Friday, November 16, 2018

The Problem of Suffering and Evil

As a Critical Care Registered Nurse I see a great deal of suffering. I admit that some of this suffering appears to be purposeless. In the face of human suffering people tend to doubt God. The book of Job gives an answer for Job's suffering, but Job himself is not given an answer. We the readers get to look in on a scene in heaven that Job is not privy too, God has good reason for allowing Job to suffer but Job is never given the reason, only that he should trust the wisdom of God. We Christians believe that God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-love; God created everything, and suffering and evil exist.
Should we blame God for our suffering? 
I used to have a dog who would run through the house and crash into things hurting himself. If I was standing there, he would act as though I had done the harm. If I reached out to console him, he would run away yelping. It seems to me that blaming God for our suffering is a lot like my dog’s reaction in his suffering. Most people’s problem of suffering and evil is emotional; and therefore, not intellectual. Like my dog who blamed me for hurting himself, we humans blame God for our suffering. Allowed to fester, this blaming can lead to hatred. If God is all knowing, all powerful and all good why won’t he do anything about my suffering, or the suffering of others and end all the evil in the world? Once this blaming becomes hatred men attempt to kill God. The opponent argues that if God is all-powerful and all-knowing he should have been able to create a world without suffering or evil, and if he is all-love he would have wanted to; therefore, since suffering and evil exist, the God of the Bible does not exist. 
Could they be correct?
The premise of the argument makes two assumptions:

  1. Being all-powerful means that God can do anything.
  2. Human happiness is the purpose of life.
First, God is all-powerful, but he cannot do anything. God is truth; therefore, God cannot lie because this would contradict his nature. Second, nowhere does the Scripture teach that the purpose of human life is happiness. The Scriptures teach that the purpose of human life is to know God and be conformed to the image of his Son. Jesus said, “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (Jn 17:3, NASB) And the apostle Paul wrote; “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.” (Rom 8:28-30, NASB)
Could God have a good reason for allowing suffering and evil?
What if God made man in his image with the free will to choose right and wrong? God could not have created a world in which man had free will without the possibility of evil. God created the heavens and the earth and all that they contain; lastly, he created man and woman in his image with the free will to choose to follow him or not follow him. They chose to do as they pleased; human suffering and death are the result of that decision. (cf. Gn 1-3) The remainder of the Scriptures, Genesis 4:1 – Revelation 22:21 is a story of redemption; God drawing a people to himself by the Spirit, redeeming them by the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ through faith, and using the sufferings of this present day to conform us into the image of his Son. I do not have all the answers (I am not all-knowing), but I do know that the Scriptures testify that God is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-love. God is good and he is sovereign even in the face of human suffering and evil. The Scriptures are replete, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5)

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Is There Meaning to Life?


Friedrich Nietzsche was a 19th century German Philosopher and writer born on October 15, 1844 in Rocken, Prussia, east Germany today. His writings fall into three categories: early years, middle years and mature years. In his mature writings he was preoccupied with the origin and function of human values. “Nihilism” was a term that he used to describe the degradation of human values once theological foundations are removed. Nietzsche believed that when theological foundations for human morality are removed a pervasive since of purposelessness and meaningless would ingulf the human mind. In Nietzsche’s mind “God is dead,” because he understood that without God there are no objective moral values; therefore, life is meaningless and purposeless. Nietzsche collapsed in the street of Turin, Italy in 1889 into total mental darkness and remained in that condition unto death 11 years later.1

Blaise Pascal said that Christianity teaches two truths: There is a God that man is capable of knowing, but man’s sin nature makes man unsuitable for a relationship with God.2 Without a relationship with your creator life has no meaning or purpose. Without God everything that you do has no meaning, value or purpose. There is no value in your existence because one day you will be gone without a trace. This is all that Atheism has to offer. Jesus Christ promised eternal life to all who believe in him; he died for our sins then rose bodily from the dead.

Nietzsche was an unbeliever who understood what a universe without God meant; no moral values or duties because life has no meaning or purpose. I happen to agree with Nietzsche because “if God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.”3 However, objective moral values and duties do exist and cannot be explained away by naturalistic evolution. Objective moral values and duties are not instincts, they are based in knowledge. Do you want a life that has value, meaning and purpose? Or do you want Nihilism?

Without God there is no moral anchor, yet the fact remains that all people know what we ought to do and what we ought not do even if we do not fully comply; it is our flesh, Satan and the world that lead us to temptation. Nietzsche is correct to assert that if God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist. However, when we observe those around us and search the deepest recesses of our hearts we all know that objective moral values and duties do exist. We all know that certain things are right and certain things are wrong. Since objective moral values and duties do exist then God exists.4

The meaning of life is to know God. The Westminster Shorter Catechism says, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” God is all powerful, all knowing and morally perfect; therefore, he cannot allow anyone morally unperfected into his presence. Man is sinful; therefore, man is separated from God. 

Jesus Christ is the answer to our sin problem. Jesus lived a righteous life pleasing to God, God said of him, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to him.” (Mt 17:5b) Jesus promised eternal life to all who would ever come to believe in him, then he willing died in our place. The Bible says, that he was handed over because of our transgression, and was raised because of our justification. (Rom 4:25) What you must do is repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, persevere in the faith and overcome the world.


1 The New Encyclopaedia Britannica, Volume 24, 15th ed., s. v. “Nietzsche.”, 936-937.
2 William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith, 3rded., (Wheaton: Crossway, 2008), 66.
3 Ibid, 172.
4 Ibid.

Monday, November 5, 2018

The Evidence for God


I watched a video in which Dr. William Lane Craig gave a lecture at Imperial College in London, England. The lecture occurred sometime between October 17th-26thof 2011 when he was touring England. The lecture is called The Evidence for God.

Synopsis

After being introduced by a student, Dr. Craig begins with a premise; “Is the material world all there is?” Dr. Craig then stated that he will give seven aspects of the world that testify for God. The first is the Contingence Argument in which he asks, “Why does anything exist at all?” He then states that everything that exists has an explanation; they either exists by their own nature or have an external cause. The universe exists; therefore, it has an explanation which must be greater than the universe itself. This argues for a transcendent mind. Second, the Cosmological Argument: Whatever begins to exist has a cause, the universe began to exist; therefore, the universe has a cause. The cause must be causeless, timeless, changeless, immaterial and personal. Third, the Teleological Argument: The universe is fine tuned to a degree that is incomprehensible. This fine-tuning is necessary for intelligent life. He states that there are but three explanations: necessity, chance, and design. He states that the most plausible of these three are design. Fourth, the Moral Argument: If God does not exist, then objective moral values do not exist; objective moral values do exist; therefore, God exist. Fifth, the Ontological Argument: God is the maximally greatest possible being. It is possible that a maximally great being exist; if it is possible that a maximally great being exists, then a maximally great being exists in some possible world; if a maximally great being exists in every possible world, then it exists in the actual world; therefore, a maximally great being exists; therefore, God exist. Sixth, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ: He gives three facts for Christ resurrection, then gives a hypothesis. If Christ rose from the dead, God raised him from the dead; therefore, since Christ is risen, God exist. Seventh, The Immediate Experience of God: Beliefs that are grounded do not need argument; the Scriptures are appropriately grounded; therefore, it is rational to believe that God exist.

Evaluation

In this lecture Dr. Craig did a good job of summarizing seven apologetic arguments for the existence of God. The explanations that he gave were not simple but brief and to the point. This lecture was given mostly to undergraduate students in a classroom setting. I was able to understand the premises for each argument in the way that he presented them in this lecture; therefore, I believe that the lecture was a good one because the students should have been able to understand them.
The lecture left me wondering if the arguments had an effect on the student’s worldview, specifically on their view of a Supreme being responsible for all that exist. One of the worries that I have had when focusing on natural theology was addressed by Dr. Craig in this lecture. I do believe that there is validity in arguing from natural theology for the existence of God, but I also believe that it is incomplete without personal experience. Therefore, I really appreciate Dr. Craig’s final argument which is not an argument for God’s existence at all but a claim that people know God apart from arguments. To that regard I would like to point out that though natural theology might cause one to know that there is a God; it is solely through special revelation found in Scripture alone, confirmed in our hearts and minds by the Holy Spirit that lead us to truly know the person of God.


Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The Human Heart

Artwork by Bethany Peek
I have seen the human heart with my own eyes. I have touched the human heart with my hands. I have monitored the hearts electrical system. I have visualized the heart’s pumping chambers and measured their function. I have visualized the hearts own vascular system called the coronary arteries which feed oxygenated blood to the heart muscle. I have taken part in procedures to replace heart valves, implant defibrillators, implant pacemakers, open blocked coronary arteries or bypass them.

I have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and have been employed as a Registered Nurse for 21 years. I have spent all of that time in areas of nursing that specialize in caring for people with heart disease. I have received advance nursing certifications from The American Association of Critical Care Nurses as a Critical Care Registered Nurse and in Cardiovascular Surgery. I am certified by The American Heart Association in both Basic Life Support and Advance Cardiac Life Support. I say these things that you may understand how intimately I know the human heart. It is obvious to me that the human heart is fearfully and wonderfully made, and my soul knows it very well. (Ps 119:14)

Darwin said, “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.”1 The human heart is an irreducible complex system that I believe could not have been formed by numerous, successive slight modifications. “Michael Behe defines an irreducible complex system as a single system of several well-matched , interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, wherein the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning.”2

The hearts electrical system tells the myocardium when to contract and in what sequence. The hearts valves open and close at specified times to force direction of flow. The four chambers are made by a septum. The myocardium is the motor of the heart and the coronary arteries are the gas line that fuel the motor. If any one of these things are removed the entire system stops functioning.  It would be impossible for the heart to have developed overtime because if one system where missing then it could not function and would never have come to be.
Thomas Aquinas wrote: By his natural reason man is able to arrive at some knowledge of God. For seeing that natural things run their course according to a fixed order, and since there cannot be order without a cause of order, men, for the most part, perceive that there is one who orders the things that we see. But who or of what kind this cause of order may be, or whether there be but one, cannot be gathered from this general consideration.2
The apostle Paul wrote that God is evident to man, but it is our sin that separates us from knowing God. (cf. Rom 1:18-32) Therefore, We can know that there is a God by looking at natural things, but we cannot know God except by special revelation. The Scriptures are God’s special revelation of himself and His Divine plan to man. If you do anything this week, take up the Scriptures and read that you may know Him.


In Christ alone,
Mike Peek


___________________________________
1 Francis J. Beckwith, “Darwin, Design and the Public Schools” in To Everyone An Answer: A Case for the Christian Worldview, ed. Francis J. Beckwith, William Lane Craig and J. P. Moreland (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2004), 276.
2 Ibid.
3 William A. Dembski, “An InformationTheoretic Design Argument” in To Everyone An Answer: A Case for the Christian Worldview, ed. Francis J. Beckwith, William Lane Craig and J. P. Moreland (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2004), 79.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Methods for Sharing the Gospel on College Campuses


Introduction

I watched a lecture by William Lane Craig of Reasonable Faith on methods for sharing the gospel on college campuses. On April 8th, 2016, Dr. William Lane Craig was invited to speak at the Meyer Lectures at St. Mary’s on the Lake Catholic seminary in Mundelein, north of Chicago. The tile of the video is “Methods for Sharing the Gospel on College Campuses: 2016 Meyer Lecture Series.”

Synopsis

After an introduction by Cardinal Meyer, Dr. Craig began his lecture by saying that Christian Philosophy shapes the culture so that ears remain open to hear the gospel. The two positive components of Christian Philosophy are natural theology and evidences. Dr. Craig said that natural theology seeks to prove the existence of God apart from Divine revelation and Christian evidences seek to provide warrant for believing that God revealed himself in the person of Jesus Christ.

Dr. Craig says that what is needed in secular culture today is what C. S. Lewis called Mere Christianity. He explains that Mere Christianity is the basic central truths of the Christian faith. He did not say what those were in this lecture. He then dives into the ways in which Christian apologetics aides in the task of personal evangelism, particularly on college campuses. First, it makes Christians more confident in sharing their faith with others. Second, it makes Christians more effective in evangelism.

After giving arguments for the effectiveness of Christian apologetics, Dr. Craig concludes by giving practical suggestions for using apologetics in personal evangelism, here are a few: Don’t allow the arguments to distract you from sharing the gospel. Be as simple as possible with your arguments. Have a list of arguments memorized. Never forget that our goal is to when people and not arguments.

Evaluation

In May of 2013, my first introduction into apologetics was given in a presentation on presuppositional apologetics in which evidential apologetics was spoken of negatively. I was trained to take part in evangelism at large sporting events that drew large crowds; therefore, I must admit that any evaluation that I have comes from that background.

I was very surprised by some of the things that Dr. Craig said in this lecture. When I heard him speak of natural theology and evidences my guard went up because I was previously told that we should not allow God to be put on trial; therefore, we should not give evidences to the unbeliever thereby making him judge. As Dr. Craig began to talk about these things, especially the reason for giving them; namely that every person is precious to God and that the impact of a converted intellectual has a great influence on culture, my guard came down and I lessoned.

I must say that the practical suggestions that Dr. Craig gave would be very helpful. First, one of the most helpful is to only use apologetic arguments after sharing the gospel. You may not have to give apologetic arguments at all. Second, having a list of arguments with their premises memorized is very helpful. The Kalam Cosmological Argument and Ontological Arguments are examples. Lastly, never forget that the goal is to win people and not arguments. Having been active in evangelism, I must say that these suggestions are very helpful. I will likely use them as I do personal evangelism going forward.


Friday, October 26, 2018

Reading Carefully Part 1


Hermeneutics:
Lesson 2
Reading Carefully Part 1


Introduction


Today we will discuss reading sentences carefully. Next week will expand outwardly to paragraphs and discourses. I like how Duvall and Hays began this chapter by using figurative imagery. It interests me because using figurative imagery is often used by the biblical writers to get their point across to the reader. Figurative imagery employees our emotions. As a side note to this lesson on reading sentences carefully, two common types of Figurative imagery used in Scripture are: similes and metaphors.

Many people have trouble distinguishing between simile and metaphor. A glance at their Latin and Greek roots offers a simple way of telling these two closely-related figures of speech apart. Simile comes from the Latin word similis (meaning “similar, like”), which seems fitting, since the comparison indicated by a simile will typically contain the words as or like. Metaphor, on the other hand, comes from the Greek word metapherein (“to transfer”), which is also fitting, since a metaphor is used in place of something. “My love is like a red, red rose” is a simile, and “love is a rose” is a metaphor.1

Duvall and Hays began this chapter using the analogy of a young man reading a love letter. This tactic really worked on me because when Darlene and I became engaged to be married she was in Louisiana and I was at Ft. Knox in Kentucky. Then, in our second year of marriage we were separated again by a continent, and the Pacific Ocean for eight months; she was in Texas and I was in Korea. I read and re-read her letters in the way that Duvall and Hays describe. So, when they tell me that I should study over Scripture the way that I studied Darlene’s letters when I was in Korea, my emotions help me to understand what they mean.

The first thing that we are to do in our journey into God’s word is to observe as many details about the text as possible. Duvall and Hays tell us to refrain from interpreting and applying the text during this stage. At this point we are asking, “What does the text say?” Not, “What does the text mean?”2


Things to Look for in Sentences
  1. Repetition of words – Look for words and phrases that repeat.
  2. Contrasts – Look for ideas, individuals, and/or items contrasted with each other.
  3. Comparisons – Look for ideas, individuals, and/or items compared with each other.
  4. Lists – Whenever the text mentions more than two items, identify it as a list.
  5. Cause and Effect – Look for cause-and-effect relationships.
  6. Figure of Speech – Identify expressions that convey an image using words in a sense other than the normal literary sense.
  7. Conjunctions – Notice terms that join units: and, but, for, therefore. Note what they are connecting.
  8. Verbs – Note active, passive past, present, etc.
  9. Pronouns – Identify the antecedent for each pronoun.3
Conclusion

The first step in the interpretive journey is to make as many observations about the text as possible. This list of nine things that Duvall and Hays gave us to look for are not exhaustive, but they are a really good start to begin digging deeply into the word. Read the text several times and observe the details. When you do, write down the details that you have observed. Every sentence in the Bible is rich with details, some more than others; therefore, I encourage you to dig deeply into every sentence at the beginning of your study.4


_______________________________
1 Metaphor. Merriam-Webster. Accessed October 04, 2017. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/metaphor.
2 J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays, Journey Into God’s Word(Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008), 23.
3 J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays, Grasping God’s word: A Hands-On Approach to Reading, Interpreting, and Applying the Bible(Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012), 62-63.
4 Ibid.
-->

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Do Not Fear the Unknown

Our church recently underwent several changes based on the vision of her elders. When change comes: 2.5% of persons are innovators, this would be our elders. 13.5% of persons are early adopters, in other words they immediately embrace what the innovators envision. The majority, 64% of persons fear the unknown; ½ will lose those fears early and the other ½ once the changes bring positive results. However, my recent studies showed me that about 18% of persons have a predisposed attitude against change and do not see a need for change.

My Church is Sylvania Church in Tyler, Texas. We are a Southern Baptist Church; therefore, previously when you came into one of our worship services from another Southern Baptist Church you knew what to expect with a few variations. However, on or about September 9, 2018, at the end of the service, our pastor announced that we would be changing the format of our worship service. There would no longer be announcements during the service, nor a break to shake hands with the other members of the congregation. He said that he and the elders have been discussing this for a long time. When he made this announcement, knowing a little bit about church history my mind went to a picture like this one.


I have a confession to make, I was in the bottom ½ of the 64% who fear the unknown. We have now had about six or so services worshiping through songs of adoration, worshiping through confession, worshiping through songs of assurance, worshiping through scripture reading, worshiping through preaching of the word, worship through songs of thanksgiving and a benediction recited by the entire congregation. Though I was hesitant to embrace this model until I saw it in practice, I now confess that I love what the elders have done, and the gospel of the kingdom of God is the reason:
  1. Adoration: God is righteous and holy. He is morally perfect; and therefore, separate from everyone and everything that is not.
  2. Confession: No matter their people, nation or race all men and women are sinful. No one is able to approach God by his/her own efforts. We are all dead in our trespasses and sins.
  3. Assurance: Jesus Christ is the answer to our sin problem. Jesus lived a perfect and holy life. Jesus died as a substitute for our sins. He took upon himself our guilt and gave us his righteousness and holiness. Jesus rose from the dead on the third day. God has given Him all authority in heaven and on earth.
  4. Thanksgiving: This does not result in the salvation of every person, but solely those who repent of their sins and place their faith in Jesus Christ as savior; and therefore, follow Him as Lord.
I love this new worship model at Sylvania Church in Tyler, Texas, because it causes me to focus on the righteousness and holiness of God. To reflect on our own inability and sinfulness. To look to Jesus Christ for what he has done in assurance and follow His commands in thanksgiving.
-->


[1]Rodney A. Harrison, Jeffrey A. Klick, and Glenn A. Miller, Pastoral Helmsmanship: A Pastor’s Guide to Church Administration(U. S. A.: ICM Publishing 2014), 241-242.
[2]M. David Sills, Reaching and Teaching: A Call to Great Commission Obedience (Chicagoe: Moody Publishers, 2010), 124.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?

Photo by Joseph Hooper Freely

Introduction

I watched a debate between Marcus Borg of the Jesus Seminar and William Lane Craig of Reasonable Faith on the validity of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The debate was sponsored by Denton Bible Church and held on the campus of the University of North Texas on October 22, 2001. The tile of the video is William Lane Craig vs Marcus Borg: Did Jesus Rise From the Dead? 

Synopsis

Marcus Borg sees the Gospels as a developed tradition. He explains that this is true because the Gospels were written between 70-90 AD, many years disconnected from the actual events. Thus, he states that the stories were added to the actual events overtime. He also says that the gospels have two voices: The historical voice of Jesus and the voice of the early Christian communities that produced the Gospels. He also sees the Gospels as history remembered and history metaphor rather than literal history. For Dr. Borg the only historical ground for Easter is in the visions of the early church and his memorial presence in their community, the breaking of bread. He does not believe that a bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ matters, what matters is that you experience him. Finally, for Dr. Borg the central truth is that Jesus lives in the hearts and minds of Christians, that God has vindicated him, and Jesus is Lord. He concludes by saying that the stories are really true even though they are not literally true.
William Lane Craig gave two basic contentions which he aimed to defend: 1) Jesus resurrection was confirmation of his radical-personal claims of divinity. 2) If Jesus did not rise from the dead Christianity is a delusion which no rational adult should believe.
Regarding the resurrection, Dr. Craig gave four facts: 1) Jesus was buried in a tomb by Joseph of Arimathea. 2) Jesus tomb was found empty by the women who followed him. 3) Differing individuals and groups experienced post-mortem appearances of Jesus. 4) The disciples suddenly came to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead and preached Christ without fear. 
Dr. Craig states that if Jesus did not rise from the dead he is nothing more than a rotting mass of flesh. Liberals believe that he only exists in what he symbolizes, and he states that Dr. Borg bases his beliefs on metaphor. Dr. Craig says that metaphor presupposes literal truth; if there is no literal truth, then there is no metaphoric truth.

Evaluation

All four gospel accounts have as a foundational Christian belief that Christ physically rose from the dead. In Mark the tomb is found empty by the women, in Matthew the tomb was found empty by the women whom he appeared to when the left the tomb, in Luke the tomb was found empty by the women who saw angles at the tomb, and in John Jesus first appeared to Mary Magdalene at the site of the tomb in the garden where she clung to him. All four Gospel accounts have this in common; they all claim that the women found the tomb that Jesus had been physically placed in by Joseph of Arimathea empty on the first day of the week. Matthew, Luke and John include appearances, Mark also if 16:9-20 is included in his writing.
A physical bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ is claimed by the original apostles and Paul in the book of Acts. Paul gives a list of four evidences that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God: 1) Christ death for our sins. 2) His physical burial. 3) His resurrection on the third day. 4) His post-mortem appearances to many persons. (1 Cor 15:3-11) He goes on to say, “if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith is also vain.” (1 Cor 15:14, NASB) He goes on to say that if Christ is not risen, he and the other apostles are false witness of God. (1 Cor 15:15) Any Christianity that denies the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ is not Christian. The bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ is foundational to Christ claim of divinity and our Christian hope.


Thursday, October 18, 2018

Worldviews and Religions

Photo by Ben White on Freely

What advantage does the apologist gain in calling Christianity a 'worldview,' as opposed to a 'faith' or 'religion'?

I use the New American Standard Bible, 1995, in my daily reading of the word and in study. The pericope at the beginning of the 3rdchapter of 1 Peter is a good one because in two words it encompasses the context of the entire chapter. The translators Pericope at the beginning of the 1 Peter chapter 3 says, Godly Living. Part of the context of godly living is to be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks us to give an account for the hope that is in us. Not only is it, godly living, to give a defense for our Christian hope but to do so with gentleness and reverence. (cf. 1 Pt 3:15) Is Peter saying that we should fear those whom we are giving a defense to? No, I think that he is saying that we should respect them and part of respecting them would be to not use words like religion when referring to their unbelief, when we know that they may take offense to it. The gospel is offensive enough to the unbeliever in its own right, let us not offend them unnecessarily.
The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will. (2 Tm 2:24-26, NASB)
A month or so ago the Lord put this passage on my mind and I am now taking it to heart. I think that it is a very important passage for the apologist because the passage gives us the reason for arguing, the manner by which we should argue and reminds us not to quarrel.
An atheist is opposed to being called religious because he sees religion as being a set of irrelevant beliefs, values, and practices. Even a Christian would feel strange calling atheism a religion because its belief system is not associated with the supernatural.[1]
A worldview on the other hand is a person’s operating system. A world view could be defined as beliefs that guide a person’s thoughts, words and actions.[2]It is a patch work of ideas by which a person views God, the nature of the universe, the nature of human beings, knowledge, and ethical principles by which a person lives.[3]Given this definition atheism and Christianity could both be called worldviews.
Considering that our goal for the unbeliever is repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, and that the Scriptures teach us to be kind to all and correct with gentleness it would be most kind to use the term worldview when giving a defense to unbelievers.


[1]Thorvald B. Madsen, Worldviews and Christianity(Kansas City: Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, date unknown), 8.
[2]Ibid, 1
[3]Francis J. Beckwith, “Introduction,” in To Everyone an Answer: A Case for the Christian Worldview, ed. Frances J. Beckwith, William Lane Craig, and J. P. Moreland (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 14.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

The Interpretive Journey


Journey into God’s Word:
Lesson 1
The Interpretive Journey

Introduction

Many of you have been reading the Scriptures much longer than I. I began reading the Bible in May of 2003. Through the work of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God, God saved me from the penalty of sin, he is now saving me from the power of sin, and he will save me from the presence of sin.

I will be teaching a hand’s-on approach to reading, interpreting, and applying the bible in the small group that meets in my home. I will be teaching 15 lessons adapted from: Duvall, J. Scott and J. Daniel Hays. Journey into God’s Word. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008. I will post these lessons to my blog. Each blog can be found under the subject hermeneutics.

Recently I attended a class by our pastor Phillip Dancy on praying through the Scriptures. I thought that the class was great because it is my habit to read the scriptures daily and pray in relation to what I just read. What he taught coincides with my personal daily practice of reading the Bible and praying what I read. However, if we are to interpret the meaning God intended we must go deeper into God’s word than simply reading the text. Duvall and Hays call the process of interpreting and grasping the Bible a journey into God’s Word. It is a journey because we are separated from the biblical audience by culture, language, situation, time and sometimes by covenant.1

New Testament believers are under the New Covenant; therefore, we approach God by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ through faith. The people of the Old Testament were under the old covenant; therefore, they approached God through the Mosaic and Levitical law.2

For these reasons an intuitive interpretation will not work. Typically, Christians take three approaches to reading and interpreting Scripture. If the text looks as though it can be directly applied to their lives they do so. If not, they may spiritualize or take an allegorical approach to interpreting biblical meaning. Or they may skip past the passage all together and move on to a different passage.3

The goal for this lesson is to interpret the meaning of the text that God intended. We shall not create meaning but seek the meaning already in the text. We must do this because the Bible is God’s communication of himself and his will to us.4

Interpretive Steps:
  1. Grasp the text in their town - What did the text mean to the biblical audience? This will take a little willingness to do research.
  2. Measure the Width of the River to Cross - What are the differences between the biblical audience and us? Once you understand the biblical audience’s culture, language, situation, time and covenant you can answer this question.
  3. Crossing the Principlizing Bridge - What is the theological principle in the text? See criteria for principles. 
  4. Grasping the Text in Our Town - How should individual Christians today apply the theological principle in their lives? There are many ways that the principles can be applied. Depending on your personal walk with the Lord there may be an application of the principle that is right in your life that would not be right in the lives of every believer. This is where interpretation might get personal but not so for the other steps.5
Criteria for Principles:
  • The principle should be reflected in the text.
  • The principle should be timeless and not tied to a specific situation.
  • The principles should not be culturally bound.
  • The principle should correspond to the teaching of the rest of Scripture.
  • The Principle should be relevant to both the biblical and the contemporary audience.


J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays, Journey Into God’s Word(Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008), 12.
Ibid.
Ibid, 13.
Ibid, 14.
J. Scott Duvall and Daniel Hays, Grasping God’s Word: A Hand’s-On Approach to Reading, Interpreting, and Applying the Bible Laminated Sheet, 3rded. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007), 1.
Ibid.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Online You


Today concludes the 12th class in my endeavor to obtain a Master of Theological Studies. I am now 4/5 of the way through the formal•structured•discipleship program that I launched into on March 14, 2016. I have looked forward to the remaining three classes since I began the program, not because they are the last three classes but because of their subject matter. The last three classes are:
  1. Apologetics: Apologetics is based on the words of the apostle Peter in his first letter; “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.” (1 Pe 3:15
  2. Evangelism & Discipleship: Evangelism & Discipleship is based on the Great Commission set forth in Matthew 28:16-20. The Lord Jesus Christ who had been given all authority in heaven and on earth commissioned his disciples to go and make disciples, baptize and teach them to observe all of his commandments. 
  3. Missiology: Missiology is the study of foreign missions. When Jesus commissioned his disciples to go make disciples, baptize and teach them to observe all of his commandments he commissioned them to go to all the nations. In Acts 1:8 Jesus told his disciples that they would be his witnesses in Jerusalem (which is where they were when he said this), in all Judea (the country that Jerusalem was in), in Samaria (the closest neighbor to Judea) and even to the remotest part of the earth.
These three classes are at the center of my heart and the reason that I started writing this blog. I desire to tell people about the hope that is in me. I desire to make disciples and teach them all that Jesus commanded. I desire to do so wherever the Lord should send me even to the remotest part of the earth.

2 ½ years ago I started into the Master of Theological Studies program because the Great Commission had been put on my heart and just like the disciples of Jesus Christ were discipled by him for three years before he commissioned them, I desired to be discipled. My mind has been changed a great deal by all that I have read and the things that I have heard while going through this program. I see the Great Commission in a much different light than I did before. I am looking forward to starting these final three courses and I am looking forward to what the Lord will have me doing after completion. Not my will but let the Lord’s will be done.


Online You: Online Education for the Church from Midwestern Seminary.