Why Christian Case Makers Need to Learn a New Language

I worked as a member of our Gang Detail for two years prior to entering our undercover team. It was a great season in my career and I still think of it often. I had a partner who was younger (and more culturally relevant) than I was, and he connected with street gangsters almost immediately. He knew how to “talk the talk” and “walk the walk,” and he had a better understanding of the street language of gangsters. It was several months before I felt comfortable in my assignment; I had to learn an entirely new language (and culture) in order to communicate effectively. I had to learn a new set of expressions and many new definitions. Even more importantly, I had to saturate myself in the street culture, and do my best to understand the desires, ambitions, concerns and motivations of young men who were often on the wrong side of the law.
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The Importance of Christian Translators

This week I’m enjoying the Evangelical Theological Society’s (ETS) Annual Meeting in Baltimore. Each session features incredible thinkers presenting papers on a variety of theological and philosophical issues. I’ll be honest, I usually feel like an idiot in a room full of intellects. These theologians and philosophers are the best Christianity has to offer. They are intelligent, educated and articulate. They know their stuff and they are… how can I say this? Intimidating! There are times when I feel like I could spend the rest of my life studying, researching and preparing, yet never master the materials these professionals comprehend so exhaustively. Have you ever felt that way? If you’re a budding “one dollar apologist” you know what I’m talking about. You’re probably listening to podcasts, reading books and blogs, and doing your best to keep up with the latest research and critical thinking. You may feel like you’re not knowledgeable enough to contribute anything of value to the ongoing cultural conversation. If there’s one thing I’ve learned here this week, however, it’s the importance of your voice in our world today, in spite of the fact you might not be the next William Lane Craig, J.P. Moreland or Alvin Plantinga. As I sat in each ETS session and listened to these expert witnesses, I couldn’t help but think about our desperate need for Christian translators.

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Scientific Consistency in the Bible Is More Important Than Scientific Revelation

As a skeptic, I never personally expected the Biblical prophets (or Jesus Himself) to proclaim scientific truths still inaccessible (and unintelligible) to their audiences. As I read the Bible for the first time, its purpose seemed clear enough: Explain the nature of God, outline the fallen condition of man, and describe the overarching plan to reunite God to the rebellious beings originally created in His image. There are good reasons, in the context of the ancient audience described in the Bible, for God to limit any discussion of science. For this reason, I didn’t expect the Bible to be scientifically insightful or prophetic. I did, however, expect the Bible to be scientifically consistent. In other words, I expected the Biblical text to reflect the truth about the world around me, even if it didn’t explain minute scientific details to an audience clearly incapable of understanding such claims. Scientific consistency was far more important to me than scientific revelation.

This was important to me because I observed the scientific inaccuracy of other ancient religious worldviews. As A.A. MacDonell observes in “Vedic Mythology”, the Hindu scriptures (the Vedas and Uparushads) considered “all the objects and phenomena of nature which man is surrounded, (were) animate and divine.” This included the sun, moon, earth, clouds, rain, rivers, seas and even rocks. According to these ancient religious documents, these objects were alive. Writers of the Buddhist canon also ascribed life to non-living objects like the sun, moon, lightning, rainbows, and mountains. The Taoist and Confucian writings of China contained similar claims. The Quran, the scripture of Islam, written 1,500 years after the Hindu scripture, did not (to its credit) contain many of these ancient superstitions. But its observations of the universe were also questionable at many points. The Quran spoke of seven literal heavens, and these heavens were described as material. These heavens were also said to contain lamps or stars whose main purpose was to be “darted at the devils.” In addition to this, Mohammed said “the sun sets in a sea of black mud.” The descriptions and observations of other religious books are also filled with similar mythologies. It is striking, however, that the ancient contemporary of these mythologies, the Bible, is scientifically consistent (if not always scientifically revelatory). Here are just a few examples:

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Where Did Evil Come From?

Evil had to come from somewhere, right? But from where? Scripture states that God “is a faithful God who does no wrong; how just and upright he is!” (Deuteronomy 32:4). And yet it states that God “created everything there is. Nothing exists that he didn’t make” (  John 1:3 nlt). So if the Creator of all things is good with no evil, how is it that evil is in the world? We know that evil exists and that God made everything, so how can we say that God didn’t create evil? And if he didn’t create it, where did it come from?

God is perfectly good and holy and created only perfect creatures. Yet he gave his human creation the power of free choice or free will. The first humans had a choice to trust in him, to believe that he was good and that he had their best interest at heart when he gave them a command to obey. Unfortunately they used this good power to choose against him, and that brought evil into this world.

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Could Light Exist Before the Sun?

God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light (Genesis 1:3).

 

Isn’t it contradictory to say light was created on the first day, yet the sun wasn’t created until the fourth day?

 

Some have suggested that on the first day God created light, as well as all other types of what is called electromagnetic radiation (EMR). Some who hold this view believe God created the light of the sun and moon on the first day, but it only became visible on the fourth day as the atmosphere of the Earth became transparent.

 

Visible light is just a small part of the entire spectrum of EMR. The visible light range or wavelength of what we can see with the naked eye is from about 380 nanometers (NM) to about 740 NM. But the electromagnetic spectrum is much broader. It extends from low frequencies used for radio broadcasts, which we cannot see to very high frequencies of gamma radiation, which again are beyond our vision. This means electromagnetic radiation covers wavelengths from thousands of kilometers down to a fraction of the size of an atom. What we see with the human eye is only a very small part of the electromagnetic spectrum.
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Devils and Demons: What is Evil?

Human beings first experienced evil when the original couple exercised the power of free will and chose to distrust God and go against him. Since we know evil exists, what is it exactly? Is evil an entity, a thing that exists in and of itself, outside of the free will of a human being?

 

Scripture clearly states that God created everything (see John 1:1-3 and Colossians 1:15-17). And if we accept that evil is a reality, how can we say he didn’t create it? The answer lies in the fact that evil is not a thing or substance or entity to be created. Rather, evil is the corruption of a good thing that God did in fact make. Let’s explain.

 

God made humans and it was good. This is repeated multiple times in Genesis 1. He gave humans the power of free will, and that was good as well. This means he gave them the choice to believe he was the arbiter of right and wrong and that he knew what was best for them when he said not to eat of a certain fruit—and that was good. When the first humans believed he did not know what was best for them—which was the corrupting of a particular good thing—evil was then born.
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The Original Fantasy Story?

Passage: God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it” (Genesis 1:27-28). Difficulty: Doesn’t the science of genetics refute the concept that the entire population of the world came from just one couple?

 

Explanation: Over the past couple of decades researchers have used “population genetics” to estimate initial population size of the human species. By studying human genetic diversity in the present day, they have tried to extrapolate back to determine the minimum size of the original population of humans necessary to produce the diversity we observe today. Some have argued that it is impossible for civilization to have come from one human couple.
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Do We Need Another Youth Conference?

"Do we really need another youth conference?"

Well, our Rethink Student Apologetics Conference preregistration numbers suggest we do. With over 400 students, youth leaders, and parents already signed up, we have further evidence that youth are hungry for this kind of conference.  Why? Because it's not the typical youth camp or conference, where students may be entertained, may have alot of "fun," may be wowed with bells and whistles, but who may not walk away equipped with anything more than a temporary hyped-up experience. 

Students want parents and church leadership to step up their training.  The Center for Parent & Youth Understanding (CPYU) conducted interviews with students who had grown up in the church and were now in college. This is the kind of thing CPYU heard again and again:  

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Do Christians Worship Three Gods?

The idea that God is three in one has confused many people. Just what does it mean that God is a Trinity?

 

The Bible teaches there is but one God. This is called monotheism. “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4 niv). Jesus quoted this scripture in Mark 12:29, confirming that there is just one God. So how is it that people call God a Trinity—how, some people ask, can there be three Gods, yet one?

 

God being a Trinity does not mean there are three Gods. God exists as three persons, yet he is one being. Each person of the Trinity—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—has a separate identity while yet possessing the full nature of God.

 

Jesus is the divine Son of God. This does not mean that Jesus was created by God. In fact, Scripture tells us plainly that he has always co-existed with God (see John 1:1-3). Jesus himself declared he had eternally co-existed with his Father. And on the basis of that declaration the Jewish leaders plotted to kill him, saying, “He called God his Father, thereby making himself equal with God” (  John 5:18). Paul the apostle declared Jesus to be deity. “Christ himself was an Israelite as far as his human nature is concerned. And he is God, the one who rules over everything and is worthy of eternal praise!” (Romans 9:5). The writer of Hebrews says, “The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God” (Hebrews 1:3).
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Most Parents Aren't Ready to Train Their Own Kids

I’ve never had someone cry after my atheist role-play.  Until now.

In September, I had the opportunity to speak to a group of parents from Village Academy Christian School in Fayetteville, North Carolina.  Earlier in the day, I taught the junior and senior high students at chapel and spoke to three different twelfth grade classes.  I role played an atheist with the seniors, to give them a glimpse of the intellectual challenges awaiting them at college, and decided to give the parents, who had come out for an evening lecture, a glimpse in the same way.

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