Who Are You To Judge?

Drinking.  Premarital sex.  Abortion.  Homosexuality.  Same-sex marriage.  Christians have so many hang-ups with the behavior of non-Christians, don’t they?  It all seems so judgmental.  Christians have enough problems of their own, so why worry about others?  And even Jesus warned against this.  “Do not judge so that you will not be judged” (Matthew 7:1).  Who are Christians to judge others?

This common objection to Christianity packs some punch.  But why?  First, we’re swimming in a sea of moral relativism that prohibits any moral judgments (that is, if you want to be a consistent moral relativist).  Against this relativistic backdrop, to identify some behavior as morally wrong is itself wrong.  Hopefully you see the self-contradictory nature of this claim, but sadly, many do not as the muddled thinking of relativism blinds its adherents.

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The Success of the Cross

The death of Jesus on the cross on behalf and in place of sinful humankind has been the centerpiece of Christianity for two thousand years. Of course, without the resurrection, the cross would be a waste, but without the cross, there would be no resurrection. Jesus had to die before he could come back to life. Even more, to get to the reason for the cross, Jesus had to die so that we might live.

This view that Jesus died so we don't have to is called "substitutionary atonement," and it's best expressed in Scripture in Isaiah 53:4-6. Substitutionary atonement troubles some believers, in particular young adults who are troubled by "religiously motivated violence." On a personal level, they struggle with a God who would subject his own son to the violence and horror of the cross, something Tony Jones refers to as "divine child abuse."

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The Delusionals Are Ruining the Fun

We’ve all met the delusionals and the crazies in religion, or at least seen them on TV or YouTube. The way that they affect Christianity reminds me of what happens in work environments: One person does something stupid or abuses the system, and suddenly there is an additional code or protocol that everyone else has to follow. One person’s folly becomes everyone’s regret. Among Christians, it seems that our reaction to the loonies has made us all act a little crazy. Rather than seeking to distinguish between the spirits of good and evil, and sane and insane, we’ve generally abolished anything that seems a little odd or difficult to rationalize.

But there is comfort to be found in what Paul tells us about how spiritual gifts come into play, and how they should be used. He addresses the problems we’re dealing with head on.

Faith over Intellect? Intellect over Faith?

Mind over matter. Faith over intellect. Wisdom over knowledge. We’re convinced that the alternative is better: that one of these is better than the other. But Paul says that knowledge is a gift. It’s not something to be set aside when you start believing, but incorporated.

Intellect itself convinces us that some people are more gifted with knowledge than others. We’ve been in classes with these people, and we all know the stories of the most gifted among them (e.g., Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison). But Paul is talking about a different kind of knowledge. It’s not just one about facts and numbers. (Although the type of people gifted with the type of knowledge Paul is referring to would likely be good with that as well.)

To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

Ten Verses to Defend Your Faith

For the past few days I have been trying to think of the top ten verses that would be most helpful to apologists and evangelists. I have reflected on my own experience and also gotten feedback from many of you on Facebook and Twitter. So, here are my top ten verses to defend your faith (in no particular order):

1 Peter 3:15: “but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;”   As an apologist you may find yourself having to defend the purpose of apologetics. This is the classic verse indicating that everyone is to be prepared to give an answer with gentleness and respect.

John 1:1-3: 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.”  This is one of the most compelling and clear articulations of the deity of Christ. It shows that Christ is the eternal creator and is one with (although distinct from) the Father.

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Christians Need Apologetics

“Just some ordinary conversation over dinner.”  At least, that’s how my host described this event.  In January, I was invited to have dinner with a couple of dads and their sons to facilitate a discussion on the problem of evil.  It was a spur-of-the-moment request and details were a bit fuzzy, so I met my host Jon 30 minutes prior to talk specifics.  He informed me that not only would Christian dads and sons participate, but his 60-year old parents, both skeptics of Christianity, would join us as well.  That night’s conversation turned out to be exceptional.  Why?  Because of apologetics.  

For too long, apologetics has been given a bad rap.  Too many Christian voices point to a few poor apologetic examples, extrapolate them to every apologist and apologetic encounter, and then dismiss the entire enterprise.  But in doing so, Christians abandon one of our greatest tools to engage the world for Christ.  My recent conversation demonstrates why.

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Who Made God?

Shortly before Christmas I received an email from Edgar Andrews, Emeritus professor from the University of London. He asked if I would be willing to review his book Who Made God? Searching for a Theory of Everything. While I’ve read many books presenting the scientific evidence for God, I thought it may be interesting to get the perspective of someone outside the traditional apologetics community. I was right!

If you enjoy the contemporary debate about the existence of God, then Who Made God? is a book you will want to have in your library. Andrews provides fresh and strong critiques of Dawkins, Victor Stenger, and other prominent atheists. He even debated Richard Dawkins a few years ago.

Probably the most controversial thing Andrews claims is that there are four scientifically inexplicable things: (1) the origin of the universe; (2) the origin of the laws of nature; (3) the origin of life; and (4) the origin of mind and thought.

Heaven on Earth

My wife and I recently bought Disneyland passes.  It was the big gift we hoped for at the top of our Christmas wish list this year.   Though she and I have had them at various times, we have never had them together in our 9 or so years of knowing each other.  I remember as a kid going to Disneyland and feeling happy.  Disneyland has this kind of happiness in spades, built from the ground up not on thrilling rides, but instead on nostalgia and environment.  Everything in the park exists to make you smile and be entertaining.  It is my child self’s version of paradise.

Yet, after visiting the park over and over again (a luxury I surely don’t mean to diminish), there are times when the tricks of the park begin to lose steam.  This is true of any number of life’s pleasures – yearly holiday traditions, visits to favorite locations, or favorite films that may initially be funny but lose charm with repeated viewings (I’m looking at you “Elf”)

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Christ -- The Sign for All People

Luke 2:12 & 34

December 25, 2011


Christ -- The Sign for All People

I like everything about Christmas - the lights, decorations, trees, and festivity of almost every public space.  I like finding gifts that express my great love and thanksgiving for those in my life.  I like Christmas movies (especially Charlie Brown), cookies, cards, and the general sentiment that something is different.  There is a communal anticipation, a hope, a looking forward to the morning of Christmas.  For a moment, the world seems to pause and everyone is aware that the day is different.   

And every year I read The Story (Luke 2) and am re-amazed by the obvious fact that the single greatest birth story of all time is covered in about two pages of text.  Every year I want more, I want to ask the Shepherds questions and find out how Joseph really felt seeing his young love, Mary, go into labor in the most inhospitable of places.  I want the text to give me something – and this year it gave me the word “sign” and it gave it to me twice.

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Rethinking Education for Pastors: Why I am Underwhelmed

To start this post, let me begin with several qualifications: First, I think that theological education has some serious meditation to do concerning its task. Second, I think the overall model / approach upon which we’ve built is flawed. Third, I am excited about virtually anything that seeks to think creatively about this. In comes Mike Breen. Mike Breen, who I know little about but have heard good things, posted this back in November. It is a wholesale engagement with the kinds of worries I have. In light of that, let me again state some qualifications: First, I know nothing about this other than this post. Second, if I saw this right when I graduated seminary I probably would have called him up and said, “Sign me up and tell me what to do.” Third, I have some doubts about some of the statistics in the video, but for the purpose of this discussion lets assume they are true.

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