The Berkeley Mission: A New Kind of Mission Trip

Here's an idea.  First, let's get a group of Christian high school students together, many of whom have grown up in the safety of the church, a Christian home or a Christian school.  Next, we'll put them in front of atheists, skeptics, gay rights activists, Unitarian pastors, college students and whoever else we can find, to talk to them about evils of religion and the irrationality of Christian belief.  A recipe for disaster, right?  


In fact, I've already done it.  For 4 years now, with Stand to Reason.  And it's the most effective training I've ever done with youth.  In 2006, spurred on by my good friend Jim Wallace, founder of and pastor of The Rising Tide church, I developed an "apologetic mission trip" to Berkeley.  Here's a series of blog posts I did about that very first trip.  

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Fundamentalism: The Serial Killer of Biblical Interpretation

Many fundamentalists thrive on violently murdering honest biblical interpretation. I have seen it happen to others and myself: a sound scholastic reading of the Bible is presented and is denied because it doesn’t fit within religious parameters. Let’s talk about the fundamentalists, the serial killers of sound biblical interpretation, and see whose the real literalist: me or them?

First, let’s define fundamentalism:
1. A movement in 20th century Protestantism emphasizing the literally interpreted Bible as fundamental to Christian life and teaching
2. A movement or attitude stressing strict and literal adherence to a set of basic principles

Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary

Now, from Merriam-Webster’s definition, I could almost (not quite) classify myself as a Christian fundamentalist. However, I don’t think the fundamentalists I know really understand what it means to be a literalist. If we are literalists, then we need to realize a few things, like the fact that God has spoken in other ways besides for His written Word (the Bible is not our only source for knowing about our God). Most fundies I know would say, “No way! God's ultimate plan of redemption is in the Bible and therefore there is no need for Him to speak anywhere else.” Well, there is a few problems with this kind of strict Bible-only view of God’s revelation. Let’s use the Bible as our starting point to show why this view murders honest biblical interpretation.

In Rom 1:19–20, when Paul is convincing the Romans why idolatry and worshiping  Graeco-Roman gods is wrong, he does not appeal to Scripture, but to creation: “For what can be known about God is plain … because God has shown it to [everyone]. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So [idolaters] are without excuse” (ESV). When anyone makes a choice to not follow the true God, Yahweh, as He is revealed through His Son, they are without excuse, not because He revealed Himself in the Bible, but because He revealed Himself in creation.

Oh, but the serial killing of this belief about how God speaks continues on—just look at how many times Acts 17 has been brushed over, or excused. Paul during his sermon at the Areopagus (commonly known as Mars Hill) quotes the Greek poet-philosophers Epimenides of Crete and Aratus (Acts 17:28) to explain the true God, Yahweh, and His plan of redemption through His Son. He also claims that the inscription to an unknown god on one of their altars is a reference to Yahweh (Acts 17:23). Paul synchronizes (on a very simple level) the religious beliefs of the Areopagus philosophers (and the Greeks in general) with Christianity. For Paul, God has revealed Himself in many different ways.

The above examples show that most fundies are actually not literalists. Because if they were, they would have a lot broader understanding of how God reveals Himself.

So, am I a biblical literalist? In the sense that I interpret the Bible based on what it actually says, Yes! But, am I a fundamentalist? Not in the sense of affirming a set of principles outside the Bible that deny things like God’s revelation happening in creation and other literature as well. But I am a fundamentalist in the sense that I affirm the basic set of principles God has commanded me in the Bible. The Bible is fundamental to Christian life and teaching, but as the above examples show, most fundies interpret the Bible within their set tradition and in doing so often don’t allow for it to be read literally. Please make the serial killing of honest biblical interpretation stop.

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The Post Soul Context Pt. 1

Before reading this blog, you should read these two articles first:


First one


Second one


Now, hopefully, this blog will make sense to you.


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One of the Most Controversial, Best Documented Biblical Events

Check out my guest post about this on Logos Bible Software's blog. In the post, I use Star Wars as an analogy to explain one of the best documented, most controversial events in the Bible and archaeology—the Assyrian King Sennacherib's invasion of King Hezekiah's Judah in 701 BC. There is a new hope, an empire striking back, and the return of a Jedi (the angel of the LORD). Bible Study Magazine, the magazine I write for, edit, and manage, has a

Technology and Community - Rob Bell & Shane Hipps

This is a video of Rob Bell interviewing Shane Hipps on the means to the end as it relates to the church and where it's going from the aspect of truly being on the mission with Jesus. You've heard the old phrase 'Methods change, but, the message doesn't.' Hipps says, what if 'the medium is the message'? What if we truly lived as thoughwe were the medium? Great stuff. Simple reminder. What are your thoughts on what he had to say?

Grace City

This morning I hit the trails with Scout (my shelter-mutt), and just about every part of my body froze. It was oddly beautiful, however, this frosty winter morn, listening to inspiring songs of praise to our vast, creative God, and I forgot my discomfort almost entirely (or simply became numb, I couldn’t tell which).

As I crested a large hill, I ran beside some wide open horse meadows, and suddenly I could see the whole of Seattle in the distance. Downtown standing official and industrious, an emerald skyline, with the Space needle off by itself looking smallish, and rather left out of the party.

And the image that came to my mind was one used by my friend Judd to describe the city he lives in and loves, Las Vegas. Instead of Sin City, Judd refers to Vegas as Grace City. The biblical truth being thus: where sin abounds, grace abounds more. Since most of my body was experiencing some form of frostbite at this moment, this image of God’s grace was entirely unexpected.
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How Should Youth Leaders Prepare Students for College?

Last week I posted troubling statistics about the amount of churched youth who walk away once they're in college.   CPYU has been interviewing college students as part of their College Transition Initiative.  They've asked students, "As you reflect on your church youth group experience, what are some things you wish your youth group would have done more of to prepare you for college?"  Their answers are instructive for parents, pastors, youth leaders--any of us who teach youth in some capacity.  

Alysia at the University of Illinois said:

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Beyond the Priest Collar and Polo Tie: Overthrowing the Pulpit Nuts

There are as many nuts behind well lit pulpits as there are in dark alleys. Seeing beyond the priest collar, and the polo tie is the difference between re-emerging from the womb and entering a tomb.

Visionaries, miracle workers, prophets—they are all shrouded in mystery. We encounter one, and we wonder: Are they authentic or phony? Full of truth or fiction? What are the signs of a prophet we can trust—an Isaiah, Ezekiel, or John the Baptist? Answer: Where they came from and where they are going. Let’s look to Ezekiel as an example and then converse about all the nuts claiming to be prophets.

Ezekiel says, “In the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, on the fifth day of the month, as I was among the exiles by the Chebar canal, the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God” (Ezek 1:1 ESV).

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How Many Youth are Leaving the Church?

If you discovered about half of the students in your church's youth ministry were going to walk away from Christ after entering college, would you do something about it?  I hope so.  That's not a very good retention rate. 

But whatpercentage of Christian youth are actually leaving the church?  There’sbeen some debate about the actual number, with some saying as little as 4% will remain Christian, while others suggest there’s virtually no exodus.  Christian Smith tells us that evangelicals have been "behaving badly with statistics"and quickly dispenses with the 4% "panic-attack" stats.   But can weget some idea of the percentage of youth leaving the church withoutbeing irresponsible with numbers? 

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Preview the Mar-Apr 2009 Issue of Bible Study Magazine with John D. Barry

Check out this video, where I introduce you to the hot-off-the-press Mar-Apr 2009 issue of Bible Study Magazine. This issue features my interview with Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church, titled "Bible Study Anywhere," as well as 11 tips from Driscoll on Dinner Time Bible Study. There is also an article by Conversant's Christy Tennant on "Hollywood Bible Study." Plus, in this issue we answer the questions: "Did Jesus believe in Reincarnation?" and "Does the Author of Ecclesiastes need Prozac?"

(There is an HD option on the video, so don't forget to click it. Also, if you stick around until the end, you will see some good outtakes)

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