God Uses Simple Things to Spread the Gospel

We often overthink evangelism. This short article serves as a refreshing reminder of the simplicity of sharing the good news of Jesus with others. Read it here.

How to Pray for Unbelieving Loved Ones

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

“It can be easy, especially after a long time seeing no apparent change of heart in those we are praying for, to begin to doubt that God really cares about them and that our prayers will never bear fruit.”

Here is an excellent article on praying for lost family members. Read it here.

Christians, Don’t Let Atheists Misuse Science Against Christianity

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Photo by Rakicevic Nenad on Pexels.com

My original title for this post was going to be “Three Reasons Why Darwinian Evolution Is So Universally Accepted, and Three Reasons Why It Is Beginning to Crumble.” But you probably wouldn’t have clicked on it to read it.

For many Christians seeking to defend their faith, the question of science’s commitment to evolution over the Christian explanation of creation presents one of the biggest challenges. For anyone without a scientific background, trying to answer scientific objections can be intimidating and overwhelming. The intent of this article is to show you why Darwinian evolution is so fiercely protected in the scientific community, and why the commitment to Darwin’s version of evolution is losing support in the scientific community.

Why is it that among the intellectual elite, evolution is the predominant view of the origin and development of our universe, specifically biological life, and even more specifically, human development and progress? There are at least three reasons for this near-universal acceptance in the sciences and three reasons why it is beginning to crumble in the sciences and among the masses of the world.

  1. Darwin’s theory of evolution by means of natural selection can seemingly explain so much. That is, Darwin imbued his theory with the ability to explain almost every phenomenon in our world by long periods of time, chance, and a mystical power called natural selection. Add to that our understanding of genetics and DNA, and Neo-Darwinism, as it is called, claims to explain even more.
  2. In order for science to be possible, the world and everything in it has to be reliable, repeatable, and predictable. Darwin’s theory displaced the idea of a personal Creator with the impersonal force of natural selection, which until recently, could conceivably account for the stability of the world (at least enough to do science).
  3. Although few scientists and philosophers want to admit this, Darwinism allows them to ignore the question of God in the origin and development of the world, especially human progress. If you think this is biased, a growing chorus of these revered experts are admitting just that. Thomas Nagel, professor of philosophy and law at New York University has written that, “The priority given to evolutionary naturalism in the face of its implausible conclusions about other subjects is due, I think, to the secular consensus that this is the only form of external understanding of ourselves that provides an alternative to theism…” (Mind and Cosmos, 29). In other words, we must continue to accept that there is nothing but the physical universe or else we have to consider the God question, and we certainly can’t do that. This reminds me of Harvard geneticist Richard Lewontin who said that we have to start with naturalism despite all its absurdities because, “we cannot allow a divine foot in the door.” (“Billions and Billions of Demons,” The New York Review (Jan. 9, 1997), 31).

These three points seem unassailable in higher education, the sciences, and in any appeal to the relationship between science and faith. Any other theory to explain our universe is vigorously opposed in schools and the public square. Yet, Neo-Darwinism is a minority belief in places of the world where religion is strongest, especially Christianity. And for good reason, too.

  1. As science progresses in the 21st century, it is becoming apparent to more and more top scientific minds that natural selection and DNA are making the Darwinian consensus unbelievable. As just one example, natural selection is finally being exposed to be the magic show that it is (as C. S. Lewis called it). The further into the depths of genetic mutations we go, the more it is becoming obvious that the statistical chances of functional mutations are abysmally low. Stephen Meyer’s book, Darwin’s Doubt,demonstrates that the chances of a mutation resulting in just one new functioning protein fold in the DNA needed to produce a new species from an existing one (macroevolution) is somewhere in the range of 1 in 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. Not good odds at the casino, but enough apparently for evolutionists. Genetics is just one of the dozens of scientific realities that reveals that Darwinian evolution fails scrutiny. The more we learn about our world in detail, evolution is simply not plausible.
  2. The question of unavoidable design in the universe that arises out of these studies is becoming hard to ignore. The complexity of our world screams the intricate intentionality of biological, chemical, and cosmological systems that make life on this earth possible. Richard Dawkins admits that the world seems designed. Thomas Nagel tries to find some answer for an intelligence in the universe because of the undeniability of human consciousness, while yet stopping short of God. They and others are like them live in denial of the divine, just as Romans 1 describes. The obvious alternative is that a personal, loving, all-powerful Creator made the universe, and especially human beings in his image, to inhabit this world. The results of the fall explain the equally powerful testimony of natural brokenness and human depravity.
  3. The real issue is the white-knuckled determination of secularists in science and philosophy to not allow the Divine Foot in the door. “Anything but God” seems to be the motto. All the while, they seek to conjure a twisted morality out of thin air and cobble together explanations about human behavior through “evolutionary biology,” which even a secularist like Thomas Nagel calls speculation, guesswork, bare assertion, and incomplete (Mind and Cosmos, 43). The root of the problem is a willful rejection of the triune, biblical God who created the world for a purpose and who has revealed himself clearly in his Word and his Son. Modern science began with the conviction of a personal Creator in the 17th century, but now tries to continue without the foundation. To borrow C. S. Lewis’ metaphor in The Abolition of Man about doing away with character and then demanding virtue, we have rejected the rock of truth and then demanded our secular Styrofoam foundations hold up the edifice. This is why the average person in many places around the world does not buy the naturalistic, Neo-Darwinian explanation of all things. He lives in the real world that is much more than biology and knows intuitively that there is a greater explanation than mere mechanics. As Oxford professor John Lennox reminds us, understanding the assembly line and the internal combustion engine does not preclude the need for a Henry Ford to explain the Model T.

In short, the consensus about the Neo-Darwinian explanation of the universe is beginning to crumble, as evidenced by the subtitle of Nagel’s book, Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False. Yet the scientific community is still by and large committed to it for now. And the vast majority who cling to it do so with outmoded and long-rejected 20th century ideas. Christians can have confidence that the biblical description of our Creator and his work, the fall and its consequent curse, and the redemption found through Christ are rooted in reality and truth. The message of the gospel can overcome the delusion of a universe that came from nowhere and evolved by time and chance in an unguided process going nowhere and for no purpose.

Don’t Knock Systematic Theology

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Biblical theology is all the rage, especially among young, reformed-ish types. In contrast to the perceived stuffiness of systematic theology (or so they’ve heard), biblical theology provides a storyline that delights with previously unnoticed insights.

This is not to knock biblical theology.  It is an important tool in the theological bucket, and my own understanding of Scripture has been greatly expanded with the help of biblical theology. Some, however, have seemingly abandoned any interest in systematic theology, thinking that it is merely a man-made construct of the modern era that kills the liveliness of Scripture. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Carl Trueman, one of my go-to thinkers, writes this important piece that summarizes the mutual importance of both biblical and systematic theology:

If the danger with Systematic Theology is that it can so emphasize conceptual unities that it misses the particularities of the biblical text, then the danger with Biblical Theology is that it so emphasizes the particularities that it misses those underlying unities. The answer to missing the trees for the wood is not to miss the wood for the trees. 

You will want to read the whole article. It is well worth it for anyone who loves the Scriptures and wants to continue to grow in the thorough knowledge of God’s eternal, redemptive work.

Justified Before God

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Guest post by Jeff Mindler. [Jeff graduated from Lancaster Bible College in 2014 with a B.A. in Biblical Studies, as well as an M.A. in Counseling. He currently works as the Event Coordinator for the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals in Lancaster, PA. His wife, Joe’l, and he worship at Grace Baptist Church of Millersville in Millersville, PA where he serves as an elder. He enjoys studying several different disciplines including Biblical Studies, Systematic Theology, Apologetics, Church History, and Practical Theology, while having a keen and passionate love for Apologetics and Systematic Theology in particular.]

“Justification is an act of God’s free grace, wherein He pardons all our sins, and accepts us as righteous in His sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone.”[1]Such is the answer to question 37 in the Baptist Catechism, which mirrors the Westminster Shorter Catechism on the subject of justification.

The beauty of a catechism is that it summarizes Christian doctrine and provides a framework for thinking through a subject like justification. Justification is a doctrine that lies at the heart of the Christian faith, but one that is unfortunately often overlooked or misunderstood and that to the detriment of those who do so. Justification was at the heart of the protestant reformation in the 16th century, and is still a topic of vital importance today. With such an important topic, it is critical to have clarity on the subject, and the above catechism does this by providing a brief and Biblical definition that is easy to memorize while also providing Scriptural texts that accompany each question and answer. We would all do well to memorize this question and answer.

In this post I want to highlight one important element regarding the doctrine of justification as outlined by the Baptist catechism question and answer 37, namely that justification is an act of God’s free grace.Justification is an act of God (Rom 5:1, 8:33), not something man works himself to or accomplishes himself. Justification is what God does, not what man does. It is not a process that man undergoes overtime but is a declaration by God that He makes regarding the status of that person: God declares them just. James White elaborates on this more fully in his definition of justification, which includes all of the major elements found in the doctrine:

To be justified means to be declared right with God by virtue of the remission of sins accomplished by Jesus: Christ’s righteousness is imputed to the believer, and the believers sins are imputed to Christ, who bears them in His body on the tree. Justification is from beginning to end a divine action, based upon the mercy of God the Father and the work of Jesus Christ the Son.[2]

Pay close attention to the fact that justification is centered upon what God does, not upon what man does. Romans 8:33 states, “Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.” (ESV. Emphasis mine) Justification is fundamentally an act of God, a declaration upon sinful man, not a process that man undergoes that can be undone and that therefore he would need to be re-justified. It is a once for all declaration based upon the finished work of Christ on our behalf and therefore results in our being accepted in the sight of a Holy God (Rom 5:1).

May we all pause to consider the great comfort it is to know that we do not earn our justification; rather we are justified before God by His grace alone and receive it through faith alone and therefore, all the glory for our justification belongs to God alone. That is good news indeed!

[1]The Baptist Catechism. Question and Answer 37.

[2]White, James. The God Who Justifies. 74

Apologetics Curriculum Finished!

victoryI just finished writing a 35-week apologetics curriculum for Positive Action for Christ publishers. This project has taken me three years to complete. I thought I would never finish. In some ways it was harder to write than my doctoral dissertation.

It will be published by 2020 and will initially be formatted for Christian schools. It is written for juniors in high school up through sophomores in college. It will eventually be cut in half and edited for church use in two 15-lesson studies.

Thank you, faithful Father, for strengthening me for this task. I pray that many thousands of people will be equipped and encouraged to engage unbelievers with the glorious gospel of Christ through this study.

I am taking my wife out for dinner tonight to celebrate!

Cancel Christmas?

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A French friend of mine who teaches at a seminary in southern France emailed this today:
“The bishop of Amiens, a city in Northern France, recently published an article calling for support of the people who are in tragic social needs. This support, he offers, could be very simply stated. We should cancel Christmas. No church service, no celebration, no dinner with family and friends. He concludes:
‘The shout of despair throughout France is incompatible with the mystery of Christmas, with the hope of Advent, with the reception of an alien child…’
 
“[But this] is precisely why we must celebrate Christmas. In times like these, to gather together as the people of the coming Savior is the greatest act of protest we can undertake. To celebrate Christmas is to protest the claim that evil is the last word. It is a radical opposition to the forces of despair and injustice. To celebrate Christmas is to be engaged in one of the greatest acts of counter-cultural activity.”
Amen!

Christianity is Not Better than Other Religions

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Many Christians labor under the illusion that the way to share their faith is to argue that Christianity is better than other religions, belief systems or worldviews. They generally do this in one of two ways. Some argue from a therapeutic approach—that the Christian God gives better benefits than other deities, such as peace, hope, joy, happiness, or meaning. Jesus can make you happy, healthy, and (maybe) wealthy. He will fix all your problems and make your life better. Others utilize a cultural approach—that a Judeo-Christian foundation establishes better cultures than do non-Christian foundations. We can have a stronger nation and keep our liberties only if we are generally Christian. While some of these things may be true, this is not the way to present the gospel.

Consistent with New Testament practice we ought to argue that Christianity is true and that all other religions, belief systems, or worldviews are false.Why should we take such an approach?

Two reasons.

First, the gospel is a historical claim, and historical claims are either true or false. Contrary to the pontifications of many skeptics and atheists, history is squarely on the side of the central claims of Christianity—that Jesus taught that he was God in the flesh, performed public miracles that validated his claim, that he died on the cross under the authority of Pontius Pilate, and that three days later his tomb was empty because he rose again. The Apostle Paul himself argued that the validity of the Christian faith depended on the historicity of these events. Paul presented a falsifiability test for Christianity, the highest form of epistemic reliability (historical testability). If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, then Christianity is not true (1 Cor. 15). No other falsifiability tests are offered in any other religion.

Second, to argue that the Christian faith is better is to argue for an aesthetic preference. The unbeliever hears this claim as your preference or opinion. She hears your claim as no different than, “Chocolate is better than vanilla.” Inner experiences cannot be validated as true or false. The postmodern philosopher, Richard Rorty, argued that religious claims cannot be used as arguments for a proposition’s truth because there is no way to verify them. In response, theologian Michael Horton asked Rorty if the same would go for a case for Christianity based on historical facts. Rorty replied, “That would be a whole different thing. I have never heard Christianity presented in that way.” How sad.

How many people that we try to reach would have to wrestle more with the claims of the Christian gospel if we presented it this way? Certainly, there are many benefits and blessings that come from being united with Christ in salvation. But the unbelieving heart often lives with the illusion that it already possesses joy, hope, and peace. And the danger of the therapeutic approach is that an unbeliever can “pray a prayer” or intellectually assent to the facts of Christ, without truly repenting and believing, just to obtain the benefits. As we know, that is not a genuine conversion. The core of our gospel message cannot be therapeutic.

Further, the danger of the cultural approach is that it “better” is still an opinion. Increasingly, people around the world do not believe that a Judeo-Christian foundation to a culture is better. If a person rejects the gospel because she doesn’t believe in traditional morality, she has rejected it for the wrong reasons. And if we “share our faith” this way, we depart from the New Testament model and find ourselves guilty of spreading a false gospel.

When we present the life and work of Christ as the core of the gospel message, however, the unbeliever is faced with either believing in Jesus or not. He either accepts that he is a sinner or not. He either accepts that the crucified and risen Christ is the only way to be reconciled to God, or he doesn’t. If he does not, we can continue to argue for the gospel on biblical and historical grounds. One thing the historical approach does not often result in is a false profession simply to get the benefits. Rather, the unbeliever responds to the gospel based on its central claims about Jesus.

Jesus is not better than other gods; He is the only true God. Grace is not better than works; it is the only way to be reconciled to God. Christianity is not better than other religions; it is the only true religion.

Can We Trust the Gospels?

Can We Trust the Gospels

Can We Trust the Gospels? The Historical Basis for the Christian Faith

Many Christians are unaware of the unique nature of the Christian faith. Since most world religions are not based on historical events, and their beginnings cannot be anchored in any verifiable history, Christianity is unusual. And among those few religions that are based in historical events, the character of the founder, the manner in which the events supposedly happened, and the lack of verified supernatural signs makes Christianity completely unique.

When someone asks why you are a Christian, your answer shouldn’t be merely because of an experience or a perceived benefit, such as joy, peace or hope. Many adherents of other religions testify of experiences and benefits. No, your answer should be something along the lines of, “I believe that Jesus lived, died, and rose again, proving that he is the Son of God as the Bible reports.” That is, our faith should rest entirely in a verifiable historical event, because that is how Paul explained it in 1 Corinthians 15. If the resurrection didn’t happen then Christianity is not true. If it did, nothing can stand against it.

The historical reliability of the Bible matters. But how does the average Christian learn the historical facts about the Bible, especially the Gospels without having to wade through highly academic works?

A new book by Cambridge University professor, Peter Williams, provides a handy reference for the multitude of verifiable historical facts in the Gospels. Can We Trust the Gospels?(Crossway, 2018) is the distillation of many years of research in New Testament studies by one of the foremost scholars in the world. This little volume of 160 pages will amaze the reader with details he has never noticed before in the New Testament. In addition to explaining the testimony about Jesus from non-Christian sources, Williams displays the many ways in which the Gospels demonstrate that they could not have been written later than the first century in another part of the Roman Empire.

Although we live in an age when we have easy access to advance information about anywhere we go, we still tend to be surprised by aspects of geography and culture whenever we travel. Now imagine if someone asked you to write a story about events in a distant place you had never visited, and you were not allowed to use the Internet for research. Even with the wonderful libraries we have today, you would struggle to get all the information together to write a detailed story that fit what a local person would know. This is because of the many aspects of your destination you would have to get right, and getting only most of them right would not make a story sound authentic. You would have to investigate its architecture, culture, economics, geography, language, law, politics, religion, social stratification, weather, and much more. You would even need to ensure that the characters in your tale were given names that were plausible for the historical and geographical setting of your narrative. All this requires effort and is not easily done.

Right down to details of architecture, culture, economics, geography, language, law, politics, religion, social stratification, weather, and more, the Gospels do not shy away from a full-orbed, comprehensive description of life in first century Palestine surrounding the events on which they are focused. Even the mention of names in the Gospels reveals that only someone who lived in that society at that time would have known the common names of the day. Williams reminds us that there was no internet to look up details of the world of Jesus. Many of the details are never mentioned anywhere else in ancient literature, so knowledge of them would have had to have been from firsthand experience.

Knowledge of the location of tax collectors, local botany, unusual customs, local languages, the personalities of characters in the Gospel accounts, and many other particulars are shown to be still further evidence of the reliability of the NT. Williams presents a kind of cumulative case apologetic to show that criticism of the historical reliability of the Gospels is laughable. It is simply too far-fetched to argue that they were written later and in another place.

This little book will be a tremendous help to the average Christian who wants to strengthen her own faith in the Scriptures and a valuable resource to put in the hands of someone searching for answers. I highly recommend it!

 

Doing Justice and the Gospel, Part 4: Applications

[This is the last of a four-part series on doing justice and the gospel. See parts 1-3 for context here and here and here.]

Application of Justice and Injustice

  • It is unjust to allow some people to break a just law because of their status, whether politicians or immigrants, celebrities, juveniles, or disgruntled citizens.
  • It is unjust to withhold information or tell only part of a story to manipulate the public, as the media often does, or to escape just punishment as public figures often do.
  • It is unjust to circumvent due process or the rule of law because we are outraged at a wrong.
  • It is unjust to convict an innocent person because we want someone to pay for wrongdoing.
  • It is unjust to forcibly take taxpayers’ $ for immoral purposes such as abortion, abortifacients, and sexually immoral causes.
  • It is unjust to include sexual perversion as a human rights issue alongside genuine human rights issues such as racism, persecution, genocide, FGM, human trafficking, etc.
  • It is unjust to bind the hands of law enforcement and then complain that they don’t do enough.
  • It is unjust to ask law enforcement to risk their lives, witness unspeakable horrors on a regular basis, deal with the most wicked, evil, dangerous people, endure constant harassment, hatred, and scrutiny, and then provide them with little mental health counseling and minimal pay, all the while expecting them to always make the right decision in split-second, life-or-death situations that will be scrutinized by millions within seconds of the event.
  • It is unjust to not hold law enforcement to a high standard of integrity, behavior and speech regarding treatment of those they encounter.
  • It is unjust to judge all cases of police discharging their weapons as police brutality before all the facts have been revealed.
  • It is unjust to tolerate corruption in our police, or attorneys, or politicians and to fail to prosecute them when they break the law.
  • It is unjust for men to sexually harass women, to pressure them, to make comments about their bodies, to touch them in an unwanted way, to use sexual innuendos, to intimidate them, or intentionally make them feel unsafe, vulnerable, belittled, demeaned, or objectified.
  • It is unjust for women to do any of the same to men.
  • It is unjust to place artificial standards on a woman who has experienced sexual abuse before she is believed, such as “she should have reported it right away,” she should have stopped it somehow, she should remember all the details of this traumatic event in which she thought she would die, etc.
  • It is unjust to allow our inclination to believe those who report abuse to drift into automatic conviction of the accused on the spot without due process.
  • It is unjust for us to see injustice and fail to speak up about it. God calls us to courage and a prophetic voice in this world.

All this goes to show that JUSTICE IS DIFFICULT AND COMPLEX, because we are not God, who knows all things and who judges impartially. We should continue to pray and advocate for justice whenever we hear of injustices.