Creation & Science with Dr. David Bonner

Slide1Please consider the evidence David M. Bonner presents to establish the existence of God, the Bible as the Word of God, and to expose the numerous scientific and Biblical problems with the popular theory of macro evolution. Dr. Bonner is  a graduate of Stephen F. Austin State University with a double major in chemistry and biology, with a special emphasis in evolutionary biology studies. In addition, Dr. Bonner holds a doctorate degree from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, Texas, as well as two post doctorate degrees. Please join us as this man of faith reveals and refutes the errors of evolutionary science, and shares the positive evidence for God and the Bible.

What does heart look like?

Hebrews 12:1 [fullscreen]

We recently had the privilege to spend time with family and friends in Texas. I’m not sure if everyone knows this or not, but it is often pretty warm in a Texas summer, and pretty humid. So, what would you think about getting out and plugging in some miles to build yourself into a stronger runner while there? Pretty crazy if you ask me. But that’s just what James (age 10) asked me to help him do. Sure, it was hot and running is hard, but he got out and did the work. (about 2.5 miles 2x while there.)

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we van imperishable.” ~ 1 Corinthians 9:24–25 (ESV)

What about us? The work our Lord wants us to be busy at isn’t always easy. Sometimes we have to endure heartache unplanned, survive the pain of growth and reach new heights (and valleys, but the work is worth it. The journey is worth it. Heaven is worth it.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,” ~ Hebrews 12:1 (ESV)

The Public Worship Of God, by Robert Turner

Early in this century some preachers in the midwest advocated an “order of worship” based upon Acts 2:42. Public worship had to begin with “the apostles’ doctrine” followed in strict order by “fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayers.” Perhaps they got “Singing” into that order, by considering it a part of “apostles’ doctrine.” I remember “fellowship” was said to cover the giving of our means, by virtue of koinoneo in Philippians 4:15. Although they probably did not think of it this way, they advocated a liturgical concept of worship – as Webster puts it, “a rite or body of rites prescribed for public worship,” something unknown in the New Testament.

This strict order of worship is not common among brethren, although traditional patterns (three songs and a prayer) may seem to have gained the status of law. Perhaps worse, some seem to regard public worship (with its “five items”) as the exclusive means and place for worship. We can believe (as does this writer) that brethren are directed by divine precept and example to assemble; and when assembled to sing, pray, edify, lay by in store, and partake of the memorial supper. But we should not conclude that this is the whole of “worship.” We must praise and give glory to God in every aspect of our life. W.E. Vine’s Expository Dictionary says, “The worship of God is nowhere defined in Scripture. A consideration of the above verbs shows that it is not confined to praise; broadly it may be regarded as the direct acknowledgment of God, of His nature, attributes, ways and claims, whether by the outgoing of the heart in praise and thanksgiving or by deeds done in such acknowledgment.”

Ever so often some “reformer” or iconoclast uses such definitions to ridicule our practice of orderly public worship. It is said there is no indication in Scripture that saints “gathered to worship.” There are therefore no “acts of worship.” One writer argued such acts as breaking bread or reading Scripture are worship only in the sense that talking, feeding the dog, and all the rest of daily activities are worship. No doubt some have a limited concept of worship, but this does not warrant “throwing out the baby with the wash water.” If we must live a “worshipful life” (and I believe it), our public worship is a part of the whole. A general life does not negate its parts. Further, as a funeral service is a part of general mourning, a special period of worship and praise has its place in a life of service to God.

Abuses in conduct do not negate the practice of public worship. The iconoclast pounces upon any indication of “perfunctory” singing, prayer, etc., as reason to question our very concept of worship. We certainly are less than perfect in our praise of God, and our failures furnish ammunition for the malcontents, but there are much higher motives for changing our conduct. We want to improve our service to God because it is “to God,” and we want to be acceptable in his sight. The Lord said some draw nigh, and honor him with their mouth and lips, “but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment of men which hath been taught them” (Isa. 29:13). The A.S. footnote says, “learned by rote.” Our reverence for God must be more than quietness in an assembly, learned as a courtesy. We must truly bow our hearts before God when we engage in public worship. Our spirits must “fall at his feet.”

Tainted lives may also invalidate our worship. Israel’s multitude of sacrifices were “vain oblations” before Jehovah because “your hands are full of blood. Wash you, make you clean . . . seek justice, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow” (Isa. 1:11- 17). Jesus said, “If thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee; Leave there thy gift . . . first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift” (Matt. 5:23-24). If our Monday-Saturday life is corrupt, our Sunday life will not be acceptable to God.

The very mechanics of a large number of assembled saints pose certain problems. Two families assembled in a living room may feel closer ties in their worship than four hundred assembled in an auditorium, but the problems are not insurmountable. One critic wrote, “We must look at the backs of each other’s heads because our facilities are set up for a ceremonial performance.” It seems to me any large number of attentive worshipers might face in the same direction, but this does not warrant a “ceremonial performance.” The saints who come for the purpose of truly worshiping will do so, regardless of externals. I have seen brethren so wrapped in their prayers they were unmindful of their surroundings. But carpers may be too busy looking for faults to worship God.

We are told “the primary focus of our assembly should be horizontal, not vertical.” Public worship does indeed have a saint-to-saint aspect (Heb. 10:24-25), and the saints are benefited by all things done (Col. 3:16); but the throne of grace is in heaven (Heb. 4,16) and the prayers of saints are “golden vials full of odors” presented before the throne of God (Rev. 5:8). If we are truly worshipping God the “primary focus” must be upon God (Heb. 13:15).

There are genuine problems in public worship, but they need something more than artificial corrections. We do not help the situation by ridicule or by denying “public worship.” When “unstructured” service becomes spontaneous breaking forth with song, prayer, or exhortation the “decently and in order” of 1 Corinthians 14:40 gives way to emotional disorder. In a few years the unstructured service becomes a “structured unstructured” arrangement, with emotional opinions taking the place of authorized praise (Matt. 15:9). Scriptural “mutual edification” can be practiced without expecting ever male saint to be a qualified public teacher. Walter Scott once characterized a church which tried to practice this as “all mouth.” Traditional procedure is neither right nor wrong of itself. Sometimes experience teaches us a good and useful way of doing things. Finally, “mere formality” in worship can not be corrected by the equally artificial dim lights, holding hands, mood music, and the like.

There are a growing number of attacks being made on public worship as taught and practiced by the church, and this article is only a brief notice and reply to such. We have cited excerpts from many sources rather than review one critic, but be assured the attacks are genuine. We know that our teaching and practice is not the standard of right (2 Cor. 10:12f), and we have tried to avoid “taking a stand” for our traditions. Far better, we believe, to acknowledge that some brethren have wrong concepts of public worship. False concepts and attitudes toward worship need correction; and we should not try to answer even ridiculous charges with anything less than Bible truth. But “three songs and a prayer” are not wrong because of a long history, and the public worship of God must continue if we are to follow Bible precedent.

Guardian of Truth XXXII: 16, pp. 487, 490
August 18, 1988
via: http://www.truthmagazine.com/archives/volume32/GOT032230.html

“Jesus’ Wife” Fragment: A Continuing Puzzle

Interesting continuance of similar thoughts from another article I read yesterday @

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/anxiousbench/2013/12/plagiarism-personality-driven-leadership-and-the-problem-with-evangelicalism/

Larry Hurtado's Blog

A few weeks ago I asked here what further news there was about the so-called “Jesus’ wife” fragment announced to the world in late summer 2012.  Since then, despite direct inquiry to Prof. King (the email address listed for her no longer valid) and asking several scholars who were in various ways directly involved in the analysis of the item last year, it has proven impossible to get anything further than the last notice about it given in early 2013, that it was undergoing further “tests”.  (How long does it take to conduct such tests, after all?)

We do know that the article on the fragment by Prof. King on the fragment announced as forthcoming in Harvard Theological Review was put on hold, and, so far as one can tell, seems now likely permanently so (i.e., it isn’t going to appear).  It also seems that the TV programme in preparation…

View original post 550 more words

Authority: Are We Worshipping the Bible? By: Doy Moyer

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Sometimes, in discussions of biblical authority, we hear the derogatory charge that those of us who push so hard for authority are guilty of “bibliolatry,” idolizing or worshipping the Bible in particular. Since we put so much stress on the authority of Scripture, are we guilty of promoting Scripture over God Himself? Perhaps the better question is this: what is the relationship of God to Scripture?

Scripture is not simply words in black and white (and red) on a material page. There is nothing authoritative about simple words on a page by themselves. The issue is the source of the message that is written down. If we just coldly isolate the words and demand adherence to them without understanding their true relationship to God, then those who make the charge may have a point. On the other hand, making the charge could also be a subtle way of trying to distance oneself from Scripture. If Scripture really is authoritative because of its relationship to God, then there are restrictions to the way that we may acceptably serve God. If we can remove the restrictions by minimizing authority, then we will feel free to serve God as we please. In this sense, then, this issue may be more about self-will (or self-idolatry) versus God’s will. Who gets to decide how God should be served and worship?

The reason for believing that Scripture is authoritative is because of its relationship to God, not because it is someone’s creed from long ago written on paper. While this article is not about proving inspiration, the point should be understood: if Scripture comes ultimately from God, then it bears His authority. To the extent that Scripture is God’s word, then it is authoritative; if it isn’t His word, then it is no more authoritative than what any of us may come up with and put down on paper. That Scripture is from God is the very point reflected in Paul’s statement about the Hebrew Scriptures:

“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16-17).

If it falls into that category of “Scripture,” then it is authoritative because it is God-breathed. This is not the worship of the Bible, but rather the worship and service of the God from whom the Scriptures come. Now the question would be this: can we truly serve and worship God when we ignore or minimize the message that He has given? God is directly tied to His own word, and Scripture recognizes this:

“For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two- edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.” (Heb 4:12-13)

Notice in this text how the writer moves from “the word of God” to God Himself. There is really no way to separate the authority of God from the authority of His word. “Then God said” are some of the first powerful words of Scripture (Gen 1), and from this point, “Thus says the Lord” is a continual appeal of the prophets. If the Lord said it, it is authoritative and is not to be ignored. “See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking” (Heb 12:25).

The word of God is not to be restricted only to written form, of course. The word of God has been much more than that which is recorded, and not every word God ever spoke (or everything He ever did) is recorded in our Scriptures (cf. John 21:25). Jesus Himself is the Word became flesh (John 1:1, 14). He is God’s message and communication in the greatest sense. But God’s message has been put down in writing, and that message is to be respected as much as anything the prophets, apostles, or even Jesus orally spoke.

The connection of Jesus to His words is vital: “He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day” (John 12:48). If His “sayings” are written down on paper, does that make them any less authoritative and connected to Jesus? The words spoken by Jesus “are spirit and are life,” and He has the “words of eternal life” (John 6:63, 68). Whether these are heard orally or read from a book, they are still His words, His message, and His authority. “Lord, to whom shall we go?”

Indeed, where else shall we go for our authority? Shall we consider our own words more authoritative? Are our writings better than the first century New Testament documents? Where shall we go for the words of eternal life?  Is it worshipping the Bible if we give due respect to these words?

The reality is that if we don’t give Scripture its proper due when it comes to authority (as it is God’s authority), then we aren’t truly worshipping or serving God. To ignore God’s word is to ignore God Himself and give ourselves the authority that only belongs to Him. This isn’t about worshipping the Bible. It is about giving God the proper reverence and respect that only He deserves. We cannot give that respect to Him if we do not pay attention to the message that He inspired to be inscribed with ink on the pages of a material book. The material certainly won’t last, but the word of God will endure forever. If the word of the Lord uses the material for a time, then we are amenable to it and we will be held accountable. The word He spoke will judge us in the last day. Herein is the essence of the need for paying attention to His authority.

via: http://www.mindyourfaith.com/6/post/2013/11/authority-are-we-worshipping-the-bible.html

Worship, Equivocation, and the “Argument of the Beard”, by Doy Moyer

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In discussions about worship, I am finding at least two fallacies that are being floated (and are related). I want to spell them out in order to be clear about the nature of the problem I want to address.

1. The reductive fallacy sometimes called the “argument of the beard” is a failure to properly distinguish degrees of concepts and terms (“degree” is the key term here).(1) When is a beard a beard? After one day? Two days? Five days? How exactly do we tell? If we cannot tell with any certainty, then there must be no difference. If the distinction isn’t clear, then no distinction is to be made. For example, one might say that since there is a little good and a little evil in everyone, then there is no real difference between someone who is good and someone who is truly evil.

2. The fallacy of equivocation is one of the most common ones and occurs when the same term is used in two or more senses, but without recognizing it. When in the course of an argument a word shifts in meaning, but the argument proceeds as if the original definition is still in use, then this fallacy is committed. For example, one might argue that since evolution means change over time, then evolution (macro) must be true. “Evolution” is equivocated because the meaning shifted.

It is important to understand that making distinctions in terminology is not “verbalism” or “getting hung up on words.” In fact, it is just the opposite; it avoids “being victimized by words.” As Kreeft says, “The reason we make distinctions is because we insist on going beyond unclear words to clear concepts.”(2)

The issue I am raising is that we hear these kind of fallacies made in some discussions about biblical worship. Either the lines are blurred in the terminology or the term is equivocated (worship as sacrifice in general or worship as specified actions when assembled). Here I am not talking so much about technical definitions (as if a strict definition of the Greek terms will settle the issue). I’m talking more about how the term “worship” is actually used in different contexts (“all of life” or a particular, purposed assembly).

We have heard the argument that “all of life is worship,” based on passages like Romans 12:1 (which uses latreia, service). I won’t quibble over the question of whether a sacrifice is a form of worship, and so I would agree that there is a sense in which this point is true. All that we do is to be to God’s glory, reflecting a self-sacrificial mentality that seeks God’s praise. Our lives are to be lived in adoration to God as we proclaim His excellencies (1 Pet 2:9). Worship certainly is not confined to four walls one day of the week (cf. Jas 5:13). How, then, are the above fallacies made? Please note the following statements that express the sentiment of arguments I’ve seen and heard in my experience:

1. Since “all of life” is worship, then there is no real difference between the rest of life and the so-called worship assemblies.

2. Since “all of life” is worship, then worship is not something for a set time and place with any kind of pattern attached to it.

The first example is a form of the “argument of the beard”; the second is equivocation. Is there a difference between “all of life” in the broad sense, and specific actions at a certain time and place that are called worship? Here is where the mistake is made. If all of life is worship, then, it might be reasoned by some, there is really no difference to be made in coming together in an assembly for worship other than just being a part of life. Worship in an assembly, then, is not based on any patterns, so we can do in our assemblies what we would do in any other context. There is no real difference. The distinctions are blurred. There is nothing particularly special about worship in an assembly context. In fact, it’s not really worship as much as it is encouragement for each other.

Concepts of “worship” are distinguished in Scripture, which shows that worship can be a purposeful act aside from “all of life.” Paul went up to Jerusalem “to worship” (Acts 24:11, which uses proskuneo, to bow down, show reverence). Abraham went up the mountain to worship (Gen 22:5). Worship, in this sense, is something that has a starting and stopping point, a time and place. We can go “to worship” (which is active). As such, it is distinguished from normal activities of life—the same activities that are part of our daily self-sacrifice to God. If no distinction is to be made, then why do the Scriptures make one? Wasn’t Paul already worshipping with his life when he went up to Jerusalem to worship?

The question is, do we, in our assemblies, have specified actions God wants us to do together that may be called worship? Can we not call singing praises to God worship (Eph 5:19-20)? Or giving thanks and praise in prayer together? Even an unbeliever, if convicted in an assembly, might “fall on his face and worship God, declaring that God is certainly among you” (1 Cor 14:25). Yes, worship can take place in a special way, distinguished from the idea that “all of life is worship.” No, the exact Greek term for “worship” need not be used to recognize this is what it is (“praise,” for example, would make the same point).

Some of the talk about worship seems to be a reaction to what many have, through the years, called “the five acts of worship” in assemblies. I’ve never been a fan of that terminology, and I feel no need to try to put all of this in a neat little box just for rhetorical purposes. Some of what we do in assemblies is meant for edification of each other (preaching, teaching), and so one might question whether or not such is “worship” in a strict sense. The question is, what do we see Christians doing together in the context of a purposefully assembled congregation? 1 Corinthians 14 is sufficient to show that they did worship God together in song and prayer. They did teach and edify. They did partake of the Lord’s Supper (cf. 1 Cor 11:18ff). These were purposeful, specific actions they performed in assemblies as a congregation meeting for that purpose, and abuses were chastised. Not everything was acceptable to God in those assemblies.

What’s the reason of all this? Even if one wants to argue that “all of life is worship” based on the need to be living sacrifices, such does not negate the need to assemble with saints on the first day of the week for purposeful actions of worship and edification together, as authorized by God and according to His grace. We cannot excuse ourselves from being part of a group on the basis that “all of life is worship,” nor can we use our purposed assembly times to just do whatever we wish based on a failure to distinguish concepts of worship. God is always in charge of His worship, and we are still responsible for following His will when we come together in those purposed assemblies.

Make your life a life of worship, but also make the assemblies with the saints a special time of worship and edification. Never neglect one for the other, but strive to keep your life and worship in harmony. If our lives really are worshipful, then our assemblies together will truly be special as we raise our voices as one in praise and seek to teach and edify each other for deeper growth in knowledge and spirituality.

1. Geisler, Norman, and Ronald M. Books. Come, Let us Reason: An Introduction to Logical Thinking. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1990.

2. Kreeft, Peter. Socratic Logic. 3rd ed. South Bend, IN: St. Augustine, 2008.

Doy Moyer

Going “to Worship”, by Doy Moyer

The phrase is biblical. The basic idea of worship is to do reverence or bow down and pay homage to another. From this general concept, some have argued that worship is just everything we do as Christians rather than particular “acts of worship” (a phrase that has been disparaged). Instead, it is supposed to be our lifestyles as worship (“lifestyle” is one of those loaded terms). While it is vital that we sacrifice ourselves for the Lord (Rom 12:1-2), and we recognize that all of life is to be lived in reverence to God (and in that sense worship), the concept of worship in Scripture is used in an even more specific sense as intended actions. Paul speaks of going up to Jerusalem “to worship” (24:11). Worship is said to have an “object” (Acts 17:23; 2 Thess 2:4), who is supposed to be God only. Worship can be in ignorance if not directed specifically to the right One (Acts 17:23), and it can be “in vain” if merely on the lips but not in the heart (Matt 15:8-9). But if worship is just life in general, then wasn’t Paul already worshipping went he went up to Jerusalem “to worship”? Why would he want to go to Jerusalem “to worship” if it was just his lifestyle as worship? Unless there was some intended action he had in mind, this would make no sense.

It is true that any worship of God is to be an extension of who we are (i.e., not out of character for us), but it is still something we do with specific actions in addition to how we generally live. This is not about worship being confined to a church building. It is about intended and specified actions as worship, whether individually or together.

The Hebrew writer said, “let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name” (Heb 13:15). Singing praise to God is worship as it renders special homage to God, whether done individually or with others (Jas 5:13; Eph 5:19-20; Col 3:16). Surely this also may be said about our prayers of praise (e.g., Acts 4:24ff). The praise Psalms should be sufficient to see that. If we speak of going “to worship,” do we not have in mind these very actions?

So, yes we can go “to worship” God as our divine object (an object with whom we share a fellowship), rendering praise to Him in a special way through songs and prayers. Our lives are to be consistent with this, but living our “lives as worship” does not entail foregoing the specific actions. Rather, those actions, especially when we are together, are only enhanced when done by those whose very lives are given as living sacrifices.

Doy Moyer

 

Via: http://www.mindyourfaith.com/6/post/2013/10/going-to-worship.html

The Greatest Commandment, By Doy Moyer

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Matt 22:34-40

Why is loving God the greatest commandment? In a nutshell, because it gets to the foundation of our true motivation for serving God. It strips away our pretensions and forces us to come to terms who we really are and what our purposes are.

There are some commands that we can outwardly and ritualistically do by rote. We can attend assemblies. We can mouth the words of songs and prayers, we can take the bread and fruit of the vine of the Lord’s Supper, and we can put on an outward show that may fool those around us. But loving God with all the heart, soul, strength, and mind is not something that we can ultimately fake. The actions are outward, but this command goes to the very depth of our being. We don’t want simply to be “attenders”; we want to be sacrifices.

Sometimes we focus on the outward items, but must never neglect the heart and mind. Loving God this way means giving him every fiber of our being — truly denying self and giving ourselves as complete sacrifices, holy and acceptable to Him (Rom 12:1-2).

God has never accepted mere ritualism. Just read the prophets, where you will find some of the strongest rebuke and judgment geared toward ritualism (cf. Isa 1). It wasn’t acceptable then; it isn’t acceptable now. God deserves our heart, soul, strength, and mind. Nothing is left untouched.

To see this point even more, let’s look to a couple other passages:

1. Matthew 15. Recall that Jesus rebuked the Pharisees here for placing their tradition on par with or above God’s commandments. Then, He quoted Isaiah: You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you: ‘This people honors ME with their lips, But their heart is far away from ME. ‘But in vain do they worship ME, Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.”

This is taken from Isaiah 29, where God is, in no uncertain terms, pronouncing judgment on a wicked and obstinate people — His people here, Jerusalem, not the surrounding nations. According to verse 13, their “reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote.” There was no heart and soul in their relationship with God, and so they were ripe for idolatry, deaf and blind like the idols they served, unable to appreciate what God had done for them.

2. Deuteronomy 6, where the original command to love God with all the heart was given. Here we should notice the close connection to the first of the Ten Commandments. After the initial command is given to love God, He then tells them to pass the instruction on to their children, to make it permanent, not just on the frontals of their foreheads or the doorposts of their houses and gates, but in their hearts. They were to make sure they remembered this as they entered the land and built their houses and enjoyed the fruit of the land. Why? Verses 12-15 answers: “then watch yourself, that you do not forget the Lord who brought you from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall fear only the Lord your God; and you shall worship Him and swear by His name. You shall not follow other gods, any of the gods of the peoples who surround you, for the Lord your God in the midst of you is a jealous God; otherwise the anger of the Lord your God will be kindled against you, and He will wipe you off the face of the earth.”

What intrigues me here is the relationship to the first of the Ten Commandments: 1) Have no other gods before Me; 2) Make no graven images; 3) Do not take the Lord’s name in vain; 4) Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy. In Deuteronomy, He says to fear only the Lord, worship Him and swear by His name; don’t follow any other gods.

Here’s the point. A person might outwardly keep the Sabbath. A person might not make a graven image. He may not even take the Lord’s name in vain through falsely swearing by Him. A man might do that without truly loving God. But the one thing he could not do without loving God with all the heart, was to have no other gods before Him. How so? Having another god before Yahweh was more than just having a material image to bow down to; it is more than outward action. It is deeply connected to what is in the heart. If a man places, in his own mind, anything before God Almighty, then he has violated the point of this command.

So it is with us, for if God is not first in all, then, we have made gods of ourselves. Loving God with all the heart, soul, strength, and mind places our own deaf and blind gods, whether in mind or in material, on the altar to be burned up and forever laid to rest.

Doy Moyer

viahttp://www.mindyourfaith.com/1/post/2013/10/the-greatest-commandment.html

What does the Bible have to say about the crisis in Syria? (hint: nothing. absolutely nothing), by Peter Enns

What does the Bible have to say about the crisis in Syria? (hint: nothing. absolutely nothing)
I came across an article on USA Today’s website that disturbs me–imagine that, finding something disturbing on the internet. Go figure.

Anyway, the article is “Some see biblical visions of doom in Syria trouble.” The article itself is fine, since some quotes urge caution about reading current events on the pages of the Bible.

What’s disturbing is that such an article even needs to be written.

Apparently the logic of it all goes something like this:

Syria is mentioned in the Old Testament as an object of God’s wrath.

Hey…lookie here…why of all the darndest things…a country called Syria is part of the Middle East right now and its government is doing terrible things.

That means, clearly, that the Old Testament must be talking about our current events. After all, what other explanation could possibly account for this bizarre scenario? And so, what held then holds now: Syria needs to be bombed. I’m just going with what God says. 

Ugh, sigh, and face palm.

Ancient Israel was in almost constant conflict with someone–and in the 9th and especially the 8th centuries, Syria was a major player.

Biblical prophets, like Isaiah, spoke to these international affairs. Chapter 17 of Isaiah is all about Damascus (i.e., Syria), and it begins:

See, Damascus will cease to be a city, and will become a heap of ruins. Her towns will be deserted forever. 

The chapter ends with a promise that God will rebuke the nations, and:

Before morning, they are no more. This is the fate of all who dispoil us, and the lot of those who plunder us.

Damascus is God’s enemy because it is Israel’s enemy, and count on it, they will get theirs soon enough.

One of the bigger missteps in the history of the western Christian fundamentalist view of the Bible is the idea that the biblical records of ancient hostilities are simply veiled references for what is going on in whatever moment we happen to be living in.

I get the idea behind it: the Bible is God’s word that “speaks to me,” and so all of it, somehow, has to connect with me and my world right at this very moment. But this mentality freaks me out for several reason, including but not limited to the following:

1. This view assumes that believing that the Bible is God’s word implies it must somehow be all about us. That assumption is not born from the biblical texts themselves, which say no such thing, but stems from a spiritual self-centeredness that is wrapped up in layers and layers of self-insulating theological rhetoric.

Many Christians simply adopt this mentality, not because they are stupid or horrible people, but because of the Christin subculture in which they were raised, and they see no other way of being faithful to God.

2. This view misunderstands biblical prophets as being concerned with “end times prophecies.” They weren’t. Their focus was on what was happening in their world and what God would do about it in the near future in delivering Israel from her enemies and kicking the other nations butts–or happily allowing them to join the party if they bow the knee to Yahweh.

Think of prophets not as predictors of way, way in the future “end times” scenarios, but preachers bringing the word of God to their contemporaries. That’s what being a “prophet” meant in ancient Israel. If you read the prophetic literature as a personal letter to you and your world, you are abusing the texts.

3. This view encourages a view of God who is out to get the nations that are a threat to Israel, Christianity–or worse, America, which is simply assumed to be God’s special little patch of ground, a “new Israel.” What is lost in this rhetoric is all the Jesus stuff, where tribal culture is left behind and the people of God are to be agents of peace and healing among the nations.

The crisis in Syria is tragic. Something needs to be done, and something likely will–hopefully a peaceful solution.

Just don’t drag Israel’s ancient conflicts with Syria into it and call it God’s will for today.

More at: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/peterenns/2013/09/what-does-the-bible-have-to-say-about-the-crisis-in-syria-hint-nothing-absolutely-nothing/

Why Christian parents get nervous about evidence, by Lydia McGrew

It’s been a while since we had a post on Christian evidences.

I’ve recently been led to reflect on the fact that there remains a Christian subculture that is somewhat uneasy with Christian evidences. Here I’m not referring to modernists or even postmodernists. I’m not referring to the unorthodox who don’t like evidence because they like to keep Christianity hazy so that they don’t really have to believe anything. I’m thinking of the fervent and utterly sincere, orthodox, Bible-believing Christians who nonetheless feel a bit…worried, somehow, if their young people start asking questions about the evidences for Christianity. Worried even if the young people are studying and reading and getting answers. Why might that be?

The reasons why that occurs (and if you aren’t familiar with the phenomenon, just take my word for it that it does occur) are varied, and some are better than others.

Here are a few:

1) The idea that faith is contrary to reason and that therefore it is bad for one’s faith if one has good reasons for believing Christianity. This premise is just plain wrong. It’s been discussed and addressed in many books by many people. Herehere, andhere are just a few of my own posts on the subject. (More posts tagged explicitly with the label “evidentialism” are also foundhere and here.)

2) The rather vaguer idea that one will be distracted from a “real relationship with Jesus Christ” if one is focusing on intellectual matters such as evidence. Now, the Devil is real, and he can, of course, use any good thing for a bad end. C.S. Lewis once wrote that he never felt less convinced of a Christian doctrine than when he had just finished defending it. (Words to that effect.) It is no doubt true that, for certain personality types, the intensity of one’s feeling of commitment to God will be lessened if one is thinking of God more prosaically–whether in terms of systematic theology, natural theology, or historical evidence.

But then again, heaven knows that there are plenty of “dry” passages in the Bible, too. And no, I don’t just mean the genealogies. I mean, for example, all that heavy doctrine in the Pauline epistles. I imagine that most of the same people who would get nervous if their college-age kids were reading, say, Butler on natural theology and Christian evidences don’t mind at all if their pastor preaches exegetically through every verse of Ephesians. Unless, I suppose, they are Pentecostals who don’t like exegetical preaching either. (With apologies to my Pentecostal brethren.)

My point here is that God Himself doesn’t seem to be too worried about our thinking about Him in a sober and unemotional fashion. Apparently He thinks that our having a good grounding and understanding of meatier matters is worth the danger that some of us might find intellectual thought a bit dampening to our emotions. Emotions, even the emotional part of our love for Jesus Christ, come and go. Facts and theology, once understood and grasped, remain and can tide one over dry periods. And emotionally dry periods in one’s spiritual life will come, from one cause or another, even if one is as uneducated as a rock when it comes to either theology or Christian evidence.

3) The concern that their young people might read some really pernicious material that will lead them astray, perhaps in the attempt to read the opposition in order to answer it. Now, I think this worry has something to it. That can indeed happen. No wise Christian mentor will just hand a 17-year-old a copy of Richard Dawkins’s The God Delusion and say, “Go for it, kid. Heh. Let me know if you can answer him.”

So what does that mean? It means that, if one is going to read atheist apologists, one should read them with guidance from people who really do know how to answer them.

Nor should one think of teaching young people Christian evidences as being primarily about reading “the other guys.” The highest priority should be showing how much good evidence there is for Christianity. There is a wealth of material available. See this post for a tiny sample. More material in the posts tagged here and here (these tags were mentioned above). See also this page at Apologetics315.

4) The idea that, if a young person gets deeply interested in Christian evidence, he will go out on the Internet (or at his public high school or secular college) seeking giants to slay and will get overwhelmed. Again, this worry has merit as a sociological matter. That can certainly happen.

That is why we should say loud and clear to Christians interested in this topic: Don’t do that! What do I mean? Just this: Being committed to investigating the evidence for Christianity does not mean that one has to find out every possible thing that anyone has ever said about or against Christianity and know the answer to it. That would be impossible because of the sheer bulk of (ultimately unpersuasive) objections which skeptics can bring up as though they were real problems.

In this context the words of George Horne, an 18th century bishop, from his Letters on Infidelity, are wise and helpful. (Emphasis added.)

In the thirty sections of their pamphlet, they have produced a list of difficulties to be met with in reading the Old and New Testament. Had I been aware of their design, I could have enriched the collection with many more, at least as good, if not a little better. But they have compiled, I dare say, what they deemed the best, and, in their own opinion, presented us with the essence of infidelity in a thumb-phial, the very fumes of which, on drawing the cork, are to strike the bench of bishops dead at once. Let not the unlearned Christian be alarmed, “as though some strange thing had happened to him,” and modern philosophy had discovered arguments to demolish religion, never heard of before. The old ornaments of deism have been “broken off” upon this occasion, “and cast into the fire, and there came out this calf.” These same difficulties have been again and again urged and discussed in public; again and again weighed and considered by learned and sensible men, of the laity as well as the clergy, who have by no means been induced by them to renounce their faith.

[snip]

Many and painful are the researches sometimes necessary to be made, for settling points of that kind. Pertness and ignorance may ask a question in three lines, which it will cost learning and ingenuity thirty pages to answer. When this is done, the same question shall be triumphantly asked again the next year, as if nothing had ever been written upon the subject.

Think about the approach you take to other issues. There is a theory that men never walked on the moon and that the moon landing was a hoax. Do you investigate every detail of the argument given on the “hoax” side of that issue? What about Holocaust denial? (No, I’m not inviting a discussion in the combox of Holocaust or moon landing denial.)

The Internet is in some ways antithetical to the well-balanced operation of man’s mind. The man with a well-balanced mind gets firmly in place the bulk of the evidence on some subject and then realizes that everything does not hinge on whether he can, right now, answer this or that objection which he happens not to have heard before.

So if I tell you that Christianity is faith founded on fact and that you should find out those facts and ground your faith in them, I am not suggesting that you trawl Internet Infidel sites to test your evidentialist biceps by trying to answer every objection that atheist “pertness and ignorance” have raised, often have raised repeatedly over the centuries. Far from it.

(Digression: Has anyone else noticed that people seem to have forgotten the word “trawl”? They think it is “troll” and will use “troll” where it should be “trawl.” The word “trawl” is taken from fishing and, used metaphorically in a reading context, is a rough synonym for “browse.” End of digression.)

5) The unspoken fear that Christianity cannot stand up to scrutiny and doesn’t really have good evidential support.

Here I do not blame the parents, but not because I share the unspoken fear. I do not blame them, because in most cases no one has ever taught them otherwise. How many pastors and priests have really taught apologetics to their congregations, or even offered such studies as an option? Too few. How many courses on sharing your faith have explicitly taught people not to get involved in responding to questions and objections but just to “share their experience” because “no one can argue with that”? Too many. It’s no wonder then that the congregation comes away with the sneaking suspicion that our Christian faith is no better grounded than Mormonism and that we, like they, must depend chiefly on the burning in the bosom.

And one can always push the blame further back. Perhaps the pastors weren’t taught Christian evidences at their seminaries.

In fact, I would not be surprised if all too many theologians who give high-falutin’ rationalizations for being anti-evidentialist are actually making a virtue out of what they deem to be a necessity. Since they don’t think Christian faith is founded on fact, they might as well make up some profound-sounding theological theory that tells us that it shouldn’t be.

When Nathanael asks Philip, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” Philip simply says, “Come and see.” (John 1:46) And he brings him to Jesus. If you as a parent or mentor to the young are opposed to the study of Christian evidences partly because deep down you suspect that they aren’t very good, I can only say to you as well, “Come and see.”

by Lydia McGrew

find more @ http://www.whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2013/09/why_christian_parents_get_nerv.html