Why Understanding Criminal Motive Is So Important to Christians

Last night, as part of an apologetics series at Grace Fellowship Church, we examined the alternative explanations for the empty tomb of Jesus. One possible explanation suggests the disciples stole the body and conspired to lie about the resurrection appearances. As a skeptic, I believed this was perhaps the most reasonable explanation for the empty tomb, but the more I came to understand what motivates people to lie, murder (or commit any sin at all), the less reasonable this explanation became. As a homicide detective, “motive detection” became an important part of my work. When entering a murder scene, it’s tempting to become overwhelmed with the possibilities. Why did this happen? Who would do such a thing? What could have motivated this? When I was a young investigator, I was sometimes overcome by the possibilities. But as I worked case after case, however, I came to realize murders occur for only one of three reasons. As it turns out, these same three reasons lie at the heart of every other crime as well. In fact, every time you’ve ever done something wrong, you did it for one of these three reasons:

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Historic Heresies Related to the Nature of Salvation

Christians have historically relied on the canonical Scripture as the source of all truth about the nature of God, man and salvation. There have been times throughout Christian history, however, when leaders emerged with competing ideas and motivations, coloring the way they read the New Testament. We’ve been examining historic misrepresentations of Biblical teaching related to the Nature of God the Father and the nature and role of Jesus. Today, we’ll look at a few classic heresies related to Salvation. Distortions of this kind are typically connected to misinterpretations about the nature of Jesus. Did He die for us? Can we save ourselves? Here are some historic heresies:

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Does the Bible Contradict Itself?

The Bible contains 66 books authored by over 40 different people writing on hundreds of subjects, including who God is and how he interacts with his creation. Could all these different authors, who wrote hundreds of years apart, be consistent and in harmony regarding its message? Critics claim that is impossible and assert there are thousands of errors and contradictions in the Bible. Is this true?

When conservative Christian theologians say the Bible is without error (inerrant) they mean that, when all the facts are known, the Scriptures as they were penned by the authors in the original writings and as properly interpreted will be shown to be true and not false in all they affirm. This is of course the case if God is actually the author of Scripture. It stands to reason that if he inspired certain men to reveal his words, he would be sure not to contradict himself, so that his Word would be error-free.

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Has the Church Surrendered Its Responsibility to the Academy?

Last night I had the opportunity to train 80 high school students at Crossline Church here in southern California. My ministry partners (Brett Kunkle, Alan Shlemon) and I will spend a month with these students (just like last year), training them once a week to help them navigate the evidences for God’s existence and develop a Biblical worldview. After the session, I got on the phone with Brett (he’s training students at Capital Christian School in Sacramento this week), and we talked about how blessed we are to be involved in this important work. These students are capable and willing to engage the tough issues at a high level, and their churches and Christian high schools have embraced the mission. During my conversation with Brett, we talked about the growing number of opportunities students have to continue their education in Christian Case Making (Apologetics) at the University level, should they choose to do so. The number of degree programs in apologetics, Christian philosophy or Christian thought is growing every year. Students who begin training with us in high school can continue this training at the university level. While this is certainly encouraging, Brett made an important observation: The academy will never replace the Church.

We are definitely experiencing a renaissance in Christian apologetics, as evidenced by the number of programs emerging around the country. But I can’t help but wonder if Christian universities have simply recognized an important failing of the Church. These apologetics and philosophy programs aren’t, by and large, professional degree programs, after all. Few, if any, of the graduates from these programs become professional apologists (I’ve met many graduates from these universities who are working as tent-makers in other professions). The degrees they earn in apologetics will help them to think critically and develop a grounded Biblical worldview, but they probably won’t help them pay the bills. In this sense, apologetics programs are often more about personal growth than professional preparation.

Men and women often seek programs of this nature because there simply isn’t any other place where the case for Christianity is robustly studied, discussed, and evaluated. They are keenly interested in knowing more, digging deeper, and becoming more articulate so they can share what they believe with others. Gee, doesn’t this sound like something the Church should be offering? I can’t help but wonder if the explosion of apologetics programs at the university level is inversely proportional to the disinterest the Church seems to have in apologetics. As the Church continues to relinquish its responsibility to train Christians, universities are stepping in the gap. The less people receive in the Church, the more they are seeking at the Academy.

But here’s my concern. The church ought to be the place where we equip “the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12-13). The university ought to be a place where we can also prepare vocationally. Sadly, many of us graduate from apologetics programs, equipped with the knowledge and wisdom we should be getting in our churches. It’s not too late to reverse the trend. It’s time for the Church to take back its responsibility to equip the saints. It’s time for pastors to recognize their responsibilities as trainers and case makers. While the academy may certainly continue to offer these important and valuable programs to those who want to reach higher levels of understanding, every church member ought to receive his or her “BA in Christian Case Making (Apologetics)” while training in the pews. The Academy shouldn’t replace the Church in this mission. It’s time for the Church to embrace its responsibility to train the family of God so we can all become good Christian Case Makers.

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Is Christian Education Simply a Matter of Religious Indoctrination?

My good friend Brett Kunkle and I have been working diligently to address a dilemma facing the Church: the departure of young Christians who walk away from Christianity in their college years. We’ve had great success with youth groups when we’ve been able to convince their leaders to stop teaching and start training. I’ve been writing recently about the model I employed with my own youth group using the acronym T.R.A.I.N. In response to a recent post, however, two commenters described this effort as nothing more than religious indoctrination:

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Did God Create Aliens?

Are we the only finite intelligent beings in the universe? Are there others out there somewhere that God created who are our “alien relatives”? Many have speculated that intelligent life exists somewhere in the distant universe—it’s just that we haven’t made contact with it yet.

King David wrote, “When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers—the moon and the stars you set in place—what are mere mortals that you should think about human beings that you should care for them?” (Psalm 8:3-4). The space that God created, in its vastness and wonder, is majestic and awesome and beyond our comprehension.

Scientists say matter is spread over a space at least 93 billion light-years across. There are probably more than 100 billion galaxies in the observable universe, with countless billions of planets.  10 That blows the mind! And it may cause us to wonder, are we the only intelligent beings God created in this vast universe?

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The Monuments Men film review

If you had no military training, were past your physical prime, and were making a good living doing what you love to do, would you be willing to risk it all by entering into a war zone in an attempt to save some of the most important historical works of art from possible destruction? While this might make for a great start to a game of “What if,” for a group of men in the 1940’s, this very challenge became their reality.

World War II was winding down, and it had become known that Hitler had stolen many of the great works of art from the museums in the European countries he invaded. He was collecting the art to display in his own museum, which was to be built after he claimed victory in his conquests. But with the prospects of victory looking dimmer by the day, he left a different set of instructions: in the event of his death, all the art was to be destroyed. Picasso’s, Rembrandt’s, Michelangelo’s gone.

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The Monuments Men review

While I was in Tempe last week for a Campus Crusade event as ASU, I carved some time from a very busy schedule to hang out with Matthew Mittelberg, the young son of Christian Case Maker, Mark Mittelberg. Matthew is leading an apologetics club on the campus of Grand Canyon University and is already a very gifted communicator. I’ll confess there are times when I feel like an old man in the company of young men and women like Matthew, but I love the passion and energy of young like-minded Christians, and I appreciate the opportunity to influence the culture through them.

Like my own sons, Matthew has a dramatic head start as a Christian thinker and communicator. I came to faith at the age of 35. I didn’t have a deep relationship with any Christians at the time, and I had no strong Christian influences in my life. Without a mentor or role model, I felt like I had to work through the evidence and claims of Christianity on my own. Many years later however, as I was preparing to write my own book and start a modest journey as a public Case Maker, members of the apologetics community surrounded me with support and encouragement. While I wasn’t much younger than any of them (and was, in fact, older than some), they recognized I was the “new kid” on the block and surprised me with their generosity, wisdom and assistance. I was humbled by the response, and began to look at my own sphere of influence, searching for young men and women I could encourage in a similar way.

Those of us who hope to influence the culture for Christ typically think of our own efforts to communicate and reach the world. What can I write today? What can I say? How can I effectively use the internet to promote and defend the Christian worldview? Like others, I’m guilty of viewing my influence through the narrow lens of my own efforts. As a guy who started this season in my 50’s however, I’ve come to realize the limits of my own impact and the role I can play as an encourager. My questions are starting to change: Who can I inspire as a young Christian Case Maker? What small piece of wisdom can I provide to someone who is a few steps behind me in this journey? How can I impact the younger generation of Christian Case Makers? I know I won’t be writing and speaking 30 years from now, but there are men and women out there who will be. What can I do to make them even more effective?

The young people in my life are far more likely to have a deep impact on the culture than I will. Think about the role young people play in shaping our society. Young people influence the culture through pop music, art, movies, video, and professional sports. In addition, young people are the demographic target of movie makers, media moguls, technology producers and culture shapers. Imagine if our young Christian men and women had the wisdom and experience of their older Christian brothers and sisters. I can’t help but wonder what God could have done with me if “I’d have known then what I know now”. I want to make sure guys like Matthew Mittelberg start off with more than I did.

If you’re interested in influencing the culture, start rethinking your approach to include young people. Train them. Encourage them. Mentor them. Young Christians are tested more than any other age group in the Church, but they have the potential to do more than anyone else to meet the challenges and direct the course of the culture. It’s up to us to give them the tools and encouragement they need to survive the trials and change the world.

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Does God Love Everyone Regardless of Sexual Orientation?

Not long ago the news media released a picture of a man and a young boy protesting in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The young boy was holding a sign that read, God Hates Fags. This particular church group believes that God hates gays above all other kinds of sinners and that homosexuality should be a capital crime. On their website they assert that every tragedy in the world is linked to homosexuality, specifically society’s increasing tolerance and acceptance of homosexuality as a legitimate lifestyle.

The resentment garnered by this church group is not just a problem for these few picketers. David Kinnaman, in his book UnChristian, indicates that, sadly, more than nine out of ten outsiders view all Christians as anti-homosexual as well.

So what does God think about homosexuals? Does he love them as much as he does heterosexuals, or does he really hate “fags”?

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