grace. Phelps and company commit numerous theological errors besides that one (such as believing the elect are always members of Westboro Baptist Church, shirking the Great Commission, encouraging those around them to sin to bring the coming judgment faster, and everything else that you can classify as hyper-Calvinism), but removing all hope of grace and mercy from God’s character is by far the biggest they make. Read the rest of this entry

How to Make Your Christian Writing Anything But, part II

In my previous post, I took a peek at six of the twelve points that the Resurgence cites as ways to turn Christian writing into anti-Christian writing. Unfortunately, I’m guilty on some points. Let’s look at the final six.

Hell is real, but don’t let that concern you or your hearers and readers. It’s more important to have a good theology of evangelism than to actually tell others about Jesus, his cross, and his resurrection.

Actually, I think that it is more important to talk about the cross and the Resurrection than it is to mention hell. I don’t think that hell is really the best way to evangelize. It shouldn’t be avoided completely, but neither should it be over-stressed.

People just aren’t comfortable with a judging God. Most likely because people know, at the core, that they have sinned and are under condemnation. Instead of browbeating them with that, let’s focus on what God has done through Christ.

But we’d just be unkind if we didn’t talk about hell at all. People also need to understand the consequences of their choices.

Talk about technique a lot, because techniques are concrete. Miracles like regeneration, God turning haters into lovers, and the fruit of the Spirit are too abstract to be helpful.

Here we see Christianity capitulating to culture. Scientism seems to be creeping its way into the popular culture. People are believing the lie that they can only know what they can touch, taste, smell, or see.

Scientism is a philosophy, not a scientific conclusion. Since philosophies can’t be proven, only believed, scientism refutes itself. If you believe scientism, you’re already being inconsistent.

Everyone believes something on the basis of pragmatism alone, in the absence of empirical evidence. Everyone. Our minds are capable of knowing and understanding things in the abstract, without requiring evidence of their existence.

That means that speaking of love, hate, or the fruits of the Spirit are helpful. Speaking on technique is good, too, but sometimes it is necessary to speak of the abstract.

Guilt is a great motivator. Use it wisely.

I think we all know someone who falls into this category. I’ll move on.

In their sanctification, people should fake it till they make it. Tell them how.

Believing something on the basis of pragmatism is vital to constructing a coherent worldview. Obviously, you can’t see some of the abstractions that underlie your philosophies. If you hold to a theistic worldview, where the material plane is a battlefield for angels and demons influencing the minds and hearts of humans, you can’t see the immaterial beings nor can you see the deity, so pragmatism comes to the forefront in determining the rationality of your suppositions.

But pragmatism is not a good measure of the effectiveness of the gospel, nor is sanctification ever going to work if you fake it until you make it.

The New Testament consistently refers to the church as “the Bride of Christ.” In marriage, you are giving yourself wholly and completely to your spouse; that goes for husbands as well as wives. It is expected that you will put your bride first in all your considerations. Everything should change, and this is meant to be a permanent change.

So it should be in giving yourself to Christ. It should bring wholehearted change into your life. You won’t be the same person afterwords. The Bible declares the faithful a new creation. Just telling people to “fake it until you make it” doesn’t do justice to the gospel, and it trivializes Christ’s promises to make you whole.

Be condescending. Make sure your theology is un-gracious in content and tone.

Yeah, I know, this is my deepest sin in writing this blog. Anyone who wants to throw it in my face, go ahead. Search some past posts. I’m sure you can find plenty of examples of me being ungracious to commenters. But I’m going to really try to move past it, and give my apologetic answers with gentleness and reverence. No more sarcastic bite.

People really want Good Advice instead of Good News, so be a people-pleaser and only give lots of advice.

Yes, Joel Osteen, we are looking at you!