Children Are Fascinating

Si on a Stump

G. K Chesterton:

The fascination of children lies in this: that with each of them all things are remade, and the universe is put again on trial. As we walk the streets and see below us those delightful bulbous heads, three times too big for the body, which mark these human mushrooms, we ought always primarily to remember that within  every one of these heads there is a new universe, as new as it was on the seventh day of creation. In each of these orbs there is a new system of stars, new grass, new cities, and a new sea.

 “A Defense of Baby-Worship” in The Defendant (NY: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1902), 116.

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The Bias of Skeptics

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Most skeptics I talk to think they operate completely without bias in their skepticism and agnosticism. They often demonstrate a startling lack of self-awareness of their assumptions. One hundred years ago, the British essayist G. K. Chesterton noted the frustrating contradiction of the skeptics arguments:

“I remember once arguing with an honest young atheist, who was very much shocked at my disputing some of the assumptions which were absolute sanctities to him (such as the quite unproved proposition of the independence of matter and the quite improbable proposition of its power to originate mind), and he at length fell back upon this question, which he delivered with an honourable heat of defiance and indignation: “Well, can you tell me any man of intellect, great in science or philosophy, who accepted the miraculous?” I said, “With pleasure. Descartes, Dr. Johnson, Newton, Faraday, Newman, Gladstone, Pasteur, Browning, Brunetiere—as many more as you please.” To which that quite admirable and idealistic young man made this astonishing reply—’Oh, but of course they had to say that; they were Christians.’

“First he challenged me to find a black swan, and then he ruled out all my swans because they were black. The fact that all these great intellects had come to the Christian view was somehow or other a proof either that they were not great intellects or that they had not really come to that view. The argument thus stood in a charmingly convenient form: ‘All men that count have come to my conclusion; for if they come to your conclusion they do not count.’

Is the Best Defense a Good Offense in Apologetic Encounters?

Offense_DefenseGuest 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 they both serve as members. 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.]

Biblical apologetics is at its most basic level a defense of the Christian faith, giving a reason for the hope that is within us, just as Peter instructed in 1 Peter 3:15. While knowing what we believe and why we believe it and being able to defend it is critical to our apologetic, it is also important to go on the offensive while engaging in apologetics, challenging the unbeliever to explain what he believes and why. We don’t often think of apologetics as an offensive enterprise, mainly due to the very meaning of the word apologetics, to give a defense but going on the offensive is simply the flip side of the coin of apologetic defense. This does not mean we attack the person we are dialoguing with directly, rather it is challenging them to make sense of the world around us according to their own worldview. We must press the unbeliever to rationally account for things such as logic, morality, and the scientific principle according to what their own worldview says about reality and help them to see how their own worldview and any worldview aside from the Christian worldview cannot account for such things. Jeffrey Johnson helpfully explains this further when he writes,

“Because the Christian worldview is the only system of thought that is cohesively consistent with itself, all other possible worldviews are inherently incoherent. It is not sufficient for an atheist or any other skeptic to simply attack the walls of the Christian worldview. They must also defend their own ground. They must protect their own presuppositions and belief systems.”[1]

One of the best ways to go on the offensive is to ask questions of the unbeliever. By listening carefully and asking good questions to the unbeliever our goal is to help them see that their own worldview cannot give them the very things they want in a worldview. Ask them to show you where human dignity arises from their worldview and press them to be consistent with their own presuppositions and you will quickly find that apart from the God of the Bible, they will not be able to account for such things and will actually borrow from the Christian worldview in order to hold theirs up. For example, when talking with someone who holds to a naturalistic worldview, that all that exists is matter in motion, ask them on their own worldview how things like the immaterial laws of logic can exist. I personally have heard all sorts of answers to this question but at bottom they cannot account for laws of logic in their worldview. Only the Christian worldview can account for these.

This is where the apologetic task becomes so critical, once we have pressed the unbeliever to account for these things and have shown that they cannot in their own worldview, we must not leave them there. How cruel it would be of us if we simply tore down the unbeliever’s worldview and then left them in their despair! We must never leave them in that state but must always give them the hope of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Apologetics and evangelism go hand in hand and must never be separated. We must call the unbeliever to repentance and faith in Christ as that is the only hope for their salvation as well as accounting for logic, morality, and science in this life.

By defending our own position and going on the offensive with the unbeliever, showing them how their own worldview leads to futility, we call people to turn from their sin and trust in Christ as their only means of salvation, trusting that God will call His people to Himself and use His people along the way. May God be glorified in our apologetic!

 

[1] Johnson, Jeffrey, The Absurdity of Unbelief, 11.

Machen on the Necessity of Apologetics

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You can teach about evangelism all you want, but if you don’t include apologetics training, you reduce your effectiveness exponentially.

False ideas are the greatest obstacles to the reception of the gospel. We may preach with all the fervor of a reformer and yet succeed only in winning a straggler here and there, if we permit the whole collective thought of the nation or of the world to be controlled by ideas which, by the resistless force of logic, prevent Christianity from being regarded as anything more than a harmless delusion.

J. Gresham Machen in an address delivered on September 20, 1912 at the opening of the 101st session of Princeton Theological Seminary

Atheism Cannot Logically Argue for Morality

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Atheists insist that they can have morality without God. The standard for right and wrong, they tell us, is human flourishing, or empathy, or usefulness, or some other such vague idea. But then they are faced with the problem of defining those concepts, and applying them to real, difficult, sticky human situations. People judge ideas and actions quite differently, so expecting consensus about much is unrealistic. Argument then turns to force, for someone must enforce this morality. Political power is needed to enforce the judgments of some people over others for the good of all. So, might makes right, and we are right back where we started.

C. S. Lewis opined on something similar 65 years ago:

If we ask: “Why ought I to be unselfish?” and you reply “Because it is good for society,” we may then ask, “Why should I care what’s good for society except when it happens to pay me personally?” and then you will have to say, “Because you ought to be unselfish”–which simply brings us back to where we started.

I am not saying that atheists are not or cannot be moral. There is just no compelling reason to be moral rather than immoral.

Is there value in apologetics if it does not lead to evangelism?

I wonder if “apologetics” which does not lead people to Christ as Savior, and then on to their living under the Lordship of Christ in the whole of life, really is Christian apologetics. There certainly is a place for an academic study of a subject called “apologetics,” as the defense and the credibility of Christianity, but if it does not lead the students to use that material to lead people to Christ as Savior, one can ask its value.

Francis Schaeffer, The God Who Is There (The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer; Crossway, 1982), 1:186-7.

Study Abroad in Oxford England in July!

College students, here is an opportunity of a lifetime! You can earn 9 Arts and Sciences credits while living in and exploring Oxford, England this summer. Study takes place at historical sites all around Oxford and London, and multiple excursions are included (such as Stratford-upon-Avon and the Royal Shakespeare Theater). To register and learn more go to the Registration Page. Registration deadline is May 15 and a $300 deposit is due by June 1.

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Mark Main Pic Camp Brochure[In case you don’t know me, my name is Dr. Mark Farnham and I am the Coordinator for Pastoral and Pre-Seminary Majors at Lancaster Bible College, in Lancaster, PA. I have been teaching at the college and seminary level for 15 years, and previously was the pastor of Montauk Avenue Baptist Church in New London, CT. My PhD work at Westminster Theological Seminary was in Apologetics, and I teach classes in theology, church history, and apologetics at Lancaster Bible College.]

Course options include Religious History of England and British Philosophers and Philosophy (an Apologetics course with a focus on C. S. Lewis), along with a host of other options, including:

  • Book-Making: The Book As An Art Form
  • Creative Writing (taught by the Creative Writing Director at Oxford)
  • World Affairs (with an Oxford professor)
  • Independent Study (with an Oxford professor)
  • Britain and the European Union
  • British Politics and U.S.-British Relations
  • Exploring the Culture of Oxford and England

Credits are earned through Maryville University in Missouri and are accepted as transfer credits in Arts and Sciences by any accredited college. Students are free to take whichever classes they desire from the list.

buckingham-palaceThe cost is only slightly more than you would pay at your college ($6,300), plus airfare. Students will live in the dorms at Oxford University and will be given a stipend for food and excursions. Several hundred other students from America and around the world will also be at Oxford at the same time, allowing for many opportunities for interaction.

eagle-and-childStudents should plan to land at Heathrow Airport in London before 12:00 noon on Monday, July 4 and should plan to depart Heathrow for the U.S. after 8:00am on Tuesday, July 25. Travel arrangements should be made individually, and right now $900 or varying amounts of airline miles can get you a round-trip flight from Philadelphia to Heathrow. Once in Heathrow, students will take the bus directly to Oxford where I will meet them and assign them a room.

british-museumStudents should be prepared to do 30-40 hours of reading and study prior to the trip and approximately 15-20 hours once we return to the U.S. Students have until August 25 to complete all work to receive the credits. Students should plan to bring a Moleskine-type notebook to record notes during our time in Oxford. This notebook will be submitted at the end of the trip as part of course requirements.

london-eye-informationParents, I will be present in Oxford for the duration of the trip and will accompany students on excursions, but I am not able to watch them at all times, so a certain level of maturity is required for this trip. Students who engage in disruptive or mischievous behavior will be sent home at their own expense.

If you have any questions, please feel free to email me at mfarnham@lbc.edu or call my cell at 215-206-7249. Hope to see you there!